Extra Punctuation

Extra Punctuation
American Box Art Sucks

Ben "Yahtzee" Croshaw | 8 Feb 2011 12:00
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I've got a question for my American readers. It's a simple one. Why do you hate things that look good? Do you all just genuinely have the aesthetic sense of a kipper, or is this part of that big "defiance of authority" thing you guys have going that makes you equate "stubborn pig ignorance" with "down homey wisdom"? To get to the point, why does all your localized box art fucking suck ass?

I know it's supposed to be a marketing thing, in the same way that every single movie starring Will Smith just uses an extreme close up of Will Smith's face as the poster for the sole reason that he's the most bankable film star in Hollywood ('cos he's black, but not in a way white people find threatening) but my reading of good, marketable box art is that it should (a) bring across an idea as quickly as possible, (b) catch the eye and c) be readable from a distance. With that in mind, what's with all the Photoshopped blue-tinted collages with a bunch of floaty head characters like there was a point during the game's continuity when the main characters all stood really close together on boxes of varying heights and stared thoughtfully into the middle distance.

Case in point, Heavy Rain. I like the Japanese box art best since it's simple and brings across the main threat that drives the plot (the plot that starts about four hours in). In Europe, still minimalist, a paper figurine probably getting very soggy. And then comes the US box art, and lo and behold, floaty-head Photoshop collage-o-vision with extra points for having the principal sex object front and centre in her underpants.

I know this isn't exactly an earth-shattering games journalism expose. The shitty American box art thing has existed for a very long time. Everyone's seen that courageously atrocious cover Megaman was given for its release in the West, featuring a man getting to grips with his four ill-fitting prosthetic limbs while trying to take a massive poo, and that was back in the NES days. But my feeling is, if this is still an issue after 24 years, then obviously people like me haven't been harping on it enough. So here we go again. And make no mistake, it is a problem. Who knows how many people lost out on a great gaming experience because the first impression didn't immediately seize? Even a triple-cunted hooker would find business slow if she went around in an Argyll sweater and wellies. Then again, some people are into that.

The other classic example that appeared briefly in my Shadow's Tale review is Ico, precursor to Shadow of the Colossus and a game everyone really should play. An impression which one definitely would not receive from the US box art featuring an angry Uncanny Valley resident thinking that if he turns around and that giant floating ghost head is still behind him then he's going to give it what for. Everyone else's box art was actually indicative of the game: a uniquely art directed world far bigger than you that's as lonely and bleak as all hell.

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