I’ve eagerly awaited the publication of Art of Atari since I first read about author Tim Lapetino’s in-progress book project many years ago. Art of Atari is aesthetically striking in a number of ways. It’s big, heavy, colorful, and exudes the feeling of a quality, professional product. The Deluxe Edition with its cartridge-emulating leather-bound cover and heavy-duty cardboard slipcase is artwork in itself, if you ask me. These were clearly not produced by some fly-by-night publishing house — it’s professional quality through and through. The subject matter necessitated high-quality printing in order to show off color, texture, and other subtleties in the artwork, and the book certainly delivers on that front, using extra-white paper to really make the imagery “pop” off the page. As someone who grew up with Atari (but somehow never owned another console until a PS3), and as someone with an admittedly lacking fantastical imagination, the artwork that accompanied Atari products made an enormous impression on me as a kid. It’s the talented artists and designers under Atari’s employ who deserve the credit for allowing me to dream of ideas and worlds bigger than those generated by glowing phosphor lines on a CRT screen, and Art of Atari does a spectacular job in affording them the recognition and credit they well deserve.
Gamers who grew up with Atari will fondly remember the striking box, instruction manual, and label artwork as artifacts of a bygone time, when dressing up a game in proverbial fancy clothing wasn’t seen as an act of deception or otherwise underhanded. Art of Atari promises to be much more than a simple compendium of artistic sentimentality, however. Tim Lapetino, graphic design director and author of Art of Atari, has gone to great lengths to chronicle memories and stories from the artists and designers themselves. Since Atari artists’ handiwork comes from a time when even game programmers weren’t given credit for their work (let alone artists), Art of Atari will be a long-deserved recognition of their important contributions to video gaming history and lore. On behalf of Atari.IO, I spoke with the author earlier this year about his project-turned-book labor of love.
In Moffett Park, a partition of land in Sunnyvale, California carved out between Caribbean Drive and Highway 237, lay the remains of what was once home to boundless imagination, creativity and wonder. Once upon a time this was home to the most magical company on Earth. This was home to Atari. The experience of walking around these buildings was surreal. It felt like a dead theme park. While modern companies and tech start-ups breathe new life into old offices, all you see is what once was. Like an old phone booth sitting broken and unused in the parking lot of an abandoned K-Mart. The phone booth had once been a ubiquitous part of daily life that once housed Clark Kent in his transformation into Superman, now it’s obsolete and the world around it has moved on. These are broken pieces of a fallen once-mighty empire. If you squint you can still see it.