Saturday, March 11, 2017

Art of Atari, by Tim Lapetino

Children of the '80s, you're going to love this book!  If you're like me, middle-aged, with fond memories of playing video games on the classic Atari 2600 console, you are going to love perusing Tim Lapetino's beautiful coffee-table book Art of Atari.  This book is a nostalgia trip that took me back to some long, lazy days in front of the TV playing video games. 

This large, colorful volume includes sections on the history of Atari, console games, industrial design, and some of the little-known and never-released concepts Atari produced.  But the meat of the book, about 3/4 of the content, is the art work of the many Atari games.  As Ernest Cline points out in the Foreward, "Even though the crude graphics of the games themselves were never quite as colorful or realistic as the illustrations depicted, that artwork had an almost magical way of elevating your gameplay experience, by helping your imagination bridge the gap between the crude pixelated shapes dancing across your TV screen and the fantastic images they could conjure in your mind's eye."

To say the actual games did not measure up to the fanciful box cover art is an understatement.  I looked through the book with my 15-year-old son, who has grown up with Wii and PS3.  He was roaring with laughter at the screen images of the games.  And it's true; the graphics were truly horrid.  Art of Atari is a great reminder that even a game with terrible graphics and a simple one-button joystick can be loads of fun.

But the real focus of Art of Atari is the art and the artists.  Lapetino presents page after page of box cover art, accompanying art, concept art, promotional art, and preliminary designs, interspersed with profiles and quotes from the artists.  Reading about their work and anecdotes about the industry is fun and insightful.  It would have been interested to see more examples of the in-game art.  Granted, the crude illustrations may best be forgotten; perhaps Lapetino was right only to include a small screen shot of each game.

Even the most ardent Atari fan will see games and other products in Art of Atari that he or she has never seen or has long forgotten about.  Any Atari fan will be longing to dig out the old 2600 and play some games after spending some time with this book.  I enjoyed seeing all this art and history compiled in one place.

Thanks to NetGalley and the publishers for the complimentary electronic review copy!

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