Last year Thibault Le Hégarat, a doctor of contemporary history and a teacher, was showing his students some impressionist paintings by the likes of Monet and Boudin. During the class, Thibault asked the class to describe one particular and always consistent element of any landscape painting: the clouds. “It was a good time to reflect together on the ever-changing nature of the sky, and also the fact that each of us can see something different represented,” he says, “even when looking at the same skies.”
After class, Thibault started thinking about other creative depictions of skies and cast his mind back to “the wondrous skies of my childhood video games,” he tells It’s Nice That. Wanting to share this nostalgia-inducing gem of design, he started a gallery on Tumblr called Video Game Skies, which has had us scrolling and sighing ever since.
Since he was a child, Thibault has always been fond of video games. Yet, he was never one itching to get the latest console or game, instead happily playing along with, first, a Nintendo Game Boy and later, a Sega Master System. “Those were my only consoles for a long time,” he says. “Maybe that’s why these days I’m so attracted to the aesthetic of the eight-bit era. I don’t like everything that is branded as ‘retro’ but I have to admit, it often catches my eye.”
Video Games Skies), in turn, shines a light back on this illustrative aesthetic. When the idea presented itself, it was_Sonic the Hedgehog and Super Mario that Thibault specifically had in mind, but his now expansive collection covers everything from Spyro to Jurassic Park too.
When it actually comes down to why Thibault is dedicating his spare time to digging out these games and only looking at their skies, he simply says: “I am in awe at the various ways digital artists managed to picture the sky. These people had a lot of technical constraints to work with. How do you give a plausible impression of a cloudy sky with just a limited number of pixels and colours?” And while some of Thibault’s findings have sometimes been “very bland and unimaginative”, the design tricks used in certain variations he describes as “very clever, convincing, and sometimes visually stunning, even poetic.”
It’s the imagination of a games designer somewhere in the late 80s, burrowed away in a back room and only concentrating on depicting the sky to surround the narrative of a game which is so fascinating. There’s an intriguing quality to this process, which also puts us in agreement with Thibault’s feeling of having “no interest in the photorealistic skies of modern games… I find myself much more attracted to the 80s and 90s productions,” he says. “Not because I am nostalgic, but because of how resourceful and imaginative the designers were in these times.”
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