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The thing about great graphics is that they have a habit of being too good. There they are in glorious 1080p, slapping you in the face and squeezing your bum cheeks until your eyes water with joy. In some cases, the detail is such that you’ll feel like you are leading a double life – a part-time human with a job, an angry cat and phone bill and a part-time supercharged weapon of death, wreaking havoc on slimy things with red eyes. It’s a good life if you can get it.

Of course, things weren’t always like this. In fact, there was a time where games looked like utter shit in comparison. But it’s never mattered to me. I remember picking up games because the front cover looked cool. I couldn’t make out the screenshots on the back and, if I could, I ignored them; the cover alone was an adventure for me and I was lost in that world.

The first time I saw the cover for Doom, I was in utter awe. Look at it, just bloody well look at it! There is guy wearing the coolest looking space marine ensemble ever (with his six pack showing for good measure) standing on a pile of something, shooting what is clearly The Devil in the face.

You just got yourself a sale.

This image alone, along with the contents of the instruction manual, captured my imagination and got me psyched up for my journey to Mars, before I’d even loaded the thing up. While, in reality, I was on the bus home from the shop, in my mind I was part of an elite squad heading to the Red Planet in search of some alien demon blood.

OK, so the look of the game may have dated since, but when I played it back in the mid-nineties, I was there. I was just there, every step of the way. The beauty of it was that I was stimulating my mind at the same time as playing. I was recreating the events of the front cover.

Golden Axe C64

Going back to the Commodore 64, things were even further escalated. Golden Axe, for example, just had to be good, judging by the front cover. And it was. At this stage, I was probably playing my older siblings’ copies, but finding these treasures under the bed and loading them up was an experience that my imagination has definitely grown stronger from as a result. These simply coded titles looked nothing yet everything like they were advertised.

It were these oil-painted re-workings of the actions that were being played out on screen that made me fall in love with gaming, I am sure of it. And, to tell you the truth, I am really beginning to miss the idea of being required to use my mind to add the final touches to great games. It’s all too easy now.

Game coverart needs to go up a step, to bring back this great divide. I want to see what I can’t do in-game on the cover, so my mind can do the rest. Even though graphics have stepped up and we have the internet to tell us exactly what we can expect from a game before it’s even out, I’d like to attempt to claim back some of the romance that game covers gave me over the years.

Call of Duty: World at War boasted one of the most realistic and intense battles in FPS history. But the front cover didn’t do this justice; it should have gone above and beyond, much like Doom did. It should have been hand-painted, depicting an army general holding up some poor Japanese bugger by his balls, while simultaneously volleying away a grenade and BBQ-ing six other guy’s faces with a flame thrower.

Do you see what I’m getting at?

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  1. It’s a trade off.
    In game graphics go up, box graphics go down.

  2. You’re absolutely right, though I’ve never thought of it before. Gamas have gone from being closer to books, when your imagination was key to the way you enjoyed the game, to being closer to blockbuster movies, where the game’s feel is driven by the creator and not by the imagination of the gamer.

  3. @Steven Shepherd,

    that was so well put. Thanks!

  4. This post is severely lacking in Psygnosis boxes.

    @Steven Shepherd:
    Well, I don’t necessarily think that creative control is always a bad thing, either. I understand the desire to communicate certain specific feelings through a medium.

  5. avatar Sam

    They do all look a tad like 80s heavy metal album covers though, don’t they?

  6. @Cedge, I am hoping to write up a bigger feature on this once I have researched and brought back tons of evidence. It may take a while, but you’re certainly right about Psygnosis.

    @Sam, Yes and THAT’S why they are so great! Even sports games ridiculously over-exaggerated what was actually gonna happen when you popped them in… perhaps like many 80s heavy metal albums themselves!

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