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Authored by: Simon Niedenthal

The Routledge Companion to Video Game Studies

Print publication date:  December  2013
Online publication date:  January  2014

Print ISBN: 9780415533324
eBook ISBN: 9780203114261
Adobe ISBN: 9781136290510


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Color has formed the visual substrate of video gaming since the 1970s. As with film, the significance of color in the medium can be traced through the history of technology and design practices, and has consequences for game aesthetics, player emotion, and embodiment. Early monochromatic home systems such as the Magnavox Odyssey (1972) featured plastic overlays that added color to games (Winter, 2010), extending the visual experience of gaming in a manner analogous to the hand tinting of early cinema pioneers such as Méliès (Yumibe, 2012). Nintendo introduced its “Color TV” home gaming systems in Japan in 1977 (Plunkett, 2011b), and arcade technologies enabled color output to raster-based and vector-based displays several years before games such as Pac-Man (Namco, 1980) and Tempest (Atari, 1980) were released. In the first few years of the history of the medium, video game designers quickly gained a limited, discontinuous palette of colors that expanded and became more nuanced over time. The 8-bit sprite-based games of the late 1970s and early 1980s articulate a basic vocabulary of color for interactive play that laid the foundation for later 16-bit and 3-D games, in which color serves both functional and evocative aims.

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