Are pixels passé?

At SXSWi last week, a comment from Ben Terret, head of design for the UK Government Digital Service, had particularly resonance for us gameplaying folks. The panel was titled “The New Aesthetic: Seeing Like Digital Devices” and walked through the myriad of ways that our understanding of modern reality is shaped by our lives, most notably on the Internet. Terrett commented:

Have optics rendered pixels obselete? When the military releases info, it’s always pixellated. if you don’t have secuiry cleareance, all the cameras we have will be a blurred version of the future. Will we need to read these the way we read painting.

What Terrett is implying is that our way of understanding what the world looks like requires a certain literacy about technology. We make affordances for digital images and their pixellation because we know that’s the best we have or had at the time. But with new devices like the Retina display, the idea that something would be pixellated at all is quickly becoming a thing of the past. Perhaps that explains all of the nostalgia in the indie game community for all things chip-like. The blips and bloops and dots and squares are the same unique memories of the way things were as painting were before the dawn of photography.