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Playing with Color in Video Games

Playing with Color in Video Games

Jamin Brophy-Warren | GOOD

Getting the right shades was a long process. “I don’t speak art,” French says. "But I knew when something was a little bit dark and needed to pop. It’s like I could say ‘Choose Pantone 483.’” They cycled through several different shades of red before settling on one they thought worked best.

This new exploration of color can be seen in other games as well. In “the Unfinished Swan,” you shoot color from a gun to illuminate the canvas of the world. In the tech demo for the game, the player’s environment is completely white; projectiles of paint give the world its shape and allow you to navigate the terrain. In last year’s “Mirror’s Edge,” color served as a signal to lead you through a world dominated by a coercive government. DICE, the developer, deliberately widens your field of vision (much like prey such as deer and antelope). This allows you to see a panorama but also makes everything very flat. That perspective shift forces you to fixate on individual colors. Reds serve as your allies and direct the eye to where the protagonist must go.

Like Matisse, videogame designers have strong chromatic sensibilities and are just as serious about technique and aesthetics as the legendary Fauvist painter. Games like “The Saboteur” won’t pay for my television, but, at the very least, they add some much needed flavor to my new apartment.

Jamin Brophy-Warren is a freelance writer living in New Haven, Connecticut. He is a former arts and entertainment reporter for the Wall Street Journal, a contributor at Slate, and editor of the forthcoming gaming magazine Kill Screen.

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