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Guest Post On Pixel Art by Simon Cottee

Add Comment! By John Graham on May 26th, 2010

Hi, I’m Simon Cottee/Lavalevel. I’m not really sure how to present myself to you, being just a dude who does some stuff and got invited to write a guest blog by John. Let’s start with our assumption of why I was even asked.

I recently made an 11-minute Pixel art documentary, which obviously deals with the indie scene. I have been a fan of indie games and the pixel aesthetic for some time now; I drool over Superbrothers on a regular basis. I myself am a 2D Animation student and have tried my hand at some pixel animations.This project for me was part trying to work out why the hell I’m even interested in it and trying to justify it further than “hey that’s like a video game!” Strangely enough I’m only 22 and therefore never properly experienced the early years of pixels. Perhaps for many gamers my age the Atari years are romanticized, the new frontier of gaming that we missed out on.

Aside from all that one of my main creative motivation was to avoid what I consider doing any “real work”. I’ve been trying to live on a “never do any real work” lifestyle for some time now, which often culminates in me regularly eating plain spaghetti and fantasizing about being able to afford meat. Real work is something you do for money. No thanks. My life needs to be dedicated to doing something I would do for free and someone stupidly pays me for, such as this!

I assume this is how the Wolfire team felt going full time. Inspiring. So let me get back, this doco was actually made for my Animation Auteurs class. An animation art theory subject that’s taught by a guy who looks exactly like Moloch from Watchmen. We had to write a research paper, which sounds like real work to me! SO in my attempts to avoid writing a big old essay I tripled my workload and had a blast. It dawns on me now that in an ironic twist, my attempt to avoid writing something has culminated in me writing something… luckily this is for a great cause, unlike my education.

My process for making it was a real cobbling together of things. I realized that around me I had met 3 interesting people in interesting areas of pixel work. I had made my Rule animation using Jason Rohrer’s Sleep is Death and had been in email communication with him. I had gotten in contact with a local chiptune artist for a possible collab and one of my lectures is an animation guru who made Dan the Man. It was a little rough going at times, such as having to interview Jason at 3:30am my time, or having to cancel my interview with a fine artist due to us eating through our useless archaic Australian download limit and being speed capped. THANKS KEVIN RUDD! CAN’T WAIT FOR THE CLEAN FEED! My direction with it is super inspired by Robert Ashley’s fantastic podcast “A Life Well Wasted” and “This American Life.” hence the sickeningly earnest and sincerer nature of it. My own clumsiness and impatience also resulted in a few incorrect dates shown, such as: Mona Lisa – 1956. I guess da Vinci was competing with Elvis that year. Of course this being the Internet that for some reason really got some people into an animalistic rage.

I’m fairly happy with it though; the fact that in this day and age some guy can compile youtube footage with skype interviews to create a documentary is pretty neat. Despite all my efforts though, I know my most successful videos will just be my ex GF playing TF2. Welcome to the Internet.

So I hope now the Wolfire team has learned that, as Jason Rohrer put it, 3D is just a fad and they need to scrap all Aubrey’s amazing work. At least SMALL TANK was a step in the right direction.

Thanks for sharing those insights about your pixel art documentary with us Simon. I think you did a fantastic job articulating the merits of this 2D medium. The idea that 3D games are just a fad is a pretty provocative stance (Them's fightin' words!) but definitely fun to think about. What do you guys think about Simon's treatment of pixel art?