Graffiti is a contentious issue in both real life and video games. It can take numerous forms, from basic marking to high street art, and is frequently viewed as either an illegal defacement of private property or a rebellious form of publicly accessible artistic expression.

Graffiti is a somewhat cliched instrument employed in video games to infuse an air of gritty revolt into an urban setting, but others have tried to take a more deliberate approach. 

Take on the role of a street artist or tagger in some games, from combat games like Street Fighter and Pokémon to open-world games like Infamous and Concrete Genie. But, before that…

Graffiti – a Helpful Tool for World-Builders

Graffiti exists anywhere there are people, whether it’s on the exterior of a train in the subway created by a skilled graffiti artist or on the sidewalk where a bored kid scribbled something indecent. This implies, of course, that it should also apply to the worlds of virtual reality we create; after all, why wouldn’t a place that contains virtual humans also contain virtual artists?

Graffiti should be at the forefront of the cultural battleground of war, upheaval, and socioeconomic injustice if the worlds we create are any reflection of our own. Graffiti becomes a helpful tool for world-builders to depict these challenges in the worlds they create. Therefore, even while we know that there will undoubtedly be graffiti in video games, how can world-builders actually go about implementing that in a rational way that enhances the plausibility of those worlds?

Understanding what graffiti is as an art form is necessary before we can comprehend how to employ it in world design. Art in public spaces that are done without the permission or endorsement of individuals in positions of authority is sometimes referred to as graffiti.

Because it’s frequently produced with permission (and sometimes even financial support) from persons in positions of authority, what the majority of people regard to be “street art” isn’t and can’t be graffiti. It’s crucial to remember this distinction when talking about graffiti: it stands in stark contrast to the things that the powerful wish to keep either themselves or others away from.

Additionally, the goal of graffiti is generally always to convey a message to onlookers. The gamer will find it easier to immerse themselves in the world graffiti artists create if they, as designers, can visualize and comprehend the reasons why an artist could have approached a piece in the universe.

There’s Graffiti Everywhere, Including in Video Games

Understand that not everyone who writes graffiti is low-income, and not everyone who creates art stays in their local area. Furthermore, keep in mind that graffiti will always appear anywhere there are people and that most people are unaware of the extent of the derangement to which some graffiti writers would go in order to get their work seen.

Graffiti is typically included in video games as an aesthetic element in regions that players would visit and examine regularly, such as the ground floor of buildings. Or, in the case of Counter-Strike, graffiti is placed on the most exploited maps. And not just that – these graffiti pieces (eSports graffiti) portray a handful of players who, for their outstanding accomplishments (preferably during Majors, who earned their popularity over time thanks to in-game homage to the competitive world, stickers, souvenir packages, and a strong desire for wagering online on platforms whose features are dissected on, received some famous tagging on maps. 

Graffiti actually deviates greatly from this pattern; just take a stroll around any city and you’ll see plenty of examples on billboards, rooftops, fire escapes, and even building sides. Since graffiti is frequently seen everywhere, it shouldn’t be surprising that artists who make it don’t confine their work to places where people are probable to walk.

Graffiti artists really value access to difficult-to-reach places. Tagging an elusive area demonstrates your bravery and talent to other artists, especially if it’s well-lit. A piece at a more difficult-to-reach area will endure quite a while than one on a ground level since officials will find it more difficult to buff locations that are tougher to access or cost more resources. Graffiti artists will employ a variety of tactics to gain access to secret spots so they can produce their works in novel and unexpected settings, such as pulley systems and rock climbing, breaking and entering, posing as officials, swimming through basins of water, and even bribing.

We have good news if you’re a level designer or artist and need to locate a location where graffiti “makes sense”: it can be any place. There’s essentially no upper bound! Bearing this idea in mind allows artists to use graffiti to lead players and add intriguing and diverse ways to the narrative of our environment. Graffiti never only appears in areas that are visible to the majority of people.

Narrating a Historical Scenario

Graffiti is a kind of virtual archeology that documents the spaces artists make. It may also be used to illustrate the visual heritage of a location, including how people arrived, their ideas and feelings, what transpired to them when they left, and what occurred in the area. Let’s treat it like that.

Graffiti artists seldom create in a vacuum; instead, their work is typically affected by their surroundings. Their choice of location is based on accessibility and safety, and the piece’s distribution is determined by how well the wall can be sprayed; if a piece is left on the wall for an extended period of time, it may cause other components to pop up, which may lead to authorities taking action and buffing that particular wall; alternatively, the area may be neglected and the piece may become overgrown.

Graffiti has the power to influence a space’s overall evolution over time; the result is a fluid waltz of variables that are visible in the finished work. When graffiti is included in our environments, those who wrote it must take into account the space’s age and how the spectator may interpret its past.

Top 5 Graffiti Artists in Video Games

# 5 Trane

The first artist on the list is the stubborn character of Marc Ecko’s Getting Up: Contents Under Pressure. This game, which is arguably the most realistic about graffiti, centers on adolescent tagger Trane and his bid to overthrow New Radius’s repressive government. Trane rebels against the corrupt Mayor Sung and his progressively brutal police force, the C.C.K., by assembling a group and spray-painting increasingly esteemed buildings.

Trane’s tags, in contrast to other items on this list, are merely means for him to become well-known among other graffiti teams and to advocate for justice, rather than possessing any kind of magical power. Trane is ranked higher on this list of candidates than some of the other nominees because of his reasonable justifications and relevant surroundings.

# 4 Pmidge “The Artist”

The game that follows on our list enhances the mood of an already opulent title. The creative force behind all of the graffiti in the Hi-Fi Rush universe, which serves as collectibles for the main character Chai, is Pmidge. He’s a high-end iteration of the practice robot Smidge, created by the Head of Vandelay Technologies. It’s essentially a smart refrigerator.

Pmidge is extremely conceited and obsessed with beauty; he won’t accept any less than the greatest praise for his graffiti. Pmidge will move inside Chai’s Hideout and paint an inquisitive self-portrait on the floor without consent after discovering all 24 of the Artist’s tags hidden throughout Hi-Fi Rush’s universe, proving that even robots can be snobbish artists.

# 3 Ghost

This contribution perfectly captures the spirit of anonymity found in graffiti because it never appears on screen. The main character in Sludge Life, an independent game, Ghost, can only speak through his tags. Ghost, who is tagging, smoking cigarettes, and “zooming” on psychedelics, is a classic rebel in the sense that he’s battling versus the mega-corporation Glug on a smoky shipyard in the 1990s and needs to prove himself to other taggers.

Throughout the game, Ghost is able to gather 100 tags. To increase his notoriety, he even combines his signature tagging with various styles found on the island. Sludge Life is a unique game due to its grunge humor and psychedelic art style. Ghost stands out among graffiti artists because of his variety as well as his capacity to capture unique vibes.

# 2 Delsin Rowe

Graffiti artist Delsin Rowe, the main character of Infamous Second Son, comes in first place on this list. Delsin is a Conduit who lives in Seattle and is an Akomish tribe member. He has the power to manipulate assimilated elemental stuff, including smoke, neon, concrete, and video. With this ability, Delsin must protect his tribe against the D.U.P., a dishonest government organization.

Delsin uses a type of graffiti known as stencil art, which is frequently utilized by actual street artists to swiftly tag intricate patterns. This can be utilized to strengthen Delsin’s good or negative karma, which will determine your fate, and to weaken the D.U.P.’s hold on Seattle. Delsin ranks highly on the list due to his counter-culture activity and his status as a classic example of the power of graffiti.

# 1 Beat

Jet Set Radio’s Beat is arguably the most iconic illustration of graffiti in video games. You have to avoid the police while tagging the Tokyo streets in this game. Beat is the leader of the GG’s group and a Rudie, which is an in-game word for “street punks”. Although you have the option to play as other Rudies, Beat is the one you start with and is regarded as the series mascot.

Beat routinely avoids the cops and the dishonest Rokkaku gang, which is headed by Goji, the series’ adversary. This game stands out from the others thanks to Jet Set Radio’s distinctive crisp and cartoon-like cityscapes and emphasis on making tags of different difficulties. Beat demonstrates his profound understanding of what it takes to be an artist who paints graffiti with his timeless tale about resisting injustice.

Wrapping up

While analyzing how graffiti is employed in video games, there’s a lot of subtlety to consider, maybe these pointers will assist guide your strategy. 

Graffiti will always exist wherever there are people, and the more artists can comprehend and relate to its production (and its artists), the closer they’ll be to creating virtual environments that are just as realistic and engrossing as the real world.