This Digital Artist Creates Museum-Worthy Video Game Illustrations

Orioto's piece "Chinese Street" based off the "Street Fighter" video game franchise
Orioto's piece "Chinese Street" based off the "Street Fighter" video game franchise
Courtesy of Orioto

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.

Orioto's piece "To Zanarkand," based on the video game "Final Fantasy X."Courtesy of Orioto

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.

Orioto's piece "30 Years of Mario," based on the "Super Mario" video game franchise.Courtesy of Orioto

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.

Orioto's piece "A New Sky," based on the video game "No Man's Sky."Courtesy of Orioto

"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.

Orioto's piece "Journey's End," based on the video game "The Last of Us."Courtesy of Orioto

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.

To get your hands on some of Aguirre's work, you can check out his store on Redbubble or subscribe to his Patreon.

Friday’s Best Amazon Deals Include Digital Projectors, Ugly Christmas Sweaters, and Speakers

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As a recurring feature, our team combs the web and shares some amazing Amazon deals we’ve turned up. Here’s what caught our eye today, December 4. Mental Floss has affiliate relationships with certain retailers, including Amazon, and may receive a small percentage of any sale. But we only get commission on items you buy and don’t return, so we’re only happy if you’re happy. Good luck deal hunting!

Anti-Pasta: When Italian Futurists Tried to Ban Pasta in Italy

A pasta vendor in Naples during the late 19th or early 20th century.
A pasta vendor in Naples during the late 19th or early 20th century.
Carlo Brogi, Wikimedia Commons // Public Domain

While speaking at a multi-course banquet in Milan on November 15, 1930, Filippo Tommaso Marinetti presented his fellow Italians with an incendiary call to action. Pasta, he said, was a “passéist food” that “[deluded people] into thinking it [was] nutritious” and made them “heavy, brutish,” “skeptical, slow, [and] pessimistic.” As such, it should be abolished and replaced with rice.

So began a fascinating moment in food history: an outrageous crusade against the country’s most beloved carbohydrate. Not only did Marinetti's movement elicit passionate reactions on both sides, but it also had some less-than-tenuous ties to Benito Mussolini's fascist regime.

Mr. Rice Guy

Filippo Tommaso Marinetti (center) and his fellow Italian Futurists in Paris in 1912.Proa, Wikimedia Commons // Public Domain

Marinetti’s initial statement spread so widely because he himself loomed large over society at the time. His 1909 “Manifesto of Futurism” launched the Futurist movement, which championed a shift away from the slow, outmoded processes of the past and toward the sleek technologies of the future. Though originally specific to art, Futurism was a nationalist cause at heart—a way for the newly unified country to catch up to other world powers—and it aligned with Mussolini’s fledgling political campaign. In fact, the two men collaborated closely while establishing their respective political parties (Marinetti’s Fasci Politici Futuristi and Mussolini’s Fasci di Combattimento) as World War I came to a close. Marinetti had distanced himself from Mussolini by the early 1920s, but he still invoked Il Duce’s policies when they served his goals.

For the pasta prohibition, they did. To make Italy less reliant on imported wheat, Mussolini’s administration had started promoting rice—which was much easier to produce domestically—over pasta. In the late 1920s, he established the “National Rice Board” and even declared November 1 to be “National Rice Day.” As Philip McCouat writes for the Journal of Art History, the dictator never went so far as to ban macaroni, but citizens were already familiar with anti-pasta sentiment by the time Marinetti began his smear campaign.

On December 28, 1930, the Futurist followed up his dinner speech with the “Manifesto of Futurist Cooking,” co-written with the artist Luigi Colombo (known as “Fillìa”) and published in Turin’s Gazzetta del popolo. In it, they described pasta itself as an “absurd Italian gastronomic religion” and pasta lovers as being “shackled by its ball and chain like convicted lifers or [carrying] its ruins in their stomachs like archaeologists.”

In short, they believed that pasta weighed Italians down and prevented them from achieving any kind of greatness. The ultimate solution was for the government to replace all food with nutritional pills, powders, and other artificial substitutes, but until the chemists could create such innovations, the Futurists would settle for swapping out pasta with rice. “And remember too,” they wrote, “that the abolition of pasta will free Italy from expensive foreign wheat and promote the Italian rice industry.”

Starch Enemies and Allies

While Marinetti’s initial speech had incited a small uprising among Italians, his written manifesto gave the issue a global audience. “Fascist Writer, All Wound Up in Health Subject, Begs Countrymen to Swallow New Theory,” the Chicago Tribune summarized in an article titled “Italy May Down Spaghetti,” which hit newsstands just two days after Marinetti’s manifesto.

Smaller presses covered the bombshell, too. “No, signor. We beseech you, call off your holy war,” Ernest L. Meyer pontificated in Madison, Wisconsin’s The Capital Times. “Would you abolish macaroni and all its tunefully christened cousins—macaroncelli, foratini, maglietti, ditalini, vermicelli—and reduce Italians to the ugly dissonances of beans, cabbage, chops, chard, and chewing gum? Fie, signor, there is no poetry in your soul, and your palate lacks wit.”

Pasta drying in the streets of Naples in 1897.J.F. Jarvis, Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division // No Known Restrictions on Publication

People living everywhere from France to Australia commented on the matter, but nowhere was the response more impassioned than in Italy. Women in the city of L’Aquila sent Marinetti a protest letter, and the mayor of Naples went so far as to proclaim that “the Angels in Paradise eat nothing but vermicelli with tomato sauce.” (Marinetti later retorted that this was simply proof of “the unappetizing monotony of Paradise and of the life of the Angels.”) But Futurism wasn’t unpopular, and the pasta ban had ardent advocates of its own. Italian writer Marco Ramperti, for example, lambasted the beloved repast in a highly imaginative op-ed.

“[Pasta] puffs out our cheeks like grotesque masks on a fountain, it stuffs our gullets as if we were Christmas turkeys, it ties up our insides with its flabby strings; it nails us to the chair, gorged and stupefied, apoplectic and gasping, with [a] sensation of uselessness …” he wrote. “Our thoughts wind round each other, get mixed up and tangled like the vermicelli we’ve taken in.”

The Movement Loses Steam

Marinetti collected the best testimonies from scientists, chefs, and literary firebrands like Ramperti and reproduced them in 1932’s La Cucina Futurista (“The Futurist Cookbook”), which also contained Futurist recipes and instructions for hosting various kinds of Futurist dinner parties. But the 1930s were an exceptionally tumultuous decade for the country—which faced the Great Depression, Adolf Hitler’s growing influence, a war with Ethiopia, the Spanish Civil War, and eventually World War II—and Italian citizens were focused less on what they were eating and more on simply eating.

Two Neapolitan boys eating plates of pasta, date unknown.Bain News Service, Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division // No Known Restrictions on Publication

Furthermore, Futurism soon ran afoul of fascism. In 1937, Hitler decried modern art as “degenerate,” anti-nationalist, and somehow inherently Jewish. Though Marinetti spoke out against these associations, anti-Semitism had already infected Italy, and fascists started condemning the Futurist movement. Since Mussolini was courting Hitler as an ally, his regime’s ties to Futurism could easily have become a political liability. In 1939, when Marinetti published a fiery denial of Hitler’s accusations in a Futurist journal called Artecrazia, the government forced it to shutter.

So, by the 1940s, Marinetti was no longer spewing consistent vitriol against pasta, Il Duce was no longer supporting the Futurist movement, and the world at large was consumed with much greater threats than linguini-induced languor. And if Marinetti ever entertained fantasies about resurrecting the cause after the war, he never got the chance—he died of a heart attack in December 1944, just months before the deaths of both Mussolini and Hitler the following April.