The Game Developers Conference is the largest annual gathering of professionals from the video game industry. For GDC 25 I was commissioned by the evil geniuses at iam8bit to design a pixel mural of epic proportions, 20 feet by 8 feet to be exact. The catch? The wall would be completely blank.
Each of the conference’s attendees would receive a 2″ pixel, either cyan, magenta, yellow, or black (the conference color scheme this year) and would get to place his or her pixel on the wall in a corresponding square.
Over the course of the week, the image I designed would reveal itself… but only if everyone participated. Part art project, part social experiement, “Painting with Pixels” was one of the most fascinating and fun projects I’ve ever had the pleasure of working on. Being at the conference all week it was interesting to observe the evolution of people’s behavior; while most attendees would comply with the instructions (I even heard one woman chastise her friend for speculating what would happen if he put his color on the wrong square), others bent or even broke the rules completely. If you watch the time lapse above, around the two minute mark you’ll see one person remove some of the placed pixels to create an image of Super Mario. I observed one person color their magenta pixel black so they could place it on a square designated for black ones.
It was also exciting to see how one person’s idea would quickly spread to others. Though most were content to simply place their pixel in a color-designated spot, one attendee decided to draw a little illustration on his before adding it to the mural. This caught on and by the end of the conference, hundreds of pixels were adorned with artwork, signatures, witty sayings, and even a few mini-resumes from out of work developers.
The GDC logo was the first element to really materialize, followed shortly by the jetpack-wearing cowboy and the dragon incinerating the Golden Gate Bridge.
And here’s the wall 99.9% complete! There were a few pixels left unclaimed at the end of the conference so Jon, Nick, and I filled the rest in.
Overall it was a great success, we couldn’t have done it without the collaboration of everyone at the conference. Each pixel symbolized nothing more than potential on its own, but bring together several thousand of them, take a step back, and you get a real picture of community, and the power of working together.