Chilean street art on display in groundbreaking video game

Valparaíso has long been a Mecca for Latin American street artists, and now the port town’s artwork is going global via game consoles.

In a creative joint venture that is the first of its kind, Montreal-based video game director Vander Caballero and Chilean-born graffiti expert Pablo Aravena have partnered up to create the visually stunning Papo & Yo, an adventure fantasy game for PlayStation.
Launched last month, the game follows a young boy, Quico, as he meanders through a fictional Latin American favela, solving puzzles along the way. While the architecture is based on no one particular city, the walls, streets, and rooftops of this hilly seaside town are all decorated with the murals and graffiti of three Chilean street artists based in Valparaíso.
“After I got the call from Vander saying he wanted me to help design the game, I saw the layout of the favela and it immediately reminded me of Valpo,” Aravena told This is Chile. “I’d worked with street artists from Valparaíso before and knew who I was going to contact. But when they got on board they really took it to the next level.”
Aravena called on Chilean street artists Sebastián Navarro (A.K.A. Charquipunk), Simon Gutiérrez (A.K.A. La Robot de Madera) and Inti Castro (A.K.A. INTI) to photograph their street art and send it through to the game designers, turning the video game into a virtual gallery.
“Both the artists and the game designers did such an incredible job,” Aravena said. “The designers replicated the textures of the original walls, so the artwork blends in perfectly as it does in reality. They also blew up some of the designs to three or four times their original sizes which had an awesome effect.”
Valparaíso is well known for its stunning street art. As the town is built on a series of hills, an artist’s work can be viewed from many angles and from great distances, making the city a perfect urban exhibition space.
“Valpo has a long history of street art. Politically motivated mural artists have worked there for decades,” Varena said. “But it wasn’t until the early nineties that graffiti took off.”
“After the dictatorship, a lot of families who had been living in exile came back, and kids who had been exposed to hip-hop culture brought their ideas and talents with them and started producing work in Santiago and then Valpo.”
Aravena explained that street art is going from strength to strength in Chile. With the worldwide fame of graffiti artists like London’s Banksy, many people’s perspectives are changing and street art is now viewed as a legitimate art form with commercial value.
To see Latin America’s premier street artists at work, head to Polanco Graffestival in Valparaíso from November 2–4.
By Angus McNeice.