Hello and welcome to Art Examination, a video series that explores video games as an art form. Today, we’re taking a look at Playdead’s Limbo, more specifically, the game’s use of light, shadow and composition.
Lighting. It’s an element that no photographer, filmmaker or artist can go without. A photographer uses lights in order to expose the picture on the paper but too much can do quite of a but of harm. A painter creates the light source in order to understand the direction of the shadows. A filmmaker uses or doesn’t use light to convey the mood of a scene. Limbo’s relationship with light plays with the idea of negative space and how the player fits into it.
Negative space is often overlooked when a composition is being put together. A picture should be busy from left to right. This is not always the case. Negative space can be an artist’s best friend if the eye is being directed the correct way. Limbo plays with this idea throughout. With a limited colour palette of grays, light and shadows define the playing field as well as direction. What should the player be doing? Where is the solution to the puzzle? These points are displayed through light, negative space and shadows.
It is not often that extreme shadows and light come together in a video game. These elements are limited but at the time limitless. There is so clutter of texture, colour or poly count. There is just the silhouette and how it helps the player progress forward. Limbo is an excellent example of how beautiful silhouettes can be. But at the same time, how horrifying it can be not knowing what’s in the shadows.
Limbo stripes all visual elements that can make up a video game in order to go back to the fundamentals of art: light, shadows and composition. All these together are what brings the beauty of Limbo to the forefront, an ode to the days of shadow theatre, and how only working with light and shadows can really make a video game shine.
If you agree with my observations or would like to share your own or would like to make a suggestion for future videos, please leave a comment down below and once again, thank you all for watching and see you next time.