Stuart Brown‘s five part YouTube series–where one episode is being released every day this week–takes viewers through the evolution of video game graphics, starting with the most rudimentary games of the 1970s up through today.
What makes Brown’s videos so great is their accessibility: they aren’t geared towards developers or even necessarily video game fans. Thanks to his extremely clear explanations and thorough examples, his videos are informational and enjoyable even if you know nothing about the subject. But Stuart also acknowledges many little known games which paved the way for more advanced graphics later on, even if they have been forgotten by time, making the series fascinating even to connoisseurs of the medium.
His first video focuses on the very basics, color and pixels. He explains the difference between raster and vector renderings: those drawn by a grid of pixels versus those based on whole polygons. In the second video, Brown narrates the fall of the arcade and the shift to home computing as the driving force for innovation in game graphics. Along the way, he describes elements of video games everyone has noticed but may not have ever consciously considered.
For example, parallax scrolling, when the background of a game moves at a different speed than the foreground, creating an illusion of depth. Some ’80s video games, such as Prince of Persia, even used rotoscoping to make their “sprites” (2-D characters) move realistically, in a time before motion capture was possible. In the third video, released today, Brown mainly explains the transition from 2-D to 3-D graphics, perhaps best characterized by the rise of first person shooter titles like Doom.
Brown’s series is both highly informative and nostalgic, digging up memories you may not even know you have of long gone arcades and cartridges. These videos put in perspective just how far this medium has come in a few short decades, and allows viewers to momentarily feel like they are witnessing these games for the first time again, marveling at the graphics of Donkey Kong Country or Tomb Raider.
[h/t: Prosthetic Knowledge]