Friday, January 24, 2014

Of Box Art and Imagination

When I was a kid, RPGs were king.  There was nothing quite so much fun as getting together with a bunch of friends, eating pizza, slaying orcs, and getting killed by terrible traps.  My first character was killed by a medusa in the second room of the first dungeon he ever went into.  But RPGs involved coordinating people and rides, so the next best thing was video games.



Back in the late 70s and early 1980s, when video gaming was still in its relative infancy, there was a wonderful dichotomy between the way video game box art represented the games and how those games looked in real life.  The ability to do computer graphics was extremely limited, and nowhere were those limitations felt more than on home systems.  As a kid, I was forever going to places like Sears or Montgomery Ward and staring at the fascinating images that graced the boxes of those games.  
Now some are probably thinking Sears?  Isn't that where people go to buy tools and tires and things?  More still are probably wondering who, or what a Montgomery Ward is.  Well, those were the places we went in those days, long before the Gamestops of the world came into being, but I digress.  

The boxes of those games contained wondrous images that transported my young imagination to lands of seemingly infinite possibilities.  Of course the art for those games had to be good for in many cases it was all that could attract someone to buy one of these games.  Now make no mistake, I loved many of the games of this era, and I still do.  In the end, the gameplay was what really made me love them and kept me playing, but something had to get me to even buy the darned game in the first place, and that thing was the box art.  No matter how crummy the actual game images on the back of the box might look those pictures on the front still gave hope that the game would be awesome.  Here are a few of my favorites, showing what the front of the box tempted me with and what the I actually got.

Let's start with probably my all time favorite game ever, Atari's Adventure.  Behold the mighty dragon in his maze!  look with awe upon the great castle high on the hill!  I played this thing to death.  Again and again, I would play the random setup version of this game.  I would even make up my own versions of the game where I had to kill all of the dragons then get as many of the items into the gold castle as possible before returning the chalice to end the game.  I was obsessed. 


Adventure: The box cover

Adventure: The reality. :-)

Next we have The Quest for the Rings for the Odyssey 2.  Now this game was not only a video game, but a board game too!  Just look at that box with the warrior deflecting the dragon's flames with his sword and the wizard killing, well whatever that thing is.  This game just looks magical.  Admittedly, I didn't play this one all that much because I didn't have an Odyssey and had to go to one of my friend's houses to play, but not being able to play it all the time may have made it seem even better to me.

The Quest for the Rings:  The box cover

The Quest for the Rings: The Reality
And finally, my holy grail from that time period.  Advanced Dungeons & Dragons:  Cloudy Mountain for the Intellivision.  I was a bit of a D&D nut and would buy just about anything with the D&D logo on it.  I only got to play this a handful of times at the home of one of the kids I was in Boy Scouts with, but I wanted this game more than anything.  Of course I would have needed an Intellivision as well, and those things were really expensive.  I never really got to play this game until much, much later, when I got it as part of the Intellivision Lives compilation for my Game Boy Advance.  In the end it remembered better that it played. :-)

Advanced Dungeons & Dragons: The box cover

Advanced Dungeons & Dragons: The reality
Now as I've said, I love each of these games in their own way.  And sometimes, even when I'm running around in the amazing landscapes of Skyrim, I still miss them.  I long for the days when my imagination was the Graphics Processing Unit and those box covers beckoned me with sights that the games themselves could never hope to deliver.

Does anyone have any favorite box covers that really inspired them?
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