Not Kramerica Industries books about coffee tables
01 Every Day Is Play
Recommending a book that kicks off with covers from this very magazine feels oddly self-serving, but this is a wonder throughout: a 300-page kaleidoscope of game art in every medium and genre imaginable. There’s no discernible order to most of it, but that encourages pauses to take in each artwork on its own terms, and makes turning the page to find a hand-painted plate, poem or digital water sculpture all the more surprising. The gaming community’s love for its hobby pours from the pages, and is most sweetly evoked in wonky crayon Mario drawings from the author’s own children.
02 The Eyes Of Bayonetta
Suitably revealing, barely a sketch or boxart pose is allowed to pass here without a frank, funny anecdote from Platinum Games, as the team battles with “absurd higher-ups” to keep Bayonetta’s glasses, Shimazaki bemoans the painstaking enemy detail that isn’t visible in the final game, and Kamiya regularly pops in with demands like “I want a galactic clock!” and “I want pointy hats!” The impression is of supremely talented artists, who – despite some decisions in questionable taste – have a genuine investment in the character of their characters. (Book and DVD.)
03 The Hohokum Almanac
Richard Hogg and Nick Hurwitch
This kid-friendly travel guide to the technicolour ‘Hohokosmos’ of Sony’s befuddling wonder doesn’t make things any easier to comprehend – if anything it just makes things worse, as you struggle to work out why vermillion would cause people to “see the future”. But the art is irresistible, and writer Hurwitch brings whimsical humour to the many little stories, songs, activities and foldout treats. The innocent but wry charm calls to mind Adventure Time and Yo Gabba Gabba, and the little rainbow cloth bookmark is lovely, too.
04 Magical Game Time Vol 1
If your Twitter stream or Facebook feed has ever tugged at your heart with a wistful animated comic about Zelda or Earthbound, chances are it was Gorman’s work. These enchanting comics and sketches lose a little in the GIF-to-paper freezing process, but the dialogue is still very much alive. With a few careful speech bubbles, Gorman brings emotion and weight to the most innocently simplistic ’80s game plots, and will transport you right back to kneeling on the living-room carpet, controller or joystick in hand. And no one yet has better encapsulated the short, horrific life of a Battletoad on a jetbike.
05 Push Start: The Art Of Video Games
What you get here is 350 giant pages of pure in-game images. Pixel purists won’t be pleased that careless emulator screenshotting has distorted some vintage sprites and scenery, and things get a bit jpeggy from 1996. Otherwise, it’s a gorgeous gallery of both sensible and unconventional choices, all the way from 1952’s OXO up to Halo 5. But why is this book so tall and wide and square? Because of the bonus at the back: a ten-inch vinyl record (and an MP3 download code for the rest of us). A nice touch, even if the pedestrian 8bit remixes mean it won’t stay on many turntables for long.
06 The Unofficial Game & Watch Collector’s Guide Dave Gschmeidler and Gerhard Meyer
This is the definitive catalogue of Gunpei Yokoi’s “lateral thinking with withered technology”, which saw cheap LCD calculator screens reimagined into pocket games that sold 43 million (and gave birth to the D-pad). The lascivious photos and detail on alternate versions and foreign quirks reflect the fevered passion of collectors who swarm on surviving Game & Watches – the book’s price charts show that 1981’s
Egg is now verging on Fabergé Egg, fetching up to £1,000 in mint condition. It’s also a fine companion to Before Mario, Erik Voskuil’s new book collecting together pre-NES Nintendo toys.
07 Angry Birds: Hatching a Universe
Love or hate Rovio’s feathered band, this is a delight. Ignore the text, which often feels like it’s been borrowed from some insipid Power-Point presentation for shareholders. Focus on how the size of the Angry Birds universe means this can race exhilaratingly through concept art, sketches and merchandise, and the care that’s gone into the pullout stickers, postcards, posters and other tchotchkes tucked away in envelopes.
08 The Art Of Alien: Isolation
The “used future” aesthetic of Isolation’s remarkable environments rightly squeezes out the perhaps overfamiliar xenomorph itself. Glimpses of abandoned characters, weapons and scenarios almost outnumber actual game art, and storyboards and concept sketches are drenched in atmosphere. Fittingly, there’s an alien hiding under the dustcover, too. (Or a sketch of one, at least.)
09 Commodore 64: A Visual Commpendium
The C64 library is still growing; you’ll find recent remakes of Canabalt and
Super Hexagon among the 200-plus pages of screens and artwork here. The swathes of giant pixels are glossily hypnotic, making it easier to forgive the odd moment of sloppy editing and the strange obsession with the making of loading screens. An Amiga-based follow-up has already met its Kickstarter goal.
10 Dark Souls: Design Works
M Kirie Hayashi (translator)
Publisher Udon has a vast selection of art books, often translated from Japanese. This has a slighter pagecount than most and, suitably, offers few hints about the provenance of each image. But the ratio of artwork to text is rewarding, and the monster lineup should prove a stirring reminder of battles fought, won and lost (but mostly lost).
11 Gamescenes Matteo Bittanti and Domenico Quaranta
A curated paper museum of art influenced by or created through videogames. The images are tiny, and much is less than convincing – Brody Condon’s Fake Screenshot Contest is simply a litany of terrible Photoshop efforts – but there are gems, such as Alison Mealey’s Unreal Tournament bot trails, and Aram Bartholl’s playful glasses that superimpose an FPS gun onto your vision.
12 Super iam8bit
Jon M Gibson and others
A second volume of nostalgic game art from an occasional LA gallery exhibition. This is determinedly nondigital: almost all of these personal takes on ’80s games are real paintings, sculptures or – in one case – felt moustaches. There’s lots of work inspired by perennials such as Mario and Pac-Man, but, mystifyingly, it’s Joust that seems to trigger artists’ most frequent and harrowing flashbacks.