I previously made a post positing that one of the big changes that occurred in video game graphics around the NES era was that character’s began to have faces. Their eyes and mouths (or approximations thereof) made the characters more relatable.
While I thought it made perfect sense, I realize that aside from my visual analysis there wasn’t a whole lot of record and evidence to back it up. But then recently while reading the New Super Mario Bros. Wii interview, the creator of Mario himself Miyamoto Shigeru said something which helped support my theory immensely.
IwataMario’s trademarks are his moustache, his hat and his overalls. Why did you decide to give him this look? I have no doubt you’ve spoken about this many times before, but I’d like to take this opportunity to ask you to tell us about it one more time.MiyamotoCertainly. The original Mario was a 16 X 16 pixilated image. At that time, when games made overseas used human characters, they were always rendered with life-like proportions.IwataIt felt as if the developers weren’t happy unless they’d drawn a figure that was eight-heads tall.MiyamotoOr sometimes it would be six-heads tall. But actually, the number of pixels we were able to use was so limited that, if we did that, we’d only have had a couple of pixels for the face.IwataWith two pixels, you wouldn’t even have been able to draw eyes. You’d basically have ended up with a matchstick figure. In early video games from overseas, that kind of figure often featured.
MiyamotoAnd as they just didn’t resemble human figures, I was absolutely convinced that they’d been designed by people who couldn’t draw!Iwata(laughs)MiyamotoI thought it was most likely that it was the programmer who was drawing these figures. But I thought: “I know how to draw!” I mean, I’m not saying I can draw as well as an artist, but I was confident that I was better at drawing than a programmer. That’s why I started by saying: “Right, let’s draw something that actually looks like a person’s face!” So I drew the eyes, the nose, the mouth and…