One of the benefits of having a massive library of classic arcade roms literally at my fingertips, is the art. Each of these games, thanks to all the people who preserve these sorts of things, has associated screenshots, flyers, cabinet art, and marques.
It is pretty common for me to go through the game collection just to look at the different marque art.
I was thinking about it, and arcades sometime between the mid 80’s to the mid 90’s are probably one of the most unique collections of visible commercial art.
Places like grocery stores and department stores absolutely hold the record for most publicly viewable commercial art, what with every product having a logo or package design. But the difference with an arcade is that the art is there to sell you more art. Every game is, inherently, art. Every marque, every piece of cabinet decoration, is enticing you to come forward and look at a screen that will continue to provide more art. Visual art, audio art, animation, interaction. All art.
Maybe a music or video store comes close, but neither of those are as immediate, as responsive. Arcades were a cacophony of art, and all of that art was made by people.
A lot of video games came out between 1980 and the mid 90s. Every single one of them had marque art and backglass art. A lot of them had art up the sides of the cabinet. Some of this art is amazing. You know what wasn’t very good then? Illustration software.
I have made a lot of logos. Designed a lot, redrew a lot, modified a lot. I have worked with massive font libraries and I’ve even made a few fonts myself. Every single one of them was created with the help of a computer. I have used Adobe Illustrator and Corel Draw and some more exotic illustration software that almost no one uses. I can’t imagine what it took to come up with the design for the Pac-Man logo.
That’s not entirely true. I have some idea. I have done some screen printing. I have hand cut vinyl and rubylith masks. None of that is particularly important, but trust me when I say that making the Pac-Man logo wasn’t just a simple drawing or painting job. It would have been a very labour intensive and technical multi-step process. Of course, the digital files I look at know have been vector traced, color matched, and cleaned up when compared to the originals. Still, there is something wonderful about all of these designs and text treatments that had to be worked on by hand.
I would never give up my Affinity Designer or other design tool. I have become accustomed to how they work, but I can appreciate how things were done before. The Pac-Man logo or the Galaxian logo, both amazing examples of modifying text to create something unique and eye-catching.
If you go to a site like www.arcadeartwork.org and start poking around, you will likely be astonished at the amount of artwork produced for these games over the years. Peripheral art, for a game, that is, in itself, art. Stunning.
This is just one particular venue for commercial art. Keep your eyes open and you will probably see so many more. Everything item that was made by people probably has some art associated with it. Somewhere, somewhen, somebody made a thing, and now you get to look at it. That’s worth appreciating.