The art of gaming

Gamers today pretty much take it for granted that any new release they get their hands on will be a veritable orgy of graphics and sounds.  When you look at promotional materials for a game like Call of Duty: Black Ops or Rock Band 3, you know that what you see in a commercial, a trailer, or a poster will pretty be much be what you get when you play the game.

This was not always so.  See, there was a time when the surest way to draw the attention of a gamer was not by showing real game play (although that was part of any ad campaign), but through attractive packaging.  And up until, say the mid-’80s, there was usually a fairly substantial disconnect between what you saw on the box and what you saw on the TV or PC.  People more cynical than I have called this bait and switch of a kind, but I take a more realistic outlook.  The artwork on a piece of packaging was a company’s best shot to get you interested in their product, so in many cases they pulled out all the stops.  Consider a game like Combat for the Atari 2600 – would you be more likely to buy it with this image:

or this?

Yeah, I thought so.  So join me now as I take a look at some of the coolest examples of early video game art!

Up first is a set from the most famous of classic video game consoles, the Atari 2600.   We’ve got the aforementioned Combat, Berzerk, Outlaw, Asteroids, Warlords, Yars’ Revenge, Air-Sea Battle, and Haunted House.  All images courtesy the fantastic AtariAge site.

Our next batch is from Mattel’s Intellivision console, which saw widespread launch in 1980.  Enjoy Advanced Dungeons & Dragons: Treasure of Tarmin, Advanced Dungeons & Dragons, Demon Attack, Tron: Deadly Discs, Atlantis, Sub Hunt, and Space Armada.

If you’re around my age, chances are the first exposure you had to anything resembling a home computer was the legendary Commodore 64.  The graphics for a lot of their games were a step up, and perhaps as a result a little less effort was put into their presentation. Still, there’s plenty to savor.   Here’s the cover art for 1942, Cosmic Causeway: Trailblazer II, Lode Runner, Rattler, Impossible Mission, Ultima II: The Revenge of the Enchantress, The Movie Monster Game, and Rocket Ranger (images from Lemon64).

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