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ART OF ATARI Takes Interesting Look Back At Gaming Bronze Age

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(featured image courtesy wikipedia)

Aging Gen-Xers will remember fondly the first wave of video games: there were no cartridges, at first: you merely toggled some switches to choose between four variations of “tennis”. The controller was a paddle (and, if you were lucky, one button) tethered to the console by a non-detachable cable. The games were black and white, the graphics virtually nonexistent but you didn’t care because good grief, you were actually playing games on your television.

After the Atari 2600 kickstarted the idea of replaceable game cartridges (a concept originally introduced by Fairchild Engineering’s “Channel F” console), the world was suddenly flooded, seemingly overnight, with game companies cranking out game after game on every theme possible: aliens, flying ostriches, walking foodstuffs, giant bugs, you name it. The war for the attention spans of a generation began in earnest.

The-Art-of-Atari-Cover

Dynamite Entertainment is taking an interesting look back to those days with Art of Atari, a book of (of all things) Atari box art. Not this reporter’s first choice for nostalgia: one recalls those boxes splashed with scenes of gleeful mayhem, where bold adventurers battled bizarre creatures in a fantastic landscape unlike any seen before. And then you got it home, popped in the cartridge…and got yet another handful of beeping rectangles staggering back and forth across a static screen.

Still, it is interesting from a graphic perspective. A lot of these are exceptionally well done. Professional artists were commissioned from all over to create the box art for those early games. There is a certain skill in attempting to encapsulate an entire experience in one static image, and doing so reliably. A lot of the same ideas we saw at the very beginning in those days are still appearing on box (and increasingly digital purchase) art to this day. And of course longtime gamers of A Certain Age (guilty) will no doubt enjoy thumbing through the collection and reminiscing.

The first generation of video games were a watershed moment: from the first primitive “TV game” machines to the big crash of ’83 (when video games all but disappeared from the American consciousness until the appearance of the Nintendo Entertainment System in ’85), a generation of young people discovered a new concept in play.

For most of us, that time blossomed into a lifelong love of the art form, and it has been amazing to watch it evolve by leaps and bounds. Dynamite’s book may be an odd sort of way to reminisce upon those early days, but it is clearly a labor of love and there are some out there who will enjoy looking through and being brought back to those long-gone days.

(Art of Atari by Robert V Conte and Tim Lapetino will be released by Dynamite Entertainment in October 2016.)

 

(Kelly Luck can still hear the Atari 2600 Pac-Man music in her head. Her other SciFi4Me work can be read here.)

 

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