Pre-render my memories.
Think about how we view the world. Many of us don’t, sure, or if we do, we don’t take enough time to actually enjoy the beauty of our world. Consider the direction HDTVs are heading (especially when remembering where they came from). When I was a kid, playing a game on my parents huge Mitsubishi box TV was awesome. Watching Sonic spin his way through level after level seemed like it was near perfection. Now, 4K television sets project images that appear better than real life, bringing out colors, quality, sharpness – you name it – that my eyes just can’t perceive normally.
As it is with life, so it has been with games. The graphical (and maturing) renaissance the gaming industry experienced has ultimately benefited the gamer (as well as the developers in regards to profitability). The luscious landscapes of Final Fantasy XV (the demo, anyway), as well as the stark realism of Star Wars: Battlefront are mere examples of the sheer beauty we’re fortunate enough to take part in. But it wasn’t always so, as most of us are aware. And there’s a particularly sweet piece of graphical nostalgia I’ll always hold dear. But before I reach that world, I’ll briefly explain my journey there.
It began with a Nintendo Entertainment System and a Sega Genesis. Most importantly, it began with two notorious heroes: Mario and Sonic. As a kid, I spent numerous hours at my aunt’s house on my mom’s side and my grandparents’ house on my dad’s. It was at my grandparents’ house where I first experienced the joy of Mario Bro’s, the epic side-scrolling adventure that paved the way for our current gaming (near) utopia. Mario would run across his 8-bit world, those obstacle courses of life and death. From there, my parents bought my two brothers and me a Sega Genesis complete with Sonic: The Hedgehog 2. Rolling around the slick architecture of Sonic filled our lives with much entertainment. To this point, I’m convinced that children who grew up playing Sonic maintain happier lives than those who didn’t. Lastly, I remember running the halls of ancient ruins in The Illusion of Gaia, the masterpiece of Enix, at my aunt’s house during summer vacation. The combination of those three consoles and games (among a few others) that undoubtedly shaped my gaming persona.
But if you asked me what worlds really stuck with me, I’d tell you that the pre-rendered landscapes of the PlayStation Final Fantasy series are always close to heart. There is something special about the soft snows of Icicle Town or the beautiful architecture of houses in Final Fantasy VII and VIII. When I first played Evoland, the PC game about the evolution of gaming, one of the coolest ‘times’ involved the pre-rendered visuals of a bygone era and referenced the lovely worlds of Final Fantasy. To say the pre-rendered worlds of my childhood are ugly would be offering a disservice to art. Why is Van Gogh’s “Starry Night” such a beautiful painting? It’s certainly not because of its photo-realism.
And that leads directly into the problem of this essay. It is human nature to judge aesthetically. Even we, here at BitCultures, have a category in our reviews dedicated to visuals. Sure, we appreciate the effort that developers put into creating a beautiful game – but how many of us have struggled to get through or completely ignored a game because of older, outdated, or ugly graphics? I know more than my fair share of gamers who can’t stomach Final Fantasy VII because Cloud & Co. have blocks for bodies; in doing so, they completely miss the themes and concepts that make VII the memorable and impactful game that it is.
What began as another letter to my memories transformed into a subtle case for art. To truly appreciate the games we play and grasp what they are trying to tell us, we must face the medium in whatever form given. I don’t expect any of you to suddenly accept the block people of Final Fantasy VII or the mysterious beauty of Flower or Journey; no, nor am I asking you to. Art should be something we take at our own pace and appreciated in our own style. I may find the architecture of Frank Lloyd Wright to be rather droll and inversely find Aalto to design beauty. You may adore Monet as I do Van Gogh. I am star struck by the poetry of Gene Wolfe’s writing, and you might enjoy the succinct style of Ernest Hemingway. We might even be capable of loving them all – it’s just a matter of perspective. Art, as I’ve said before, can be whatever each of us gleans from it. Each of us can, may, and should find something unique. That’s how we grow as individuals and how the gaming industry continues to mature.
I’ll end this case as I did the last with a few closing remarks.
- While this particular essay did not focus so much on the conceptual side of art, we would be remiss in dismissing the aesthetics of games.
- Continue to view the world with an open mind; beauty can be found once you scrape away the grime of negativity.
- As I said before, I will write again. This is important to me, and I’ve seen the positive reactions from others after my first piece.