Wandering around in my archives recently, I stumbled across a few pixel avatars. Here’s a sample:
A crazy way for a designer to spend time, perhaps, but there was something challenging about trying to bring pixels alive and give them character and detail at such a small size.
This is “CSRF”, (pronounced Sea-surf).You might meet “XSS” and “2 point oh” in one of Chris’ presentations but I’m reluctant to show them off before Chris has chance to. Please be gentle with them, like all Web villains, they’re really just looking for recognition and a cuddle.
The little avs were created for one of the original 2–D graphical chat sites, OnChat which started in 1997 and, at its height, hosted thousands of visitors in hundreds of different rooms.
The avatars were mobile on top of a static room background with speech or thought bubbles that appeared when users typed. It would pale against Second Life or There.com today, but it was created by a couple of guys, and revolutionary at the time.
Looking back, part of the success was the simplicity. There was no requirement to join, users merely opened a Java applet in the browser. Before they knew it, they were immersed in a seemingly chaotic and infinite space, with little pixel avs all around them speaking and throwing thoughts to each other. Joining in was as simple as typing and using the mouse to move.
The avatar creators of 1997 have no doubt grown up, moved on and got a proper job, but finding these again reminded me that the things we do for fun are often the most educational. The lessons and skills stay with us. Something I try and bear in mind when my sons and I are playing Robin Hood versus the Robber Sheriff and the eldest wants to shoot him with his “arrow barrow” after tying him up with a grappling hook.