The Game Boy was hugely influential in the game industry, playing its part in bringing video games into the mainstream. It's still very much loved despite its limitations, from its basic specifications that restricted the scope of its games, down to the modest screen. Those limitations, though, can be a strength in the right hands.
That's highlighted rather nicely in the tweet below from pixel artist Klas Benjaminsson, showcasing some works produced on Nintendo's classic portable.
As you can see in the tweet's details, these images are part of the 'Memory Limits' exhibition at Vapriikki Museum Centre in Tampere, Finland. The exhibition sadly draws to a close soon, on 6th June, and it's had an interesting approach to showcasing artwork. Featuring work from nine artists, it's designed to highlight the power of platforms like Game Boy to fire the imagination and inspire players.
For an entire generation of children growing up in the 90s, the Game Boy was their very own ‘personal computer’. It was not just another piece of hardware, but their first private screen on which adventures could be had, often without the interference of parents. On the schoolyard with friends, or under a blanket with a flashlight, worlds could be discovered on its small and dim 4-colour display. All you needed was a bit of imagination to bring these pixelated realms to life.
Playing is never a one-directional act of consumption. A good game impresses itself on the mind of the player. It is taken in and transformed, and it tickles the imagination of the one playing it. The magic of the Game Boy inspired children to fill in the gaps that games did not want to express, to dream up their own worlds and to express their own ideas. For some, these experiences sparked a career in art.
Memory Limits brings this full circle. For each of our nine artists, the Game Boy becomes the medium for their individual ideas, stories and visions. They have created artworks, one pixel at a time, that are running as software on the original, old hardware. The Game Boy may or may not be part of each artist’s history, but through its plastic lens it becomes our window into their memories.
Many of us won't be able to go and see the exhibition, but it seems like a terrific idea that will hopefully be recreated in the future at more locations. Let us know what you think, as always, in the comments.
[source vapriikki.fi, via twitter.com]
Amazing art: NOW IN SMUDGE GREEN!
I keep thinking how cool a retro style Matrix game would look on a Gameboy
Those are impressive, and really capture how much depth can be extracted from such a limited platform. Though to be fair you could just pull from the original Link's Awakening as the evergreen example. The purity of the Game Boy is still a wonder, it's mystery why it's aesthetics continue to be found in games and it is still used as an instrument.
Crazy, you got black and 3 variations of green to work with? Or is it 2 because of the Gameboy's LCD?
@eltomo Technically it's Black, White (well Yellowish white) and 2 shades of green in-between. Each 8x8 background tile essentially has the same palette of those 4 tints, which I assume saves memory, allowing for near bitmapped graphics, even though technically the Game Boy is a tile based system that doesn't support any kind of bitmapped display mode.
Actually its more that being the case for background imagery.
Sprites on the other hand, you only have black, "white", and light green. And that's your lot apart from the super-bright-green "transparency" layer.
What's basically going on with the images above is "hey we can use dithering to cheat as a shading effect." No more, no less.
It's nice art but displaying a static image or even a simple animation with background tiles on GB isn't all that impressive. The only limitation you need to worry about is tile count. You need to reuse some tiles but that's not a problem when the images above have large areas of solid color.
The actual fun begins when you start thinking about how you can make an actual game. Then you suddenly have many more limitations you have to overcome. I've dabbled in it myself and it's been interesting.
@Late Well a full screen worth of pixels on GB, at 2-bit color depth for the 4 possible shades that each background pixel can be, takes 5.76 KB and the GB has 16KB of VRAM. (EDIT: my mistake, the original GB has 8KB, 16KB is for the GBC, but that's still enough to not need to re-use tiles)
So in the case of perfectly still images like these, you don't even have to worry about cleverly reusing tiles across the image. But it's true that making actual large scrolling levels worth of background graphical data + sprites for an actual game requires a lot more thinking and planning, which is why 8-bit games, even on Game Boy with its more economic 2-bit color depth, use meta-tiles and meta-meta-tiles galore.
@RudyC3 The VRAM isn't only for the tiles but the tile maps as well. The area for tiles can hold 384 unique tiles but that area is divided into three blocks. BG can use either the first two or the last two while sprites can't use the last block at all. Since BG can only use two of the three blocks at a time, the actual limit for BG tiles in memory is 256 tiles which isn't enough to cover the whole screen of 360 tiles unless some are reused.
@Late Thanks for the clarification!
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