Playing with Color in Video Games
Jamin Brophy-Warren | GOOD
Hopefully this admission will not be anathema to you, but I only recently purchased an HDTV for my home. Part of my reluctance to join the one-third of Americans in the high-definition era was cost: I recently left my job at the Wall Street Journal for the lucrative world of freelancing. But the other piece was philosophical. I didn’t want to succumb to the seductive pitches of videogame publishers that breezily pushed graphical fidelity as the most important consideration in understanding the medium. (Sony’s new commercials for the holiday season are a prime example.)
This week, I had a slight change of heart. No, I still don’t care about granularity or beads of CGI sweat on rippling biceps. But I have developed a new-found appreciation for the importance of color. Games, of course, have been in color for some time. “Galaxian” holds the honor of the first videogame in true RGB color, but since then color has been a descriptive feature. Now, a handful of games are using color as a defining trait.
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“The Saboteur,” recentely released by Electronic Arts, tracks an Irish racecar-driver-turned-apostate who attempts to sabotage the German occupying forces in Paris. The WWII setting, of course, has been tackled dozens of times. (“You can almost hear people’s eyes rolling into their heads,” says Tom French, the game’s lead game director for Pandemic.) But the game’s approach to the turbulent time period relies on a novel use of color.
In the game, the occupied areas are shaded black and white with strong notes of red on the Nazi insignia. As you liberate each of the Parisian arrondissements, the areas return to their previous cheery demeanor and flood with color. The shift not only indicates the change in mood, but also serves as a guidepost for the player. Colorful areas are safe; the monochromatic regions are dangerous. “Black and white sucks the life and removes the mood of the world,” French says.
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