Indie Game Art Styles Undergraduate Research!

Pixels, Paints, and Pixels? How Indie Game Art Styles Affect Interactive Experience.

It’s been a crazy past week of orally defending my work on indie game art styles and presenting it at two conferences, the 17th annual Mcnair symposium and the HASSE 3rd annual conference at Lamar University. In my undergraduate research project, I talk about the different art styles available to indie games, what indie games are, and what difference can a pixelated image versus a hand drawn image make on a player. It’s been a long hard year, but I ended up with a 49 page thesis that I am proud of, a survey that gathered 900 respondents thanks to Lucas Pope, the creator of the indie game used in my experiment Paper’s Please, tweeting about it, and have come out more educated in my field of indie game development.

For those who weren’t able to make it to my presentation you can now check it out on youtube at the top! *This is my shorten 12 minute presentation so although some information sadly had to be cut, it should still be informative and interesting.*

My full undergraduate research thesis paper is also available to read for free here

Here is my abstract:

The indie game is a fairly new topic in the realm of academia and has contributed to the video game medium by resisting the profit and mass appeal approach of big budget video games. Through its independent creation, developers are able to create personal experiences for players that focus on creating a unique merger between visuals and interaction–the unique element that separates video games from any other artistic medium.
Indie games’ budget and software constraints push developers to find creative solutions in their artistic style, primarily using pixelated or hand drawn art styles in contrast to the photo realistic approach of big budget developers.
This research will explore the styles most relevant in the visuals of indie games, pixel and hand-drawn styles, conduct a case study through sampling different art style options based on the game Paper’s Please, conclude with quantitative and qualitative data of the two art styles, and whether minimalistic, stylistic, or realistic abstractions are more effective in particular scenarios and or different demographics.
The online survey received 752 respondents with results showing that players are least sympathetic towards a minimalistic pixelated image, and most sympathetic towards a realistic pixelated image. The ambiguity of pixelation, much like pointillism or a mosaic, creates a stronger sense of immersion between a player and the images presented through the interactive medium of indie games.





To kind of go over what all this was about, it all started with my acceptance into the Mcnair’s Scholars program. This program is for motivated underrepresented students who want to prepare for graduate school. So I had to be poor, a minority, and wanting to do stuff with my life. ( I was a perfect candidate haha) They help by funding an undergrad research project by providing guidance throughout the entire process of researching as well as mentally and academically preparing you for graduate school. I never knew or thought about graduate school until I was able to be part of this program and in one year I feel like it has helped me created a more defined path towards my career goals. I cannot thank this program and the staff enough for contributing to my professional development and putting me on the right path to become an indie game developer. I advise anyone who qualifies to go ahead and apply to the program, but be warned that there is no hand holding. All this was done because of my own passion and goals of wanting to be successful. You have to want to put in the work and effort, so if you can do that, then this program can change your life. 


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