It’s only a matter of time before a major art museum hosts an exhibit for videogame box art. Imagine… Your favorite titles blown up to impossible sizes. Ripped out of context to be ogled and discussed by art critics. People milling about stark white rooms breathing hushed commentary of how they “get it.” Curating such a show would be a nightmare – even with covers stretching into the millions and a history that dates back more than thirty years, moments of visual genius are few and far between.
This article isn’t about those moments. This article is all about the “between” – the endless menagerie of visual crutches used in box art stretching as far as the eye can see. Join us, then, as we take you on a journey through our most hated box art cliches.
1. Don’t look at the camera
Above: Hey, over here!
Gazing off into the distance can evoke all sorts of meanings; deep thought, wistfulness, inability to focus on objects closer than a few feet away. In the realm of gaming, however, it’s a visual crutch that is often used to hint at a mystery far beyond your expectations. Mouths open, mouths closed, there’s always something going on off-camera with these guys.
Is the world ending? Look off to the distance. Enemy troops about to drop in for a late-night ambush? Better make sure you’re looking away. Starring in a game with a convoluted sub-plot that no one will ever really understand? Definitely, definitely don’t make eye contact. As a viewer you start to wonder, is there spinach in my teeth? A booger in my nose? Why won’t you look at me? What’s wrong with me?! Do you not think I’m pretty?! WHY CAN’T YOU LOOK ME IN THE EYE?
2. I got your back
Above: Like chiropractic
It’s tough being ignored. It’s even tougher when you’re being ignored by someone that only exists in a game you’re paying for. Then again, maybe they’re not ignoring you at all - maybe they’re simply leading the way towards a path of visual enlightenment. A land where all characters give you meaningful, deep looks, where subtle hints about the plot are artfully sprinkled through the landscape, where nary a weapon is brandished but implied. Or, this could just be another visual crutch used to promote the idea that the money you’re dropping is going to lead to the best gaming experience ever. His back is turned to you because the breathtaking graphics, artful storytelling and unique and engaging gameplay is just too much to handle facing forward!
3. Here, let me get that for you
Above: Enemies to your left! Enemies to your right! Enemies all around you!
Characters may not want to look at you, but they’ll definitely defend you to the death based off what we see here. Enemies are surrounding you, your ammo’s gone and your health is fading. Behold! The main character of Insert Game Here has arrived to save the day! Weapons cocked and ready! You better be glad you’re not standing three feet to either the right or left of these covers lest you turn out to be the target.