Feature: Of Pixels and Stitches
Posted by Emma Lenton
Handicrafts and video games unified
Video game crafting has been around as long as there have been iconic video games, characters and environments to inspire people, and it's likely that you've already come across such projects in the past, be that on Nintendo Life or elsewhere.
In essence, these impressive works are simply on the other end of the scale to the scruffy Mario doodle sketched in the margins of your exercise book during math class. While one requires a lot more time and patience compared to the other, they're both fuelled by the same love and appreciation of the games that inspired us as children and continue to inspire many as adults.
Everyone has their own unique story of their first games console, or time spent gaming with family and friends, or beating that one particular game after years of practice. Crafters are no different; they simply use this nostalgia as a springboard for their creativity to create pieces that reflect this very nostalgia.
With this in mind it’s safe to say that anyone reading this article is fully capable of creating unique video game crafts. Making something with your own hands is a very rewarding and fulfilling process, and when it's done, you'll have your very own slice of your favourite game to display in your home, show off to your friends or give away as a gift.
Handicraft, like video games, is an enjoyable and satisfying hobby full of different ideas, styles and techniques that takes a considerable amount of time and patience to truly master. Just like gaming, handicraft can also seem difficult to get into if you know little about it.
The word 'handicraft', again like the word 'gaming', is an incredibly broad term that includes any method by which decorations are made by hand, or with small hand-held tools such as sewing or knitting needles. Combine any craft using these methods with a video game theme and voilà, you have video game handicraft. Some of the commonly used forms of craft are likely to be familiar, including cross stitching, Perler beads, quilting, knitting and crocheting.
With so many different ways to be creative, it may be surprising that the most important and often the most difficult part of video game crafting is finding inspiration. Try to play lots of games by different developers and of different genres, and while you do, try to understand the choices made by game designers on the designs of the characters and environments. If you play retro games or games with 2D sprites, examine the sprites, try to determine what makes a particular sprite eye catching over ones that aren't.
As mentioned earlier, nostalgia is a fantastic source of inspiration and it is encouraged that beginners start by crafting an element of a game that represents something special to them. For example, if you grew up playing Super Metroid, the 'screw attack' symbol not only represents the game itself, but also the journey that was taken to obtain it and the immense power that comes with it; as a result it acts as the perfect basis for a piece of craft. So get gaming, and start thinking!
The internet has been key in enabling crafters around the world to share tips, trade materials, show off their work, and gain prominence in what they do. Sprite Stitch is the go-to site for anyone interested in video game craft and is home to a large community comprised of crafters of various types and skill levels. With a lively forum and a regularly updated blog showcasing the best works around, it's highly recommended.
Creativity, inspiration and determination is all it takes for anyone to become a prolific video game crafter. Servotron, for example, is well known for his large, awe-inspiring cross stitch works based off the likes of The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker and Earthbound. Quiltoni on the other hand utilises 'simpler' sprites to great effect with her high quality quilts. The application of the humble craft of crochet to create woollen video game characters has also gained GoldenJellyBean a considerable following.
While these individuals may be considered some of the best at what they do, every single video game crafter has different experiences with different games, and they all bring something new to the table. If the hobby sounds interesting to you, there's a wealth of resources out there that will help you on your way.
The majority of handicrafts around today have been in use for centuries. Thousands of guides detailing the basics of any particular method can be found online, with the same basic information being available in practically every public library. In fact, it’s more than likely that someone you know does some handicraft or another. A good place to start, however, are the Sprite Stitch forums, mentioned earlier, as well as the numerous About.com pages which include guides for cross stitching, quilting, crocheting, knitting and many more.
Cross stitching in particular is highly recommended to those new to video game crafts, firstly as it requires no prior technical knowledge, using only a needle, thread and fabric, and secondly the simple pixel-to-stitch conversion makes it a perfect fit for the stitching of sprites. Two great resources for sprites covering numerous games and consoles are The Spriter's Resource and The Shy Guy Kingdom.
If you're ready to get cracking you can have a go at this simple, yet iconic Shy Guy cross stitch pattern. These three very simple lessons will tell you everything you need to know. As for materials, all you'll need are the following:
- Stranded cotton (a.k.a. embroidery floss in the US)
- 14 count aida
- A size 24 tapestry needle
Although DMC colours are listed in the pattern, any brand in red, black and white will do. All of the above materials can be bought in any craft shop or some larger supermarkets. The Shy Guy should take about an hour to stitch up, which is quick considering larger pieces can take months or even years to complete.
Combining the imaginative worlds of video games with traditional handicrafts gives you a unique hobby that will help you gain a true understanding of the beauty of pixel art, and develop your appreciation of older sprite-based games as well as modern experiences. Anyone is capable of crafting, so what are you waiting for? Get involved and start crafting your own personal tributes to the games you love the most, and maybe even the ones you don't.
We hope that this introduction to gaming handicraft has inspired you to try a new hobby. If you're interested in knowing more, let us know in the comments below.