It is said to never judge a book by it’s cover, but does that apply to gaming?
Where once game covers would help guide imagination and set ideas of characters and world’s we still love to this day. Now they are all kind of seem the same.
Flash back to the pixel graphics era, when simple sprite characters were those that greeted us on our video game screens. It was partially through the help of box covers and video game manuals that we were able to understand a games setting or what the character might traditionally look like or even just get the tone of the journey we were about to embark.
Or just really weird…
Box arts were iconic long through the history of gaming but as of late the unique and memorable covers have began to blend together. Video game manuals have disappeared from the concious of gamer culture. Have we traded these things that seemed like they would never stop being a part of gaming for uniformity?
Did we let box covers become predictable?
When Ken Levine, creator of the Bioshock was asked about the cover of Bioshock infinite this is what he had to say to Wired:
“There are plenty of products that I buy that I don’t spend a lot of time thinking about. My salad dressing. If there’s a new salad dressing coming out, I would have no idea. I use salad dressing; I don’t read Salad Dressing Weekly. I don’t care who makes it, I don’t know any of the personalities in the salad dressing business.”
Video game covers are becoming the same as salad dressing. Yes that blandness exist and yes, gamers have accepted that unimaginative box arts are the norm. Yes we have those that don’t fall in the category of being the same as the rest of the covers, buts it overwhelming that many covers are becoming the same. Maybe it is the genre’s we are looking at or even just these truly don’t matter.
I have read that we end up with covers like that for bioshock, Battlefield, or any main stream game because gaming still markets to the average male gamer. The covers we see all feature our male protagonist or even just the most marketably macho member of the cast, standing tired, Weapon slung over shoulder or by his side.
It’s what we see over and over.
Oh boy so many unique covers.
And while you might think that point I am trying to make is moot and that nitpicking a game’s cover is a dumb thing to do, but what if I told you there is a deeper truth. One that’s very important. The truth that game company marketing teams trust you. They trust that you won’t notice.
They know that you will pick up each game while just barely glancing at the cover to make sure your game store clerk gave you the right game, the same way your eyes glaze over the salad dressing as you buy it. You will no longer care as the age of digital game releases grows deeper into the common practices. Maybe one day game covers will disappear and just be vague memories along side cheat codes and couch co op.
Maybe the imagination will leave gaming.