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Why Video Game Box Art Sucks

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On November 7, 2016, RPG developer Bioware revealed the box art for their next blockbuster game, Mass Effect Andromeda, coming out next year. As a gamer, I am ecstatic that they released it because it shows that the game is making progress in its development. As a graphic designer, I’m disappointed in it. Though its clean and minimalistic, it’s boring and lazy; all it displays is the game’s artwork with text on top of it. If you haven’t followed the game’s development, it doesn’t tell you much about the game besides the protagonist that you play (who doesn’t reveal his or her face) and a ship that is just crashing in the background. It’s generic, and it isn’t something that I would want to display in my growing game collection. It isn’t the only modern game box art that sucks, box arts for games like Doom (2016), Destiny, and Fallout 4 just show a reversed logo on top of generic looking soldiers. I think the reason why they’re so generic looking is that they don’t have a purpose anymore.

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In the late 20th century, game art was stylistic and served a function: to grab a consumer’s attention even if they knew nothing about the game. Right now, we can use the internet to learn more about a product and what purpose it gives to the user, but back then, package design and ads were the only source of information you could give you more information about a product. In the 80s and 90s, game cover art needed to be colorful and illustrative because of graphic limitations. They would market with cover art alone rather than rely on videos and graphics, and the only form of gameplay you would find of the games were through screenshots.

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Games have evolved rapidly in the past 20 years and the role of a graphic designer has shifted within the video game industry. Rather than focus on a games cover, graphic designers have shifted working on a game’s UI or marketing. I imagine game covers used to be like album covers where artistic values are found within package, but games are more dynamic than music. They rely on visuals, sound, and interaction with the player and box cover art isn’t going to sell a game. It’s the content within it is where you will find where the design has been implemented. I just wish more attention could be put into the box art for these games as I think it adds to a game’s longevity.

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