I know it might be hard to believe, but videogames have been around for a while now. Long before little tykes were calling each other wallies and cunts in the pre-match lobbies of the latest Call Of Warcraft, human beings have been creating grade-A computer entertainment for you to enjoy in the comfort of your own home / basement of that home which your parents own. The widespread induction of videogames into our everyday lives began with the first generation of home consoles back in the 70’s, when developers, tiring of fighting in the Vietnam War, wanted to come back home and do something else with their time*. And ever since we’ve been inviting these videogames into our homes, their creators have been slavishly producing box art. Now, like all art, some of this box art is excellent; stirring, exciting and evocative. Again, like all art, just as much of it is bizarre, disturbing and outright perplexing. And, also, like all art, some of it is just total fucking bullshit. So, join us as we go on an adventure, one console generation at a time, and celebrate the very best, weirdest and worst videogame box art. Hopefully this feature doesn’t exist anywhere else on the internet. I can’t imagine that it does. The internet isn’t that big, is it?
PART 1 – 1ST GENERATION:
1972 – 1977
Mining the treasure troves of history for 1st generation videogame box art yields admittedly slim pickings. Back then, when the Sex Pistols were spitting into people’s eyes and ‘jiggle television’ was a thing, half of the available consoles came with the games built-in. A bit like how the Master System II came with Alex Kidd In Miracle World built-in, but presumably less shit. Companies would produce variants of the same console, such as the multiple Nintendo Colour TV-Game machines, with different games pre-installed on the system. What a world. Meanwhile, the Magnavox Odyssey console was compatible with a string of additional titles, sometimes sold in bundles of 6, and packaged in enormous oblong cardboard boxes which were crammed with additional accessories like full size rifles and playing cards. What were we like, eh? Eh?!
Anyway, let’s go…
Shooting Gallery (released for the Magnavox Odyssey – 1972)
Picture the scene. You are a child. It is the earth year 1972. Videogames are barely even a thing by this point but here is the latest and coolest game, Shooting Gallery, and it comes packaged with a full size rifle. Are you still picturing the scene? In the scene are you losing your shit? Of course you are. Look, as I’ve already said, at this stage in the history of videogame packaging, there’s not too much to get excited about. But how could we not include a package as venerable as this? There’s also a ton of other stuff bundled into this primitive blaster game released for the Magnavox Odyssey, including (but not limited to) something labelled a ‘switch’, two things that look like hair-lice combs and even a ciggy-smoke-yellow fleshlight (it probably isn’t a fleshlight). What was that you say? Why haven’t we actually researched what these things are? Don’t be silly. This is an extremely early example of videogames tapping directly into the pleasure receptors of a child’s brain. KILL THINGS, it screams, KILL ALL THINGS.
Nintendo Colour TV-Game (models 6 and 15 – 1977)
I could show you a picture of the actual box art for Nintendo’s first foray into the console market but it’s so mundane you probably wouldn’t forgive me. Instead, while researching (tirelessly, I might add), I stumbled across this rather charming advert for two of the models from their Colour TV-Game range of consoles. The TV-Game’s were a one console/one game deal, with the game built in to the machine. The TV-Game 6 had six different variants of the evocatively titled Light Tennis, while the TV-Game 15 had (you guessed it) fifteen variations of Light Tennis. Imagine that! So rather than a celebration of the particular box art, this image and the accompanying text stands as a testament that Nintendo were always delightfully Nintendo about things. Family crowded around the TV having super fun times? Check. Bemusing colour schemes for their machines? Check. Slightly shit names for their products? Check.
OK, again, this isn’t box art (look, I already said there wasn’t a lot going on back then) but much like Shooting Gallery above, how can one ignore such a beast? If there’s one thing that todays consoles are missing it’s definitely a steering wheel, gear shift lever and a six-shooter moulded into the sides of the machine itself. The Telestar Aracde was the last in a series of 14 iterations that manufacturer Coleco released throughout the 70’s and it puts almost anything invented since to shame. As a sign of things to come, the Telestar Arcade’s games came on removable cartridges, shaped like a triangle. 4 cartridges were produced in total but, with the slight exception of cartridge 4 which shows a SPACESHIP EXPLODING, the box art wasn’t much to get excited about. Cart 3 did contain a game called Shoot The Bear though, which, I gotta say, I fancy having a go on.
Alright, I got nothing. Look, the second generation does a much better job of showing off its wares. Trust me. In our next installment of Celebrating Videogame Box Art, your eyeballs will bleed. Probably…