The plan was to take a break from all things related to video gaming, in terms of films and film projects, for a long time. I really didn’t wanna be the guy who was pigeon-holed into a director that only made gaming related entertainment, though there would be nothing wrong with being known as that guy, either. It’s a double-edged sword. When I announced “Missing Mom” and then the documentary on Kittie and subsequently, “Power of Grayskull,” a lot of the folks in my community thought it was really cool that I was expanding beyond the trappings of the gamer-related spectrum of possibilities. It was like there was a small sigh of relief that I wouldn’t be making “Super Nintendo Quest” as soon as I could – and believe me, there are no plans for THAT endeavor. So when my muse kicked my brain-parts one fateful evening while visiting Retro City Games, I had to really think about what the next 2-3 years might entail and whether a solid idea that hadn’t been explored was worth the energy, the work, and possibly being known as the video game director guy. Well, you’re on the website; you obviously know what choice I made.
“Box Art – A Gaming Documentary” is going to be another fun of adventure, but this one carries a huge weight of responsibility and importance, not only to the subject matter, but more so for those involved. That’s to say, none of us on the team take the task lightly; we feel it’s crucial to let the world know about the people and stories responsible for some of gaming’s most iconic images of all time. There are dozens of box art covers that resonate with me more than the game play or any other aspect. An image can say a 1000 words, right? Well, I think these box art images can inspire a 1000 worlds, connect to 1000 memories, and ripple out to spawn 1000 more games. More importantly, these images are part of history and when we don’t know who created them, then we don’t know the full history! Now, there are events that occurred thousands of years ago where we think we know what happened based on evidence and have a clear idea, but the idea that we don’t know who created some of these pieces of box art just a few decades ago is utterly crazy to me. Like a lot of things, it reminds me of Jurassic Park: we’re racing so fast to move forward, that we’re not taking the time to understand where we are at any exact moment. Speed, profit, and being “new” have cast away people, ideas, and concerns. Before we know it, we will have no idea where we’ve come from and that’s the kind of thing we always need to know in order to move forward. So, given all that, is it a big surprise that the overwhelming majority of box art today is lack luster compared to the early offerings? Not likely.
No, this will not be a film that demonizes the current state of the industry because to be honest, I love video games of all eras, especially the hot new release that arrives every Tuesday – okay, a little sarcasm there; you’ve been warned. This will be a film that celebrates a lost art form in the same way that I, and many others, prefer practical, “in-camera,” effects to that of computer generated (CG) imagery. There’s nothing “wrong” with box art that graces the cover of today’s games, I just prefer the older approach to box art design which yields a different image. Now, when it comes to the future of box art, well, there might not be any if we continue to push towards digital only offerings. Indie games have been saddled with intangible releases and forced to rely on screen grabs, logo designs, and character-centric art (mascots etc), to sell their games, and soon the Triple-A devs will do the same. That’s one possible future of box art, which means there wont even be a physical record of that era of game history. One push of the delete key and everything is gone. Are you starting to see the importance of having a physical box yet?
So, as you can tell, this blog will act as my ongoing musings on the subject of box art, as we continue to develop, eventually shoot, and finally finish the film. You’ll also see posts from my other collaborators from time to time which should weave a pretty cool tapestry of perspectives on this specific subject and many that relate to it.
Rob McCallum is an award-winning filmmaker, documenting subjects like video games, heavy metal, fanboy fanatics, and more. His work has garnered press attention from NBC, CBS, CBC Radio•One, CTV, WIRED, /Film, and Destructoid. Known for out-of-the-box thinking and fierce determination, McCallum currently hosts a top ten “GamerCast” on Patreon and iTunes, and is a guest contributor for various online blogs and sites. His obsession with all things Jim Henson is hard to understand but most people forgive him for his deep love of Masters of the Universe and Ducktales.