Bruce Sterling and Crossy Road


Bruce Sterling asks of Crossy Road “Why is a Frogger knock off a big hit in 2014?” This is an interesting question. My son Diego and I have been playing Crossy Road for a couple of weeks now, and I hadn’t made the — now obvious — connection that Sterling has. I now have to think about Crossy Road differently, and think about our own re-interpretation of Frogger, Crosser, in that light.


I was attracted to Crossy Road by its visual beauty. I was hooked by stills, screenshots of the game. I wanted to spend a few seconds with it to see if the gameplay gratified or expanded on the visual beauty of the the simple geometries and the colors of the vehicles and the voxel art chicken. I played for less than 30 seconds of “real time” that first time. I didn’t go back to it until Diego told me he had begun to earn (unlock) other voxel-sculpted creatures.


My curiosity was piqued. I’ve spent some time thinking about turning our low-pixel-count artwork into voxel-based 3D work. The challenges to keeping them both recognizable and cute are stiff. I wanted to see how Hipster Whale, the creators of Crossy Road, had dealt with those challenges. I had to play long enough to begin unlocking characters.


And now the rythmn and the feel of moving and avoiding are attracting me. For me it’s a dynamic spatio-temporal puzzle to be solved. Or to be addressed, since it seems that the roads go on forever, and that there are many rivers to cross.


And I’m still attracted to the visual beauty of Crossy Road. The cars and trucks remind me of the ones that accompanied the first-generation LEGO mini-figures, those that did not, yet, have articulated arms and legs. Those first wheels and axles that where just a little bit taller than the basic 2×8 studded brick.


I can’t say how far afield from their publsihed visual choices Hipster Whale would have had to range to lose me. For me, If the environment were photo-realistic I’d be much less interested. But where that liminal point in between where they are now and photo-realism is I can’t say. I can say that they hit a visual sweet spot for my sensitivities.


BruceS — *Why is a Frogger….