The Evolution of 8-Bit Art

One thing that always blows my mind is when I hear a game developer or artist say something like “With improved technology we/I can be more creative.”

To be frank, a statement like that is something that flies in the face of what I personally believe art can be, not that there’s anything wrong with high end graphics, but limitations inspire.

Scott Pilgrim Colored Release- Paul Robertson

That’s why I am a huge fan of the 8bit movement, an effort to try and recapture those technical limitations of the 80’s and 90’s using the same tools of that time for the sake of art.

The goal is to take something that is perceived as inherently minimalist and simple and getting the absolute most out of it creatively. Successful 8bit art requires a very firm understanding of the technical limitations you need to work around, a working knowledge of the principles of art and/or music and a certain intangible cleverness to get around those self imposed limits without ever actually leaving them.

So why would you want to do all this?

There is the nostalgia factor,  8 bit graphics and music for people between the ages of 21 and 50 harken back to a happier time of gaming that was simple and fun, but I think the more important factor is the imagination. When you work within such narrow boundaries, you depend on the audience to fill in the gaps for you. This demand for imagination creates a deeper, more personal level of interactivity with the viewer that is absent from most modern games and art. Basically, even though we may be looking at the same screen, how I see the NES versions of the worlds of Hyrule, the Mushroom Kingdom and even Minecraft on PC will vary from how your mind’s eye will see it.

Unfortunately, if you weren’t lucky enough to play the early games before playing next gen games, your perception will be polluted with the imagery someone created for you in those modern game. It’s the same problem caused by watching a movie before reading the book, your perception of the characters and imagery are influenced by someone else’s imagination.. Basically,  odds are that if you read the Lord of the Rings books after watching the movie… you’ll probably still think of Frodo Baggins as Elijah Wood and not invent your own version of the character like someone who read the book first.

In the end, there is nothing wrong with thinking inside the box, especially if that box happens to be a NES.

Additional Art by:

Jude Buffum –
JamesBit –
Snake –
Pei-San Ng –
R Grillotti –
Jamon –
Paul Robertson –

Music by:

Sycamore Drive –
Netlabelism –
Eric Skiff –
Minusbaby –
Anamanaguchi –
Kupa –
Lunchbox tha Narcoleptic –

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Produced by Kornhaber Brown:

Source: PBS via You Tube