Context, not content : admiring Atari box art

All of the unpleasantness online of late about the video game industry and its fans has made me nostalgic for a time when video games were simpler, more colorful, and free of rampant, violent misogyny. Or at least for a time when there wasn't an easily accessible internet on which a certain breed of people could anonymously spread their rampant, violent misogyny.  And having recently discovered 2600 Game By Game Podcast (thanks to a recommendation on my friend Stover's own show, Please Like This Podcast), I've been thinking specifically about the Atari 2600, where the games were definitely simple and colorful. Positively "stone knives and bearskins" (to borrow a Spockism) compared to today's games, but considering how many of them were just squares shooting smaller squares, they were really fun.

And the box art, particularly in the early Atari releases, was almost always amazing... gorgeously rendered little movie posters to help provide (and occasionally invent) context for what we weren't seeing on the screen. I used to feel a little cheated that the cover only featured a small illustration and the rest of the space was given over to single color, text-filled uniformity, but I've come to appreciate that as I've gotten older; it adds to the "future by way of the 70s" vibe, particularly that font. It's easy to imagine the crew of, say, Moonbase Alpha from Space: 1999 kicking back in their snazzy flared jumpsuits and playing Super Breakout or something when they weren't worried about the moon hurtling through space.  Here's a larger-than-intended assortment of some of my favorites, because it was too hard to limit myself to just 5 or 10.  Click to make Asteroid size, of course:

Man, that is one smug dragon! "Oh, is this the key you need?"

Obviously the game doesn't look like this, but it's probably the closest representation to what the game actually entails, so there's that.

Mars Needs Women (in Hiphuggers)!

I never thought of The Great Raceas needing a video game, now I wonder why we've never gotten one.

Title sounds like Video Gym Class, but the box art makes it seems so much more fun.

The best Burt Reynolds movie never made?

Really takes your mind off the fact that it's basically Nuclear Armageddon: The Home Game.

Not only does this make it look like the most high stakes Othello game ever, but that you're actually playing against Iago. Nice touch.

Nope. Definitely not The Outlaw Josey Wales. Don't know what you're talking about.

The box swaps out a more traditional Pac-Man than the one depicted on the cart itself. I like them both, but the traditional Pac-Man that's front and center looks out of place when compared to the ghost monsters also in the foreground.

How good a likeness is this? I hope they gave the original art to Pele and that it hangs in his home in a place of honor.

The Tron / Death Race mashup you never knew you wanted but now can't live without.

Always loved the looks of these domed cityships. Not one thing remotely Space Invaders about it, but it's a great looking design.

This helps sell the tangential Atari Forcetie-in, and that's not a bad thing at all.

What is it about these Atari racing game covers? They all look great!

In space, no one can hear you Pong, I guess? Also, Super Breakout was a space thing?  Really?

I don't care what you say, I love everything about the Atari Superman game, even the pretty generic cover.

How do you liven up a checkers video game? Making it look like a BBC costume drama starring a young Mark Hamill as the smug prince is a good start.

Wait, we get to play chess against Steve Wozniak? Cool.

Right now is the first time I ever noticed that it's Yars' Revenge, not Yar's Revenge. Huh.

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