Monday, May 10, 2010

Drawing inspiration from video games: An interview with the artist known as Orioto

Many moons ago, Paris-based artist Mikaël "Orioto" Aguirre graciously agreed to take part in an electronically enabled Q&A. Sadly, his responses to my (rather geeky) questions have been sitting in my in-box ever since.

I'd like to say it was my intention to treat our little tête-à-tête like it was a fine wine--i.e., age it to perfection--but in reality I've just been too busy (and, yes, too lazy) to prep and post it.

Anyway, here it is in all its gay-gaming glory.

The Gay Gamer: So, when did you start creating art?

Mikaël Aguirre: I started creating art about 10 years ago. That's when I got my first PC and when I started to have fun with Photoshop. I've wanted to manipulate pictures and create things since I was a kid.

Do a Barrel Roll

GG: I recently read an interview with you where you said you aren’t a drawer and you aren’t a painter. So what are you? How do you create the works that can be found on your deviantART page (and on, from time to time)? Do you take existing pieces of art and combine them in photoshop?

MA: Well, I use photomanipulation. I take pieces of photos here and there and I manipulate them, like some kind of two-dimensional sculpture. I construct my art like that, piece by piece, and then I paint over everything so it's not a mess. Sometimes I paint elements directly using Photoshop, but it's not my specialty.

GG: When did you start playing video games?

MA: I started playing video games when I was 10--in 1991. My first console was the Genesis, but I quickly changed it for a SNES because I'm (obviously) a graphic whore.

GG: When did the two worlds collide for you, so to speak? Also, why did you decide to start creating art inspired by your favorite video games?

MA: Let's say it has always been a logical choice for me. Video games were my first culture; I built my imagination into them when I was a kid. So, it's always been a goal to do something with video games, to find some way of bringing life to my memories.

Bird Chase Time

GG: You seem to focus mostly on retro (8-bit and/or 16-bit) games--games like Mario and Metroid and Sonic. Why is that? Are those the games you have the fondest memories of, or do you think they represent the pinnacle of video game aesthetics and design?

MA: I'm not really objective about this. We're talking about my childhood, when I was a teen--a special time in a boy's life, for sure. Also, some of my favorite games of all time (Chrono Trigger, Final Fantasy VI and Secret of Mana) were played when I was 13 and 14 years old.

Also, I would say this was some kind of artistic golden age for video games, when two-dimensional graphics reached maturity--as you can see in Chrono Trigger, Final Fantasy VI, Secret of Mana and the SNK fighting games.

GG: What are some of your favorite games from the 8-bit and 16-bit eras, by the way? Do you like any games from the current generation (DS, PSP, 360, PS3, Wii)?

MA: I didn't play games during the 8-bit era, but when it comes to the 16-bit era I would say Another World, Final Fantasy VI, Micro Machines, Pocky & Rocky, Secret of Mana, Super Mario Kart, Super Mario World and Uniracers.

On current-gen hardware, I love WarioWare on DS, both in terms of aesthetics and game play. It's the Warol of video games! I also like the first Chocobo game on the DS. I love Super Mario Galaxy on Wii, but I was disappointed by Metroid Prime 3 because the mood wasn't there anymore. The first one had some of the best mood in videogame history! On the 360, I've played and enjoyed the two (Hironobu) Sakagushi games, and on the PS3 I've loved PixelJunk Monster and Shooter. I really liked Uncharted, too, despite the fact that the background and story are so uninspired.


GG: You recently worked on the art for an actual game--the facebook title, Goobox. How and why did you get involved with that project? Also, what exactly did you contribute to that game?

MA: Actually, Goobox is an online gaming platform on Facebook, where I did the graphics for a  game, Elementz. I also did the background for Goo Deluxe. I worked on that because I'm friends with one of the guys who created the app.

GG: Have you wanted to get involved in game design/development for some time?

MA: Yes, since I was a kid. I kind of abandonned the idea over the years, though, because it's more of a technical world. I'm more into creation and writing. Still, game design interests me a lot.

GG: How is creating the works that appear on and your deviantART page different from creating art for an actual game?

MA: Oh, it's really different! I mean, for simple games like the facebook ones, the work is easy enough, but for my own project, when I have to create the same kind of graphics that you find in my wallpapers, but for an entire level, it's a lot harder. For instance, when I'm playing with depth in one of my wallpapers, I can put what I want here and there to make the picture work. But when you're creating graphics for a game, and when you're using a lot of parallax, the background elements move when you walk and the composition is never the same. So, it's hard to match the initial quality all the time.

GG: I hear you’re also working on another “ambitious” game (Swimming Under Clouds). Can you tell me more about this project? What kind of game will it be?

MA: Well, it's basically a platformer with puzzle elements and a physics-based engine. It conveys a melancholic story about childhood and maturity, in a Miyazaki/Burton kind of way. It's really poetic and weird.

Dogs and Bullets

GG: Does the fact that you’re gay ever affect your work? For instance, do you ever create--or have you ever thought of creating--pieces that depict game characters as if they were gay? If not, why not?

MA: Not really, mainly because I don't especially like fanfiction. Also, when I'm creating a wallpaper, etc., I have the original game in mind, not my fantasies. That said, maybe someday I'll create a wallpaper with a shirtless Ryu on it or something like that.

GG: Now that you’re making games, what do you think about the lack of gay characters and storylines in games? Is that something you would like to address in any of the games you create? Why or why not?

MA: I don't really suffer from the lack of representation. Still, I'd find it fun to play with some characters in a game. For instance, I'd love to see a straight, manly character--like Solid Snake--have a homosexual escapade at some point in a game, leaving the poor player all confused.

See also: 'Orioto is back--and this time his art is in a game (instead of inspired by one)' and 'Orioto's deliciously deviant video game art'


Viewtiful_Justin said...

Thanks for sharing this with us! How interesting! I've always loved his artwork.

Bryan Ochalla said...

You're welcome! I've loved his work for some time, too :)

Unknown said...

Really nice stuff! I love how it combines classic nostalgia with classic/modern art. if i wasnt poor id offer to buy some high res copies... any free high res I can view somewhere?

Bryan Ochalla said...

Thanks for commenting, George! As for where you can get higher-res versions of Orioto's stuff, check out his devianART page --