Monday, April 7, 2014

Any dumb thing can become a learning experience

So I have come up with a new way to justify (rationalize?) the time I waste on computer games.  One of my new favorite games has a feature where civilians can set up their own rules and format for the basic game, choosing among other things the colors and shapes of the icons that will populate the layout.  I have been fascinated to see the different palettes chosen, and to make artistic judgments about their choices.

What I've been reminded of is that for me, much of the pleasure of computer games has to do with the visual appeal of the interface -- the colors, the patterns, the way the pieces behave when you make your move.  And the joy of this particular game is that if a certain game has yucky colors I can close it down and find another one that is more attractive.

A parallel pleasure is in analyzing why certain choices of color and shape are attractive and why others aren't.  In a sense, the 8x8 layout of the game is much like a block-to-block quilt, and the color combinations that work in one might work (or not) in the other.  I realize that looking at the layout of a game board presents a similar challenge to what happens when a student shows up in a workshop with five or six fabrics that are supposed to go together.  Many times there's something just a bit off -- you know the whole thing doesn't work, but it can be hard to articulate just what's wrong or how to fix it.

So if you will indulge me, I'm going to write some posts about these color palettes and how I evaluate them from the artist's perspective.  It's good practice!  If you disagree with me -- and I'm sure you will -- please tell me what you think.

Many of these games have palettes with very similar values; restful and innocuous in a quilt, perhaps, but soporific in a computer game.  I'm surprised at how many of these monovalue palettes are pastels rather than mediums or darks.

I like this combination!  Maybe if the blue were a touch more subdued it would be perfect, but the two pinks go beautifully together and with the green (you rarely go wrong with complementary colors).  Give it an A.

Here's another one I like.  Even though the greens are a bit darker than the others, the overall impression is calm and pale.  The green triangles may be a bit too bright; maybe a pale blue or gray would work better.  I give it an A minus.

The green may be a bit too garish to go with the others, but it's not a fatal flaw.  Give it a B.

Saved from total medium-lightness by the slate blue, which nicely sets off the lighter colors.  Not sure the bright pink and lavender play well together with the peach. Maybe a B minus?

Here the overall value is medium.  My favorite of the four colors is the blue-green. The chartreuse stands out, not because it's the lightest (which it is) but because it's the brightest.  I think it would work better among its colleagues if it were keyed back to the olive tone in the first palette.  Maybe a C plus.

How many quilts have been made in this palette? It sets my teeth on edge, probably because of the purple, which seems too harsh for the pale pinks.  If you got rid of the purple and added a couple of warm pinks, as in the first two palettes, I'd like it a lot more.  Give it a C.

More palettes tomorrow.


  1. The everlasting Monitor vs. Eyeball problem. The last one looks to me like a restful monochrome: they're all shades of purple and lavender. In the first one I see only one pink, and a sort of peach/beige, which does not go well at all with the green.

    Mary Anne in Kentucky

    1. this isn't the Monitor vs. Eyeball problem, it's the Monitor vs. Monitor problem! totally virtual / conceptual

  2. I guess my grades would depend on whether the setup is there to just be pleasing artistically or whether the setup achieves my goals for the game. For me, games are for when I don't have a good escapist book to read and I want some easy happy success. I want an EASY game that I can win. Playing matchup games becomes harder as the colors and shapes are more similar. The more shapes are similarly colored, the harder it is. Using a couple contrasting garish colors in with others actually makes the game easier. Similar shapes with very different colors = easier. For me, your two A grades would be very difficult to play if I were to have to match shapes (like Bejeweled if you've played that). I would rather play your B, B- or C+ screens as I would be more successful. I like looking at the last one. (Restful, as mentioned) At least today I do. I'd probably get tired of it after a while.

    1. You're absolutely right -- some of the palettes that I find attractive artistically are much more difficult to play. But I don't want to play those with ugly color combinations, even if they're functionally efficient.

      and yes, this is a Bejeweled variant. but better, in my professional opinion.