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The Lasso

The Student News Site of Santa Rosa Academy

The Lasso

[OPINION] Video Game Box Art All Looks the Same

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Guy with Gun: Yellow-Orange, Uninteresting Pose Edition


I’m trying to remember the name of this one game. I remember the box art, but nothing else. It depicts a man holding a gun and he’s obscured a tad by shadows. Did you think of one? Well, that description perfectly fits the 2023’s Call of Duty: Modern Warfare III! And, 2022’s Modern Warfare II, and 2019’s Modern Warfare. It’s a series; of course, they’re unified through the box art. But that also perfectly describes every entry in the Battlefield series, Cyberpunk 2077, the Hitman trilogy, Mass Effect 3, Bethesda’s Doom games, the Uncharted series, the 007 games, as well as select entries in Resident Evil, Devil May Cry, Watchdogs, Tom Clancy, and many, many more.

Guy with Gun: Pointed Up Edition

This article owes a great deal to (a video game review and forum website) and its 111-entry-long collection titled Box Art Clichés: Guys-with-guns Edition created by user spacetrucking. While an avid gaming enthusiast would certainly notice this trend in box art, this list highlights the egregious homogeny in composition, character design, color usage, and gestures. In a perfectly descriptive commentary, the curator of the list captioned the cover of Medal of Honor: Vanguard as “Well, I guess there is something to be said for being consistent, like the food at McDonald’s.”

Guy with Gun: Forced Perspective Edition

In contrast, is it the art direction’s fault that video game covers are so similar? Or is it at the fault of the oversaturation of the first-person shooter genre? Shooters do tend to be paired with guns; making a man holding a firearm fitting for such a game. However, a multitude of shooter-centric games have proved themselves to be memorable in terms of artistic value with dynamic composition and interesting overall design.

To highlight a few firearm-centric games that don’t follow the common clichés of the genre, Deathloop’s composition is inspired by art nouveau and 1960s aesthetics. Dead Space (2008), Ico’s Japanese release, and Phalanx all veer towards a simpler display, favoring minimalist illustration over a complicated character design or scene. On the opposite end of the spectrum is Borderlands 3, chocked full of details, easter eggs, and references– some of which have still gone undiscovered by fans with the game’s developer Gearbox Software saying “Maybe give it another look” in reference to the cover art three months after the game launched. The box art for Mass Effect: Legendary Edition (2021) launched in tandem with a website where you can make your own cover art for the game– coinciding with your narrative choices in the game and your favorite squadmates.

When approached with this subject, Mrs. Herrera, the Art teacher at Santa Rosa Academy, said “Looking at this topic from an art criticism point of view, it is evident that contemporary video game art has established a norm when it comes to their cover art. This can be rooted deep in contemporary semiotics– the study of signs and symbols. By following this formula, these artists are attempting to draw on the nostalgia of the first artists that came up with this idea in hopes of luring in their markets. However, it becomes ‘kitsch’ and has no sense of creative venture due to its naive imitation and lack of adventure.”

But why does this matter? Why should someone care if the boxart of a game has a neat illustration? You’re purchasing the game for the game, not the package or thumbnail. But when a game like the Dead Space remake (2023)– a survival horror game that IGN said had “enemies literally dripping with detailed slime and entrails,” (among other descriptions of horror-inducing gore)– shares numerous similarities in its box art with bombastic, action-based games such as DMC: Devil May Cry or Uncharted: Drake’s Deception (games that despite being rated 18+ and Mature by PEGI and ESRB respectively, are often played by a younger audience); the issue isn’t artistic relevance but instead a confusion in the information box art offers. Box art can be what ultimately convinces a consumer to purchase a game. If all of our cases are the same, we assume the content to be the same. And with these game genres ranging from first-person shooters to survival horror, from open-world RPGs to hack-and-slash, and from stealth to live-service; these games deserve for the artistic individuality of their covers to match their content.

Works Cited

Shadow men; a collection: access date: 2/14, update: 1/24

Borderlands quotes: access date: 2/24, 4/19

Mass Effect Legendary Edition cover maker: access date: 2/24, update: 1/24

IGN quote: access date: 2/24, update: 1/23

Images: access date: 2/24, update: 1/24

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About the Contributor
Corrin Santolucito, Staff Writer
Chloe Valentine “Corrin” Santolucito is a Junior at Santa Rosa Academy; born in 2007 in Newport Beach, California. Having grown up in Nashville and Memphis, Tennessee in addition to California, Corrin has seen multiple perspectives while growing up. They’re a musician of multiple instruments and an artist of multiple mediums. Their interests include art in the form of comic books, video games, literature, music, and visual arts. 
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