You weren’t just a paddle, you were an astronaut gripping a paddle.
September 22, 2013 12:48 PM   Subscribe

Atari cartridge art and artists "The original Atari featured a wealth of games with box art that was quite a bit more imaginative than the “grizzled man holding a gun” template that’s so popular today."
posted by bitmage (19 comments total) 23 users marked this as a favorite
 
Reminds me of the Odyssey 2 I had as a kid. The box cover art wrote checks the games couldn't cash.
posted by zzazazz at 12:53 PM on September 22, 2013 [3 favorites]


You weren’t just a paddle, you were an astronaut gripping a paddle.

No, you were a paddle. This art is all gorgeous, and surely does fire the imagination. But it mostly exists to convince folks to buy, and space is a better sell than "You're the paddle now, dog" even if being a paddle is actually plenty of fun.
posted by Going To Maine at 12:56 PM on September 22, 2013 [1 favorite]


I think it's fair to say that video gaming from earlier eras was abstracted and varied to a degree which modern console gaming is not BECAUSE of the level of tech available at the time. Most of the games were pretty basic on some level, but they all required a different sort of skill to play, each from each other and certainly from what modern video games require.

It was a heady, innovative time in entertainment, one which seems to have become a bit stuck in first-person-experience games these days, often involving guns or swords and roaming around some kind of environment. The games which seem to be lauded, such as Braid or Minecraft, break out of this mold in various ways. Someday, maybe the mainstream game developers will realize this and start branching out and making more innovative games. Innovation of "our world is more realistic / extended / thoroughly rendered for you to walk around in with a gun or a sword" isn't really taking advantage of the full range of imagination and possibility that computer or console gaming could achieve.

And yeah, those early games, they had artwork which fed your imagination into helping you believe those blips and blorps on the screen were something other than what you saw. But wasn't that awesome?
posted by hippybear at 1:17 PM on September 22, 2013 [6 favorites]


And they're fun to parody too.
posted by RobotVoodooPower at 1:35 PM on September 22, 2013 [4 favorites]


Most of the games were pretty basic on some level, but they all required a different sort of skill to play

Naah, not really. Most were twitch games that just required you to press certain buttons faster and faster as the levels increased.
posted by MartinWisse at 2:25 PM on September 22, 2013




My favorites: Centipede, Joust, and Kangaroo. Enduro had pretty great cover art, too.
posted by limeonaire at 3:49 PM on September 22, 2013


Oh, and my husband and I both loved Riddle of the Sphinx. Imagic had a lot of good games and cover art.
posted by limeonaire at 3:51 PM on September 22, 2013


And god help you if you didn't have Atari. Manholes of Venus?? Later, Maxy.
posted by George_Spiggott at 3:51 PM on September 22, 2013 [4 favorites]


Three other friends, an Atari, four controllers and a copy of Warlords. That was my ten year-old self's idea of a perfect afternoon.
posted by The Card Cheat at 5:36 PM on September 22, 2013


Naah, not really. Most were twitch games that just required you to press certain buttons faster and faster as the levels increased.

Wasn't there just the one button?
posted by box at 7:20 PM on September 22, 2013 [1 favorite]


Naah, not really. Most were twitch games that just required you to press certain buttons faster and faster as the levels increased.

Oh, that is so false. What you're thinking, involving raw reaction times and on-the-moment thought, can help you play those games, but the really good ones always involve various kinds of strategy, sometimes in very novel ways. That's what made them interesting to play, and why a lot of them hold up today.
posted by JHarris at 9:54 PM on September 22, 2013


The box art was thus, but the cartridge art in the first generation was was not at all like what's presented in the linked article. It was nonexistent beyond typography.

On my desk in front of me right now are working first-gen carts of (no caps, as on the items): breakout, combat, space invaders, space war, championship soccer, dodge 'em, hangman and backgammon (not exactly a twitch games, those two). They have identical label layouts, no graphics beyond the Atari logo, and are all in the same typeface. The biggest variation is that different carts have their unique text in one of a handful of various colors.

Visually, the carts are design extensions of the VCS console itself, and that seems to be the design goal, unambiguously. Establishing the game identity was left to the box art.

Here's an example. The colored text on mine is blue, almost royal blue.
posted by NortonDC at 10:15 PM on September 22, 2013 [1 favorite]


I remember staring at the Vanguard cartridge for a really long time when I was about five or six. The ship flying inside what appeared to be a bigger space ship was just the neatest idea to me. One of my far older cousins had a copy of Night Driver. The picture with the big race car driver hovering over the other cars caused me to ask him "Why is this driver so big?" and he said "Who cares. That game is stupid." I had a copy of that game at home for my Atari and after that I never touched it again. We had a bunch of the old Telegame carts that said Sears and Roebuck on the label. I always liked them because they straight up told you what you cold expect when you started the game. My Grandma wasn't very happy with me when I told her "I like these game because they don't BS with you." Twenty five years later I still think Telegames whenever I hear or say BS.
posted by Our Ship Of The Imagination! at 10:54 PM on September 22, 2013 [1 favorite]


Ahh Atari. My children loved this system and I wiah I had joined them. Thanks for the walk down memory lane...and Night Driver was a fave along with the airplane flying one....
posted by OhSusannah at 4:01 AM on September 23, 2013


This post wouldn't be complete without a link to the 2600 Label Maker.
posted by namewithoutwords at 5:10 AM on September 23, 2013 [5 favorites]


which was the game which was basically training for masturbation?
Decathalon or Summer Olympics?

I love this artwork, and I love these games, and people who weren't there just don't understand how amazing they were and probably can't remember lines of people waiting to play Pacman. While doing Rubic's Cube challenges. In flares.

Wishing the Walkman had been invented.
posted by Mezentian at 5:54 AM on September 23, 2013


Thank you for that 2600 Label Maker link, namewithoutwords! Some new cartridges just got added to the Atari line...
posted by bitmage at 4:50 PM on September 23, 2013




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