Color in videogames

In this project, I've analyzed color evolution in video games. I've downloaded longplays—videos of someone completing an entire game—and converted the dominant color of each frame into a vertical line, creating a timeline.

Analyzing video games from this perspective, I've found many recurring patterns. Here I discuss the most interesting ones, but you can see them all in the link to the project:

Game Colors

Some games use the color spectrum to give a sense of progress to the player. In Journey, we start in a desert and as we solve certain puzzles, we discover other parts of the world and the color changes.

Other games also use color to give a sense of progress, but more directly: they divide the game into worlds, each with a distinct palette. In games with little changing dynamics like Bit Trip Runner, this resource gives more sense of variety. It's interesting how they often start with bright green tones and change to dark red tones.

There are also games that don't limit color evolution to the game itself, but let it change over an entire series. This is the case with Diablo, Elder Scrolls, or BioShock. In all of them, the color becomes more vivid from one game to the next. The case of Diablo III was quite notorious, and everyone complained about how colorful it was.

Most games also use color to give identity to the game, and many can be easily identified just by looking at the color palette. Some games like GRIS and Celeste don't honor their names, but they have a palette that anyone who has played will be able to identify.

In addition to the games in this post, I've uploaded others that are quite curious, like the entire Zelda, GTA, or Final Fantasy series. But I didn't want to miss out on including other games whose palette is simply spectacular and I couldn't think of any other excuse.

I started this post as a continuation of the one I wrote about the name of colors, and initially only intended to get a color palette, not a timeline. But when I saw what the artist Dillon Baker did with movies, I thought it would be more interesting to emulate it with video games.

To obtain the longplays, I used the online video download library youtube-dl, which Github recently removed following a complaint from the American SGAE. The complaint has catapulted the popularity of this library, producing a Streisand effect and it has already been restored.

Perhaps the most challenging part has been identifying the predominant color of each frame, which remains an active field of research. I tried using the average of all colors on the screen, but it resulted in a grey and brown mass, similar to mixing all the playdough. So, I ended up doing clustering of the image's colors and keeping the color that represents the largest cluster.

Papers, Please spectrum

Papers, Please is grey anyway.

I've considered uploading high-resolution versions of these timelines as prints on RedBubble, but creating a product for each game is a massive task, so if you're interested in any particular one, you can leave a comment and I'll upload it individually.


Javier Reply
Increíble trabajo. Tengo bastante curiosidad por ver como seria la saga god of war, especialmente el ultimo. (no es una petición como indicas en tu ultimo párrafo, no hace falta que los hagas)
Carlos Reply
¡Muy, muy buen proyecto! Hace tiempo vi una idea similar pero con cine (si no me equivoco, fue en Tumblr, así que ha llovido). Quería preguntarte, ¿podrías subir versiones en HR de Celeste, Gris y Journey? Muchísimas gracias!!
Juan C. Roldán Reply

Replying to Javier:

Gracias Javier, he subido toda la saga God of War junto con otros que me han ido pidiendo por redes 👍 puedes verla en el listado de juegos
HeianTB Reply
Absolutamente impresionante, muchas gracias por el aporte, ya más que mera curiosidad, personalmente dichos detalles me incitan a jugar más un juego u otro en cuestión de la evolución cromática que desee en el momento oportuno. ¡Un saludo y enhorabuena!
HeianTB Reply
Referente al último párrafo donde se comenta el tema de subir alguno a petición, se me olvido comentar si fuese posible ver una línea temporal de colores de Kuon (PS2). ¡Saludos y gracias por el post!

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