Technology Usually Comes Too Late
April 15, 2013
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Take, for example, Richard Wagner. His ideal of the Gesamtkunstwerk became reality about fifty years after his death in the form of movies with color and sound. Movies tend to use music in a way very similar to Wagner. Some games do, too: The leitmotif concept is implemented very well in Chrono Trigger, for example.
The same goes for computers. The esthetics of the 60’s and 70’s would have been very computer-friendly. Look at Roy Lichtenstein’s Head – Red and Yellow. It uses only three colors, the skin is dithered from red and white. You could easily recreate it, or create something similar, on most 8-bit home computers, or on CGA.
This is one rather extreme example, but take for instance Yellow Submarine. It was a song, it was a book, it was a movie, and it created a style of illustration that remained influential all through the 70’s. It, too, used relatively few colors, and little to no shading.
But by the time computers became small and cheap enough to become household items, the esthetics had changed. The hip thing was now fantasy art in the style of Boris Vallejo, which was a lot more difficult to recreate on a computer.
I’ve often wondered what games would have looked like if personal computers had been born a decade earlier. Alas, we’ll never know.