An Escher Encounter


An Escher drawing

A tesselation
One of the many fun things about my summer vacation to Scot- land was the art museum in Edinburgh, where I came across a mind-bending collection of weird optical illusions. I found myself lost in wonder at a few pieces. I learned they were the works of M.C. Escher, a Dutch graphic artist famous for using a mathematical technique called tessellation to fit shapes in a way that there were no overlaps or gaps—just like a jigsaw puzzle.

I followed up by visiting a website on Escher, where I saw a collection of his drawings. I observed his play with weird perspective and impossible spaces, with staircases twisting into upside-down and backwards worlds. Some of his other drawings seemed to be inspired by everyday shapes such as birds, fish, butterflies, and clouds. In looking for other examples of tessellation, I realized that the pavement I walk on everyday is tessellated brickwork. Tessellation is a common technique used in flooring and tiling too. Soon, I couldn’t look around without seeing something tessellated!

I decided to make a game that used tessellation in Gamestar Mechanic. In looking at Escher’s drawings, I found that he chose shapes that were simple in design but still interesting, and his use of color helped to create patterns and rhythm. As I started to design my game, I experimented with shapes and color by combining sprites—points, concrete blocks, a Health system sprite, dirt blocks, and blue keys. I also explored how different color combinations could evoke a certain mood or feeling, which got me thinking about what I wanted players to feel when they played my game. And inspiration was everywhere—outside and inside the world of Gamestar Mechanic. I ended up with not one, but many tessellations as part of my game experiment. I think this
is a technique that will become quite popular with other game mechanics.