Saturday, September 17, 2011

Dear Sprite Editors: You Don't Own Anything

Spriting is an art form, like painting, sketching, animating, sculpting. You know, all that stuff your parents praise when you're two, then scream at you for "wasting your life on" when you're sixteen and covered head to toe in charcoal. What separates spriting from the rest of the artistic realm is that it is a purely digital art form, with its closest physical relative probably being Legos. When you play old video games, you know, the ones that aren't rendered in high resolution 3D, those little cartoon guys running around on your screen are made up of sprites. A single sprite is typically only a frame of an animation, but there are plenty of sprites that aren't part of an animated sequence, and that is still a member of the art form family.

Mario is a sprite, the mushroom platforms are sprites, and the blocks are all sprites.
These are all somebody's art.
While sprites aren't appreciated very often in the world, there is a rather large community built around them. From sites such as The Spriters Resource to the Infinity Mugen Team, spriting has found itself a place deep within the core of internet lore. At the heart of all fangame projects are spriters young and old of various experiences, but each of them have something in common: they all started off with something known as "sprite editing."

Sprite editing is the practice of taking sprites from an existing, but commercialized, video game, such as Super Mario World, and changing the pixels to resemble what you want. This is common among novice spriters, typically as a means of learning from those who came before them.

For example, they were all once Mega Man.
These were edited by some bloke named Apex.
There really isn't a problem with editing for educational purposes, art classes tell you to do it all the time. So do you creative writing classes, for that matter. The entire creative process is built on the idea of editing until you have the skills you need to do it by yourself. But the problem in the community is that sprite editors seem to have some ridiculous sense of ownership over the sprites they've edited. So many times have I seen the words "Hey man, I made that Mario hat! You can't use it, it's mine!"

Those words are total bullshit.

When one editor edits the work of another editor, an enormous shit storm will undoubtedly ensue. The editor who modified the first guy's sprite won't understand why he's being bitched at, and the original editor won't say anything other than "You're a dirty, rotten thief." In fact, I will probably be torn apart for the sprites I'm posting as examples in this article. You know, once anybody actually reads the article... two or three years from now...

Which means Loganair should be raining the might of Odin upon me any second now...
There is one critical flaw in this mentality: the original edit was nothing more than an edit of somebody else's artwork to begin with. I'm truly baffled how somebody can steal someone else's art, edit it, and then bitch at another kid who comes along and edits that. I mean, did the first editor in this chain ask Capcom permission to scribble all over their hard work?

Apparently because the sprite was used in a commercial property originally, it is of free reign for people to draw on top of and then claim as their own, where as, by the effectively fair and unwritten internet laws, an editor cannot edit another edit, because that is stealing somebody else's artwork.

You guys better not steal my art, it's mine.
And while there are some amazing edits out there, like the Thor I posted above, they're still just edits over somebody else's art, and no amount of ownership should really be attributed to them, and there should especially not be shit tossed around when somebody wants to dye Thor's hair a different color.

My message to sprite editors is simple: each and every one of you is a thief, stop bitching at your brethren.

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