Art of the Arcade is a website dedicated to “showcasing the lost graphic design and illustration work from the golden era of video gaming” – namely, the arcade scene from the late 1970s and early 1980s.
Curated by London-based graphic designer Nick Dart, Art of the Arcade shows the design work from the early arcade scene in a new light by removing it from its usual surroundings.
“We feel its important to showcase this amazing work,” Dart writes, “and [to] give exposure to the forgotten graphic designers and illustrators that helped shape a billion dollar industry.”
The artwork is striking in the almost context-less context of a minimalist, white-space website, generating a very different ambiance and appeal to the cathode buzz and noise (both aural and visual) of the traditional amusement arcade.
For all the great many wonderful benefits that come from digitally-distributed video games – the ease of access, the convenience, the lower costs of production, both to creators and to the planet itself – there’s loss involved too – one that is clearly alluded to by this site.
I ran a Tumblr celebrating Box Art for three years, selecting my favourite examples of what is fast becoming a lost art, as boxed products begin to turn to vinyl-esque curios, the preserve of the snob or a reward for the top-tier Kickstarter funder.
The Art of the Arcade is another stark reminder of the squeeze the current mode of game distribution places on the supporting art and design of games – the beauty of thoughtful packaging design or the arresting marquee, and the ways in which this work can enhance your experience of a game.
I’m not talking about the garish Blockbuster special editions, the Halos secreted in plastic, scale replicas of Master Chief’s helmet. Rather, the Nintendo maps, the Chrono Trigger posters, the box art that add detail and texture to the more simplistically realised world seen on-screen.
Perhaps these extraneous artifacts were more relevant at a time when games looked so thoroughly rudimentary, when box art was necessary to point the imagination in the direction of the game designer’s, to help us understand what Super Mario really looked like behind the 8-bit approximation. Today extraneous iOS graphic design is limited to the icon, a 16×16 square in which there’s previous little elbow room to express oneself.
For those delighted by sympathetic, exciting design, the Art of the Arcade is a timely reminder of its value and power.