Whether you enjoy bopping around as Mario or exhaustedly flopping like a ragdoll toward bed, there is a gaming experience for everyone. But separate from developing illustrations and animations for video games themselves, there are a number of cottage-industry artists making their own distinct pieces based on the games they love. One such digital artist, Paris-based Mikaël Aguirre, who goes by Orioto online, has taken an almost classical approach to creating fine art out of these games.
"There is something that fascinated me about the graphics and the way you could interact with something from someone else's imagination," Aguirre tells Mental Floss. "That's mostly what video games are for me, so by working on those memories I try to give them some sort of anachronistic echo in digital paintings."
Aguirre's love of video games began much like anyone else's, when he was 11 years old. Video games to him, more so than other mediums, have the ability to channel emotion in a particularly special way. He cites Final Fantasy VI—released in 1994 on the SNES—as his favorite game of all time. It left an indelible mark on him in both an aesthetic and poetic sense. Because of that, Final Fantasy is one of the big franchises he returns to for inspiration the most.
The name Orioto, Aguirre says, is an homage to Japanese anime director Kōji Morimoto, whose career notably includes being an artist for the 1988 classic Akira and 2003's The Animatrix, which was inspired by the 1999 Keanu Reeves sci-fi flick The Matrix.
Aguirre also takes inspiration from less contemporary artists, like the 19th-century Russian figures Ivan Shishkin and Ivan Aivazovsky, or British landscape artists like Alfred Glendening, among others. He says some of his work—which includes more than 350 digital paintings covering the full spectrum of video game history—directly references those artists and creators.
But before his portfolio grew to what it is today—including illustrative work for media companies like Polygon and decorative commissions for the online entertainment company Kinda Funny (such as the background set it uses)—Aguirre started small. He began by playing around with Photoshop when he got his first PC in 1999, when he was 18 and had just finished his final exams for school. Five years later, he began posting some of his work on the online community site DeviantArt.
"I never even studied graphic design, but I was curious and resilient!" Aguirre says. "Photoshop is like a giant emergent game where you can find many ways to reach a certain result."
He's certainly mastered the mechanics of Photoshop. Usually, digital artists make their work available in various online stores, and they can sometimes be found at gaming conventions like E3 and Comic-Con. Aguirre works independently, which allows him to freelance for companies, do his passion projects, and interact with his Patreon donors, who have the opportunity to vote on some of the art illustrations he'll do next, whether it's a piece based on Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice or a more obscure title like Ristar from the Sega Genesis days.
Some pieces Aguirre are most proud of include illustrations based on Hollow Knight, Another World, Final Fantasy X, and the cinematic post-apocalyptic journey of The Last of Us (above) from developer Naughty Dog. In the future, Aguirre hopes to incorporate elements of French Impressionism in his pieces, and perhaps one day even make video games himself.