The pitfalls of pixel art


Blake Reynolds loves pixel art and has a profound appreciation for its history and appeal. But he explains that the artistic qualities of pixel art are such that players and critics are expected to "decipher a language they don't understand", or which they experience as inherently nostalgic or retro. This semiotic 'pixel tax' isn't anyone's fault, but Reynolds finds it enough of a hurdle to effective artistic expression that he has chosen to stop working in the style.

Meaningful intent applies to medium as well. In choosing to make our game with pixel art, we have accidentally taken on a war on two fronts. My job was to make Auro's art polished, inviting, and clear to the audience, not to also educate the audience that pixel art is a deliberate style.

It's not their problem that they don't know what pixel art is, and it's not their fault. Choosing pixel art was ultimately self-serving and wound up confusing and even frustrating people. This is all because we failed to embrace the medium.

He says that its "time to face the chiptunes," but Blake's is such a good explainer of pixel art's impressionistic, expressive, minimalist qualities that I like pixel art even more for having read it!