I’m learning how to make video games

You’re what? Really? What happened to surface pattern design? Isn’t that what you signed up to all those classes for? And then the fashion stuff? Where is all that? Oh, and yeah, I get how you got to theater through costuming.

But video games?

Welcome to me in my head.

It’s the near constant struggle to figure out where the connections are. What’s the One Thread. It’s a little like the “Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon” game to be honest. Video games from pixel art. Pixel art from surface pattern design. Less than three degrees. And to tell the truth, I was fascinated by pixel art before I focused on either fashion or surface pattern. And since I don’t play video games there wasn’t the persistent reminder. I hadn’t yet made the right connections.

So, what is the right connection?

Tile sets!

Actually, just tiles.

Tiles are the real connection. Part of finishing the fashion course at American River College is creating a limited collection. Since I was not really interested in the fashiony side of fashion but tended more towards the costuming side, I had not intended to do a collection. Enter Covid and lockdown and getting to do stuff at home. Doing a collection became a lot more interesting because now I could do exactly what suited me. Which meant doing it in half-scale. And doing it in half-scale meant that I could, conceivably create my own fabrics . This was my full introduction to designing a surface pattern collection. The opportunity to discover the tools and mechanics of using my iPad and Procreate. A lot of lessons all around.

My success with the collections–fashion and pattern–kept me on my usual path of What is it? How does it work? And What can I do with it? In surface pattern design the answer to all of that is a version of tiles. Pixel art tiles are a version of surface pattern design. Similar rules apply when the goal is to create a design that repeats across a surface. In video games that surface is the screen.

A major difference is how that pattern is created.

Little colored squares.

It’s the little colored squares that got me reinvested in pixel art. I now had more ways of looking at them. More ways of seeing what can be done with little colored squares. Seeing more connections.

I knit. One way to record pattens is in squares. When I was investigating more possibilities in knitting I use color to define what happened in those squares. And colored squares also just represented color patterns.

Not a fan of doing cross stitch but I like the idea. And again, little colored squares. I’m not the only one who sees the connection. One of the pixel artists I follow posted a trio of cross stitch images.

I have a friend who does mosaics. Again, not my jam, but I had come across some of the original Roman mosaics and again—little colored squares.

So, yes. Little colored squares turning into images and patterns is connected to both pixel art and surface pattern design.

And tiles.

The next level up is building those colored squares into repeatable patterns. Which is where tiles come into it. In surface pattern design the “tiles” are not necessarily square. However, the idea of tiling is consistent. Designs are created to fit together. Some are as obvious as squared tiles. Single images spaced across a surface. Think rubber stamps. Others are more complex build on interconnecting networks of different shapes. Rectangles, diamonds and something called an ogee are a few. To further disguise the plan or to enhance it, the shapes that create the network can be organized as bricks or stripes or whatever else fits neatly together forming the pattern.

For me, the simplicity of the tile that Procreate needs to build a repeat was enough to create my pattern collection. And provide the gateway to understanding tile sets. Not just how to build them but what else I can do with them.

So, where do video games enter the picture?

They don’t. Yet. Or rather they do but not from here, exactly. Video games follow another thread, another connection. And that is one I am still trying to tease out of the mess of thread that my haphazard pursuits have always been. I have hope that the mess of thread will still only be one.

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