It’s a fact that the first thing that excites us when we watch a video game, is its art. From the most modern realism to the most retro pixel art, players have been able to appreciate beauty in all graphics. Today we come to talk about a specific style, minimalism, which, being simpler, does not mean that it is careless or easy to achieve.

Minimalism was born around 1960. Many artists, tired of the trend of the great metaphors in the works, hidden details and large compositions decided to bet on a much simpler style. For minimalists, the message of art had to be direct and accessible.

This mode of art has been transferred to a multitude of other branches beyond painting, such as music, architecture, photography and design. There are those who have even embraced minimalism as a way of life in which they decide to keep only the most indispensable in their lives. And, of course, it has reached videogames.

Video games must have an art that, in the end, supports what you are trying to tell. A minimalist style brings ease, simplicity and clarity that gives us pleasure and a sense of comfort. That is why it is excellent for puzzles and logic games. Much interaction and detail on the screen for a game that requires our attention may mean that we lose ourselves in the image instead of focusing on the main mechanics of the game.

Minimalism has a functional essence that builds the general structure of the game

This example can be seen in games like Monument Valley or Limbo. Each one with a completely different style but with a similar objective. Monument Valley, based on the impossible figures of Escher, creates a world of pastel colors that is very pleasing to the eye, not only capturing our attention to its beauty, but also focusing on the figures themselves to solve their riddles.

Limbo, for his part, bases his attention on monochrome. With blacks, whites and scales of grays that remind us of a theater of shadow Chinese, Limbo seeks to create a simple and gloomy scenario in equal parts, which allows you to get into the atmosphere of terror and in turn leave room for you to think and solve the puzzles he poses. In the same way his successor, 'Inside', would get it, with a very similar style but using 3D and just a couple of colors more.

Other games, such as Fern Flower or Alto's Odyssey, seek to evade the player through a mechanic that allows them to disconnect and simply enjoy the world they explore. In this case, minimalism acts as a tool that helps to relax the mind.

Art in games like Limbo, Monument Valley, Fern Flower and Alto´s Odyssey.

Games like Monument Valley and Limbo have inspired many developers to bet on a cleaner and simpler style.

However, minimalism in video games is not at odds with the frenzy of many titles. That it is an art that invites you to relax and let yourself go depends on many other factors, such as color or soundtrack, as well as the action of the game itself. We can see it in Flat Heroes, where you can feel all the tension and action you would feel taking Nathan Drake in a lost temple but being a square in a completely flat world.

Eliminating the excess of elements on the screen causes the information of Flat Heroes to be summarized in the platform or bullet concepts, so that the player can easily assimilate all the information and start to dodge and move accordingly.

This is a concept that is used a lot in other bullet hell style games and spaceships, in titles like Nightgate, Horizon or Neon Spaceship. Having a simple style in these games helps the player to focus on the task of dodging, which in itself is complicated. These games focused on science fiction use a lot of black backgrounds mixed with neon colors, so characteristic of scifi and cyberpunk.

Representing radars and sensors as if it were the screen of a command center, the message makes clear: this is the future. A clear example of this concept would be Ingress, conceptual predecessor of Pokémon Go, which literally turns our mobile into a radar of the different portals distributed throughout the city.

Art in games like Horizon, Flat Heroes and Ingress.

Many games seek to focus the player's attention on the most important, so they decide to eliminate everything that is not functional.

We can find minimalism in many different video games. To reduce it to an idea of easy, independent or low budget game would be to demolish a concept that goes far beyond the visual, when, in reality, it has a functional essence that foundations the general structure of the game. Just as there are many different styles of art: realistic, cartoon, etc., minimalism can be extended from all dimensions to both mobile games and the latest steam bomb.


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Marta Gil

Marta Gil

PR, Product Manager & Social Media in Gametopia. FemDevs Regional coordinator.
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