Enjoy this article written by guest blogger, Katlyn Jarman.
The first 3D video game to hit home computer screens in 1981 was the game Monster Maze, and by the late ‘90s, the majority of major game franchises were making the switch to 3D. As Mario, Sonic and Zelda all transitioned into 3D landscapes, it seemed that 2D game art would soon be confined to history. Luckily, this wasn’t the case, and 2D games have their place firmly in the list of favorites. Indeed, 2D gaming has seen a resurgence over recent years. But why is it still so popular?
Welcoming to New Gamers
While seasoned gamers have no problem navigating a 3D landscape, those with little experience can easily spend the majority of a game walking into walls and staring at ceilings. This isn’t so much of a problem with 2D games, and new users tend to find them much easier to navigate. A 2D game presents a much simpler interaction for the casual gamer, and as such, many people find them easier and more fun to play. Indeed, for many casual gamers, the frustration of navigating a 3D game simply isn’t worth the effort.
The unexpected popularity of the puzzle game, The Untitled Goose Game, in 2019 demonstrates the desire for simple, easy-to-use games amongst casual users. Game developers know that a game aimed at a mass market is more likely to be a hit if it’s straightforward, and 2D design is a valuable tool for that. While seasoned gamers may prefer a 3D landscape, it’s often felt that a 3D game aimed at the masses is a waste of money.
The Evolution of 2D Aesthetics
2D video game design no longer means pixel art. Many developers are experimenting with new styles that make their games instantly recognizable. Technological advancements have allowed artists to work with combinations of vector graphics and watercolors that would never have been imagined in the 90s. Levels of depth and detail are constantly improving, and it’s likely that the future of 2D games will include stunning combinations of hand painted backgrounds and high-resolution characters.
The range of styles available to 2D developers is seemingly endless, and new designs are constantly emerging. Flat design is a good example, creating an illusion of 3D art simply by using contrast and color to present high-resolution flat images, such as that seen in Gravity Defied and Flat Kingdom. Flat art appeals to both gamers and those who want to recreate images from their games in their own artwork. Drawing the Aztec dragon from Flat Kingdom, for example, is a much easier task than drawing the dragon in Dragon’s Dogma, and can be done by the casual artist who wants to recreate characters by breaking them down into easy steps. Similar benefits come from games that draw on monochromatic art, such as Limbo and Once Upon Light.
Opening the Door for New Developers
Just as 2D art welcomes the casual gamer, it also makes entry easier for new game designers. Game development tools are more accessible and available, and it’s much easier for new designers to prototype experimental games. While game development has not yet become as accessible as podcasting, it’s entirely possible that it will become as popular a mode of self-expression in the near future. And that opens the doors to exciting possibilities.
Game art needs to fit the context of the game, and new generations of artists are utilizing 2D art to make this happen. It’s likely that we’ll see an increase in the creative use of 2D art in video games as the years go on. Far from being a thing of the past, it seems that it’s a tool of the future.