Earlier today I glanced by an article about the box art for Mafia II being revealed. I don't have much interest in this game, although I will most likely check it out. For whatever reason after looking at it I thought of the box art for Heavy Rain (as seen above) and how they in some ways illustrate how video games are and how they should be. In the case of Heavy Rain the color tone of the box is dark and eerie but the main focus is on the characters. All the four main characters are prominently showed (although the female in a tank top is most prominently displayed, go figure). Compare that to Mafia II, four 50's era mobsters standing around with guns. Although I like the lighting in the Mafia II cover it shares the most common cover theme in all games, character(s) standing around with guns/weapons. See: Mass Effect 2, Modern Warfare 2, Assassin's Creed II etc.
While not all games have that, most do and I think it really shows the lack of care about a story or character in most games. Instead of a interesting quote or interesting looking characters to sell a game marketing relies on "here's the dude you play, and there's the thing he'll use to kill people." There's of course always room for games like that and box art to go along with it. I am just hoping in the long run we will see more thought out box art like Heavy Rain that communicates a richer story underneath. With all the marketing and blogs and videos and such around today there is no need to spell out exactly what the game is on the cover like some very early movie posters had to. I think we should be seeing more of who the game is about instead of what the game is. I don't think box art should be as throw-away as it seems to be. How many times can you take your main character put him in a cool pose and slap a big ass logo over it?
Above is a poster for one of my all time favorite movies, Children of Men. All we have in this poster is Clive Owen hiding behind a wall and the title. Anyone passing this will probably be intrigued. Would you have guessed this move is about a near future world where women can't make babies anymore? Probably not but this gets the job done without throwing it all in your face by having Clive Owen standing in front of a backdrop of a world gone to hell with a baby in one hand and a gun in another. I think this lack of creativity on box art speaks even more to the lack of creativity of protagonists in games, but that is an entirely different discussion. Unfortunately the move toward digital distribution will soon make box art obsolete but that may be a blessing, with less riding on shelf presence could give artists some more freedom of expression.