Why So Many Games (And Movies) Are Blue & Orange

Illustration for article titled Why So Many Games (And Movies) Are Blue & Orange

You've likely noticed it, and probably even joked about it: it feels like every game (and movie) these days is all about the colours blue and orange, at least when it comes to posters and box art. There's a very good reason for that.


It's more than a trend: there's some science and colour theory behind it, which attempts to explain not only why the colours are so widespread, but why the trend has shown no signs of abating.

Known as "orange and teal" or "amber and teal", priceonomics explains (via Laughing Squid) a theory that the effect has dominated the movie business over the past few years thanks to the prevalence of colour digitisation (where the colour palette of a movie is digitally altered).

The big change that digitization made was it made it much easier to apply a single color scheme to a bunch of different scenes at once. The more of a movie you can make look good with a single scheme, the less work you have to do. Also, as filmmakers are bringing many different film formats together in a single movie, applying a uniform color scheme helps tie them together.

One way to figure out what will look good is to figure out what the common denominator is in the majority of your scenes. And it turns out that actors are in most scenes. And actors are usually human. And humans are orange, at least sort of!

Given that contrasting colour schemes are the ones that tend to look the strongest, the shades opposite orange on the colour wheel are...teal. So if one of your most prominent colours is orange, then it stands you should make the other blue.

Another theory is that the onset of digitisation and the recent trend towards orange and teal is a coincidence, and that the two colours were popular in film (and games) long before computers started messing with everything. It's just that because a few big series (Transformers, Battlefield) started using it that it's moved on from being a signature look to a convention.

"Unlike other pairs of complementary colors", TV Tropes' entry on the trend says, "fiery orange and cool blue are strongly associated with opposing concepts — fire and ice, earth and sky, land and sea, day and night, invested humanism vs. elegant indifference, good old fashioned explosions vs. futuristic science stuff. It's a trope because it's used on purpose, and it does something."

Whichever it is, it's clear looking at movies, their posters and the promo art for video games (here's a website that only shows examples of amber & teal box art) that the trend is here to stay, at least for the foreseeable future.



Combo breaker.