Now is a time for me to show my age with the typical “back in my day” slogan. Back in my day, video games were covered in art. In the glory days, before the back box art was crammed with small text in every known language, used probably to avoid some sort of legal issue, there was artwork on the cover of the box, the instruction manuals, and the game itself. To be frank, its all but a lost art in the age of digital downloads and how many Call of Duty games we can cram in a box. Between that and the utter lack of an instruction booklet or anything at all, not sure what’s a bigger waste of opportunity.
Fear not, for not all of these treasures have become victim to the fires of time! Historians have begun cataloging, reacting to, and in some cases (ET on the Atari) straight up unearthing stories and relics of gaming’s colorful past. One of those mighty historians is a humble man with a passion, Rob McCallum.
Now, to give Rob a bit of pedigree. Rob is a guy who grew up gaming on the NES with his buddies, squirreled away in a secret club in a tree house to peruse over issues of Nintendo Power. He has a passion for rock music and 80s and 90s cartoons with their peculiar charm that’s often lacking in modern media. Thankfully, Rob grew up to become a film producer, more specifically a historian with a knack for documentaries going on to create films that captured national attention like Nintendo Quest and more. Hence we come full circle, for Rob is crafting a documentary on video game box art, aptly named Box Art.
Box Art seeks to answer the questions behind famous pieces of video game art. Who made the image? Why were they asked to create it for the game? How does the art tie into the game and its marketing? These are all questions that often pop up when looking over these sometimes breathtaking works. Well, between that and the occasional confused head tilt.
Lucky for Rob, many of the folks directly behind the art still live, breathe, and agree to come on camera. After looking at the list of all the people involved with the project, I can imagine that Rob clearly has a lot of friends.
Of course, there’s a reason Box Art is seeking support on Kickstarter. I’m sure driving around to all of these conventions and such for interviews, lugging heavy film equipment, and the need for tacos doesn’t come cheap. All films have a budget they strive to meet and Kickstarter is a way for Rob and his team to see if this is what people want to watch, letting the fans make it happen.
Personally, I have seen Rob’s work quite a bit in the last year or so. We’ve talked on many occasion, especially after he sent my first writer’s gig a copy of Nintendo Quest to review. To be honest, I forgot about it, swamped with work and not really seeing it for what it was. I’ll admit I was that rude writer swamped in work that kept pushing back the super cool stuff. That is, until I broke down and took the couple hour journey into Jay Bartlett’s (star of the film) quest to find all of the American retail NES releases in 30 days without the use of internet shopping sites. Me being the gaming junkie that I am, was attached to the story for the games, but ended up loving the film for the people involved, especially Jay. Traveling around America and parts of Canada to find all of these games may seem trivial, but it had a drastic effect on his life, one that Rob and his team captured beautifully.
I have little doubt that Rob will continue to shine in his efforts as a historian and a film maker. Not even kidding, the guy is an inspiration. Personally, I’ll stay tuned into everything he puts out, whether its about gaming or He-Man, or local metal bands or whatever, just because I think he knows how to capture real human qualities that give me hope that the world isn’t all that bad.
Be sure to drop by the Box Art Kickstarter and check out the other documentaries available. Can’t recommend them enough.
Note this was in no way an asked for article. I wasn’t asked to do this in favor of M&Ms (although I do like me some M&Ms) or free movies or whatnot. I genuinely love these films and think they have an important part to play in keeping video game history alive, something that I will always be an advocate of.