Paraphrasing Mark Essen in the interview above: “it’s not nostalgia. I just like it.”
Video game aesthetics have become a kind of naive, outside art for the digital age. Little wonder: the explosion of consumer digital products in the 80s left the children of that decade and decades after with piles of media. Someone was going to work out how to channel those into art. My sense is what’s likely to happen less is, as the novelty of such art wears off, these styles will simply re-integrate with other cultural content.
Just don’t call it 8-bit. For one thing, a lot of the games are, technically, described as 32-bit. And at its best, Essen’s work has a kind of stark minimalism to it that makes it as much about graphic art. There’s something striking about watching fencing characters against solid backgrounds below.
Of course, if it’s retina-burning, fast-paced, 8-bit-style visuals you want, just watch as Essen teams up with legendary (and wonderfully insane) indie game designer Cactus.
The Motherboard.tv/Creators Project introduction to his work is a great place to start and a nicely-accomplished video interview. (If anyone wants to, uh, volunteer to help us collect these kinds of interviews – at least since Vice Magazine beat us to Intel and Dell sponsorship – let us know!) You’ll also find some links to his work on their page.
New York Magazine recently profiled the artist, and his ascendancy into the serious art world (hey, sometimes they catch on):
Graphic Violence: Mark Essen’s brutal, lo-fi video games are about to make him an art-world star.
For a nice written interview, Jessica Loudis for ArtCat talks to Essen about his training in film, his influences, and more:
Talking with Mark Essen [ARTCAT]
Keep up with the artist himself on his blog:
Via Rhizome, the folks at L Magazine point to the interview at top. L Magazine, based in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, also has a nice mini-roundup of the emerging indie game art scene:
The Video Game as Art: by Benjamin Sutton