I got a Nintendo DS game called “Retro Game Challenge” the other day, and it’s pretty interesting. The premise is that you as a player are transported back in time to 1985 to relive your childhood and play NES-style games while trying to complete certain challenges. It really does a nice job at recapturing the times as a kid when I would spend all day next door at my friend’s house, sitting on his floor and discovering new ways to challenge ourselves. They also did a good job with this game in recreating the graphics and audio capabilities of retro technology. The 2D sprites, music, and animation really feel like the games that I grew up with.
It really puts in perspective for me just how far digital technology has come in my lifetime. In this age of HD Video, next-generation gaming, and high-fidelity audio, it’s hard to believe that even 20 years ago we were really just “filling in the blanks” in terms of digital graphics. As we get closer and closer to achieving perfect photorealism in 3D graphics, it gets tougher to really make it convincing if it’s not perfect. Suspension of disbelief was a major component of believing computer graphics in the 80s; our minds could insert animation and images where there were none, turning Super Mario Bros. from a chunk of red and blue pixels to the shape of a man. Nowadays, we can see it’s supposed to be a man, but if the eyes are even a fraction of an inch off, it throws the whole image off and becomes disturbing.
As we get closer to achieving perfect digital graphics, it’s really important not to forget our roots. Things like stylization, color saturation, and pixelation are all now tools in the arsenal of digital artists; I think in many cases, using a “retro” style can be far more effective than trying to make everything photorealistic. The best part about art is how interpretive it is; it doesn’t need to always be reality — we can use different color schemes, shapes, and textures to make images more clear or interesting. And as long as technology continues to advance, DDA will keep coming up with new ways to be creative in digital media, and still retain the vast library of techniques and design abilities that we’ve accumulated thus far.
DDA strives to always be original in all its art, animation, designs and compositions. At the same time, we don’t discount the old stuff. We don’t just do 3D animation; we have a large variety of 2D, traditional animations as well. It’s all situational; if you were cooking, you wouldn’t use a new, exotic spice in all situations, when often the proper seasoning is simply some salt and pepper. Here at DDA, we don’t forget our retro roots!