While catching up on fighting game news amidst the excitement surrounding Tekken 8 and Evo Japan, I stumbled upon a hidden gem: a YouTube channel called Fragmented Pixels. With a unique Y2K liquid metal nostalgia aesthetic permeating its videos, the channel immediately captured my attention. The charming narrator behind Fragmented Pixels offers a fresh perspective on fighting games, particularly Tekken, as an art form. Intrigued, I reached out and had a brief phone conversation that shed light on the inspirations and creative drive behind the channel.
In the following introductory conversation, we delve into the origins of Fragmented Pixels, discuss the evolution of the Tekken series, and explore the hopes and expectations for the upcoming Tekken 8.
We also touch on the current state of fighting games, along with some valuable advice for fellow content creators who share a passion for these games. So, without further ado, let's dive into this engaging discussion with Fragmented Pixels!
In your videos, you discuss video games as an art form, with a focus on fighting games, especially Tekken. What initially drew you to these games and inspired you to explore them as art?
I've always liked video games. But when it comes to fighting games, they are very fun to play. It's cool to see different characters, fighting styles (I'd try to mock the kata) and stories.
The first fighting game I played was Tekken 4. I remember playing the Tekken 4 demo as a kid, mashing buttons with Christie and having fun. Subconsciously, I think the sounds, stages, visuals and graphics (I was amazed by the water in the Jungle stage) inspired me. Later, I rediscovered Tekken in my early teens, came to re-appreciate all of these aspects and played other Tekken games and fighting games, too.
I saw that when it came to video game discussions, many videos were about the gameplay aspects and video game lore—which I do discuss on my channel. However, at times it became surface-level discussions. I was surprised to see not many people discuss graphic design or the artistic aspects of games, which I think some tend to overlook (and that's not necessarily bad, it happens). Video games should be an experience, so I like to look at the bigger picture. Like other pieces of media, there's a lot of work that goes into them.
Also, I would see people state blanket opinions and say: "Oh, that's trash!" and parrot what everyone else is saying. Again, quite surface-level and deconstructive. My thought process is: "OK, why is this thing bad or good?". I like to be articulate, constructive with criticism and look into the "why". And with this project, I can dig into these things. I'm quite a nerd when it comes to this stuff! At the same time, I don’t take myself too seriously—I like to joke, add some humour and have fun, too.
Your channel has a unique Y2K aesthetic. How did you decide on this visual style, and how do you feel it complements the content of your videos?
I got inspired by my childhood, where I absorbed music, video games, and pop culture daily. I noticed this re-visit to the Y2K aesthetic started around 2016 and thought it was pretty cool. I was also inspired by and liked the futuristic-looking music videos of the late 90s to early 00s and the sleek, metallic flare everything had then. When it came to video games (especially Japanese ones), it was a very experimental time. Of course, that era was very optimistic and, now that I think about it, hyper-consumerist.
Anyway, I designed Fragmented Pixels intentionally in this way to give the project a modern yet classic look. I talk about current and retro video games and delve into some nostalgia—that ties it all together. I also got inspired by old-school video game shows that used to come on TV, which informed my design choices and presentation.
Of course, I don't always put my nostalgia glasses on, but I like to think: "This game was good or bad at the time, but why was that?" or "What was the reality or reaction at the time?". Biases aside, I like to be objective when I can. But that can also be subjective!
As a dedicated Tekken fan, how have you seen the series evolve over time, and what do you think has contributed to its lasting popularity?
I'd say it's because Tekken has evolved with the times; I can play a Tekken game from the past and play a recent one. Although they introduce different mechanics for each iteration, the core gameplay remains intact—it’s all about muscle memory and adaptability. Even though the series has had its "err" moments, they always try to update, refine and try things. From the gameplay to the visual design, it has intention—even if I may not agree with some decisions! Tekken from 1994 isn't the same as Tekken from 2023, right? So there's that.
Another thing is community. The game always has that, and people from various backgrounds and walks of life play Tekken. They're very vocal about what they want to see in the game. That's key in game development.
You've analyzed the Tekken 8 story trailer in-depth on your channel. What are your hopes and expectations for Tekken 8's story and gameplay?
I don't have many expectations for the story considering Tekken 7's story mode, which disappointed me! But I hope Jin finally gets his act together!
The gameplay looks great so far—it's got its charisma back! I love the special character intros; such a small detail, but it adds personality to the characters. The heat system does look a bit intimidating, but it also looks like fun. I echo many people's sentiments that the particle effects can get distracting, but there'll be a mode for that, and they're still tweaking the visual and mechanical elements of the game. The release could be a long way away.
It's only the alpha version, so I can't say much about the gameplay. But I think if the Tekken team can find a balance between aggressiveness and defensiveness, then I think Tekken 8 could be a great game! I discuss this in an upcoming video, so be on the lookout for that!
You mentioned the character development of Jin Kazama throughout the Tekken series. How do you think his journey will impact Tekken 8, and do you have any theories about his future?
For starters, Jin practically caused WW3 in Tekken 6, which I thought was hilariously out of character for him, ha! But he's a very hard-headed character. Now, he's redeeming himself: Jin Kazama and uncle Lars Alexandersson are now comrades (their special intro was rad), and I'm curious as to how they reconciled after the events of Tekken 7.
I heard somewhere that Jin can control the devil gene, but not all the way. So, they will potentially peer into how he was able to do so. It would be interesting to see how they could look into the family (or lack thereof) dynamic, emotions, inner thoughts and his psyche behind the cold exterior. Tekken 4 did quite well tapping into that—they could expand on that in Tekken 8. I'm curious what would happen if he rids himself of the gene. But now, instead of removing those powers, he starts to accept that aspect of himself (as seen in the story and character quotes). I think Jin may "lose" or face some kind of defeat—he's never lost a tournament!
Overall, I think Jin needs to find his destiny and maybe heal since his mother, Jun Kazama is back (or so I think!). I want to root for him, but he keeps getting distracted from his goal! Once he has control of the devil gene, it's over for everybody!
How do you feel about the current state of fighting games, and what trends or innovations would you like to see in the future?
I think fighting games at the moment are in an interesting space. It's great that more people are playing them. Especially during the pandemic, people re-explored online gaming and the importance of having good netcode and support—especially from developers and publishers alike. I'm kind of concerned for 3D fighters, though. Other than Tekken, the support for many 3D fighters have been on the wayside, which is unfortunate. Maybe there's not much confidence from the developers there.
I'd like to see better implementation of community feedback and, of course, good netcode. No delay-based netcode, please!
What is your all-time favorite fighting game or arcade classic, and what makes it stand out to you?
Oh, this is tough! But if I had to choose my all-time favourite fighting game, it would be Tekken 5. The visuals, music, gameplay, and content; it's such a package. My favourite thing about 5 is that you can play the first three Tekken games through arcade history mode. It's fun to play through, and you get to see Tekken's evolution as a series during the PS1 era. You could pack hours into story mode and ghost battle. And, man, Devil Jin was a creepy sub-boss! I still play it on the PS2.
The first Tekken Tag Tournament game is a close second!
As a content creator focused on fighting games, what advice do you have for other fans looking to share their passion for these games through YouTube or other platforms?
I'd say persevere, keep going, and stay in the present. Sometimes I thought about the future, lulled about and let fear set me back. But you can only determine that if you work on the present moment! It can also be challenging to keep up with things because "everyone" is doing something but go at your own pace and don't be too concerned with what other people are doing. Also, work with what you have and focus on creating quality and building a community.
As a content creator, you have to be honest with yourself and honest in your aims and morals (and say no to yes-men!). It's also great to have people who are like-minded and whom you can share ideas with, but it all starts with you. To be honest, that goes with most things in life.
Many are scared to try new things because they're in their comfort zone, but progress doesn't happen until you step out. I've learnt that in starting this project.
And most importantly, don't forget to take breaks, recharge and have fun!