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Culture

Classic Video Game Characters Are Taking Over Miami

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Michael Loretta
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Michael Loretta's digital art mixes video game characters with Miami scenes.

In the upcoming action-comedy "Pixels," classic video game characters such as Pac Man and Donkey Kong attempt to take over the world.

These 1980s characters also run amok in Michael Loretta’s digital art. He inserts two-dimensional figures from similar video game titles into high-resolution photos of Miami.

  BEACH CRUISER A photo posted by MIKE BIZ (@mikebusiness) on Jun 28, 2014 at 3:36pm PDT

“It’s like a psychedelic mind trick where you’re looking at something precise and beautiful and the other pixelated,” Loretta says. “It’s playing off that idea… like your eye before it focuses.”

The 29-year-old Miami resident began experimenting with these mashups in 2012. He says he formed his style when he recreated Link, the main character from the “The Legend of Zelda” series using green pixels.

  SELFIE A photo posted by MIKE BIZ (@mikebusiness) on Dec 2, 2012 at 2:32pm PST

To make the mashups, Loretta takes screenshots of video games or replicates images pixel by pixel. He also shoots most of the photos or collaborates with local photographers like Krono Lescano.

One of Loretta's big inspirations is French street artist Space Invader. Space Invader creates mosaics of figures from the 1978 video game "Space Invaders."

Loretta grew up playing video games on the Super Nintendo and Sega consoles. He especially recalls the times when he played “The Legend of Zelda” with his mom.

Loretta's art draws from this nostalgia for the past and his childhood, when, he says, "everything was all good." When his mom was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s, Loretta used art to cope.

“It was almost a therapeutic meditation,” he says.

  BAYSIDE A photo posted by MIKE BIZ (@mikebusiness) on Mar 22, 2013 at 7:13pm PDT

Additionally, Loretta incorporates classic video game characters because they remind him of the Magic City's "Miami Vice" history. His depiction of a skateboarder performing tricks in front of a South Beach Art Deco hotel channels this era.

By day, Loretta is a web designer for Office Depot. But Loretta says he always wanted to be an artist.

He studied advertising and graphic design at Xavier University in Ohio. When he returned to Miami seven years ago, he bounced around marketing and advertising jobs to pay the bills.

  A photo posted by MIKE BIZ (@mikebusiness) on Aug 19, 2014 at 10:04am PDT

Loretta has been able to sell some of his prints, but he plans to expand his creative pursuits beyond digital art. He wants to work with a clothing brand and develop a podcast.

Still, Loretta says nothing excites him more than achieving those “a-ha!” moments that https://youtu.be/9d3qCPcMgH4" target="_blank">sound like advancing a level in “The Legend of Zelda.”

"That noise. I still hear it in my head," he says. "That's what pretty much my whole art is about. You live your life like it's a game, and... you create your own reality."

  SPACE JAM A photo posted by MIKE BIZ (@mikebusiness) on May 24, 2014 at 7:00pm PDT