Recently, I posted a story about the worst gaming shirts I knew of. Now believe me, those 61 were just tip of the iceberg, as the online and offline stores continue to renew their supplies of unfunny shirt travesties, but some readers took the story to mean that unilaterally all videogame shirts are horrible. No, no, a thousand times no! If I thought that, why would I have spent far too much money on them instead of something sensible like more comic books or games?
Above: Still a fashion icon
Some jerks may say it’s because I have no taste and enjoy looking like a Junior High student, but they’re just jealous, I tell myself as I cry to sleep, jealous that I know the difference between a shitty shirt and a great one worthy of wearing. And just as I used my skills before to tell you what not to buy, I’m now reversing the polarity and helping you find the few shirts that are worth buying, the needles in the haystack as it were, if those needles were witty shirts buried in a dung heap of terrible puns and Scarface references. You’re welcome.
Keep it simple, dumbass
Let me restate: the first rule of gaming shirts is that, save for very, very rare occasions, words on a shirt ruin said shirt. Either it adds a lame joke to a cool image that didn’t need it or it over-explains the joke that the image featured should already do on its own. When starting one’s shirt collection, don’t get fancy. Stick with shirts that use classic game imagery to profess your love for said games.
See all those? They all simply show iconic pixel art that any real fan would get and outside of a logo in some cases, there’s no shitty pun or quote attached to them. People just look at you and say, “this person likes games. And he might have a sense of humor, as none of his shirts have jokes only a 12-year-old would laugh at.” Get ready to make a new friend!
That simplicity can, on occasion, get even better when taken to the extreme, in the case of these Pac-Man ghost shirts:
See, everyone will understand what that references, and aside from the tiny logo at the bottom, it doesn’t insult your intended audiences intelligence by trying to be overly clear that it’s a Pac-Man shirt. If the recent Google logo proved anything, it’s that everyone under the age of 55 knows who Pac-Man and his ghosts are.
But don’t think only pixel art is okay when it comes to official shirts. Often, official concept art can work just as well, so long as any words outside the game’s title stay the f*** away.
Again, those all use identifiable iconography for the games in question and show off some unappreciated art straight off the game’s cover or instruction manual. The shirts that make me saddest of all are the ones with great concept art that get muddied by some shitty SNL joke regurgitated on them. Let’s give special attention to that the Dead Space one near the end, which puts a sly reference on the reverse, using the health bar that’s located on the main character’s back, and the reference’s intention will be clear to your intended gameplaying audience.
When words are forgiven: Part 1
Time to break some rules. I know I’ve pounded it into your head a thousand times that words on a shirt make you look like an unfunny douche, but, when used carefully, ever so slightly, they can, in very, very rare cases, make a shirt better, maybe. But only when handled by professionals.
This first example is probably my favorite shirt from the site Threadless, which you’ll be seeing more of later. Why is the writing on this one great? Because it’s a parody of a classic piece of modern art called ”The Treachery of Images.” Both the shirt and the original painting underneath it state “this is not a pipe,” which they aren’t. They are merely images of a pipe depicted on a surface. They both make a statement about how art and artists lie to you while telling the truth, only the shirt does it via Super Mario imagery. When the parody is that smart and dead on, we can’t not love it.