Persona: On Using Colors

in Gamer Thoughts

So, being the RPG fans you are, I’m going to assume you all caught the Persona 5 Trailer that hit recently. If not, just strap in and watch it below. (Or just watch it again anyway, it is fantastic).

Okay, you back? It was ridiculous right? You are now hyped? Well, let’s look at it all from a different perspective. Let’s look at it from a design perspective. We’re going to include Persona 3 and 4 into the mix as well, since we know so much more about those two games, and they have a lot of the same qualities.

Now originally, this article was much broader. I talked about the setting, the background of the characters, the music choices… but then I hit one subject, and it ballooned so much that I had to start all over and make the whole article about that one thing. And that one thing is Color.

Now, I’m not an artist. You won’t see me going into color theory and composition and all that. I just don’t know enough about it (I mean, I can make a go, but it’s not my strength). But what I am though, is a marketer. Luckily, I get to market things I actually like. I’m not sure I could stand myself if I had to go all Mad Men. But anyway, one thing as a marketer I do understand is the PSYCHOLOGY of colors.

Of course, colors are also influenced by our personal experiences, so nothing is 100%, but color psychology is accurate enough to be used heavily in many different disciplines; marketing and interior design being the two most common.

Different colors communicate different things, and the later Persona games seem to get this, either subconsciously, or as I suspect, deliberately, to compliment the themes of the games.

Persona 3

Shin_Megami_Tensei_Persona_3_Game_Cover

Persona 3, as you can see, is a predominantly BLUE game, and specifically, it tends to use a very soft, somber blue.

Now, no color is universally negative. Blue represents intelligence, competence, and calmness. While those meanings aren’t completely lost on the game, which does have an intelligence to it, the challenges you face are almost all related to the negative connotations of blue.

Sadness. Aloofness. Coldness.

Persona 3 is mostly themed around the idea of accepting loss and death. The calming blue just kind of works you in that direction, while also giving you that feeling of melancholy that goes with it.

And look at the world you travel around during the game. All the grey concrete of the big city. Just GREY. Grey just has the tone of lack of meaning. A color suppressing emotions. A dull, depressing shade that compliments the blue very well in communicating the theme of the game.

Persona 4

Persona-4-PS2-Cover

Persona 4 on the other hand, seems to go entirely the other direction on color.

The main color of the game is a bright, eye searing yellow. Nothing calming about this one. It communicates emotional strength and friendliness. Its a very inviting color.

On the flip side though, it also represents fear and anxiety. Persona 4 is a game very much about coming to terms with who you are, bad parts and all. This theme, is much more hopeful. But it is also filled with anxiety. From Yukiko’s desire to be saved from having her life chosen for her, to Naoto’s struggling to be an adult while still feeling like a kid, there is a LOT of anxiety and fear involved in those kinds of conflicts.

But it also ties into the positive emotions of the color. Overcoming those conflicts requires that emotional strength. Supporting your friends through them requires that friendliness.

And look to the way Inaba is designed in comparison to the setting of Persona 3. It is filled with greens and browns. A very earthy, warm feeling compared to Persona 3’s very inhospital greys.

Persona 5

Persona-5-logo

Which leads us finally, to Persona 5.

Now, we don’t have much info yet on what the theme of the game is, but we do have this quote from director Katsura Hashino:

This time, it’s about a group of high school students that are being “chased” by unexpected occurrences due to the justice they believe in.

Its primary colors, if you couldn’t tell already, seem to be reds and blacks. Reds represent excitement, danger, aggression. Its a perfect color for the theme of being chased by something or someone. It also fits in with the heist style action we see in the trailer.

Blacks also represent sophistication and glamour. Just look at the ballroom like areas that the characters seem to be infiltrating, the black is also perfect.

But there are also other scenes we see in the trailer. Oppressive grey subways for instance. But the main character is also in his civilian personality there. Who seems to be a bit more timid and put upon, being bumped on the train, being hit in the head with chalk. It almost seems to represent a dull representation of his life outside the danger and excitement of infiltrating high society functions and fighting shadows.

Conclusion

All three games seem to strongly draw from color psychology to support the themes of their game. From the menus, to the environments, to the packaging, it’s all there to reinforce something.

Do you think about color in your games? The tiles used in different areas, screen tints, the colors of your menus?

Do you plan to in the future?

What do you think? Join us in the comments section below.

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