On a sidewalk outside my apartment, there is a piece of graffiti on a breaker box that takes inspiration from the classic Mario character Bob-omb. He sports some interesting additions, such as arms and a spliff, but still, the resemblance is uncanny. The golf course across the street used to have a larger version, but I suppose the country club didn't appreciate it. Now all that remains is an unobtrusive white square on the side of a small dam.
Still, this Bob-omb guy gets around the greater Dallas area, popping up in various alleyways and warehouses in the metroplex. I've seen him so many times and in so many different places that it's piqued my interest about gaming graffiti. Has anyone ever tried to catalog this little piece of gaming art?
I turned to the Internet and found out some interesting facts. Apparently, the little guy has also shown up in Austin as well! You can actually look through this list of Reddit comments to see some of the various sightings between the two cities.
The drive from Dallas to Austin is a trek down Interstate 35, and it's a trip I have taken numerous times. But even though I've traveled on I-35 numerous times, I've never noticed the 10 Bob-ombs that guide my way — five in each direction. It seems the artist has made the same trip I have at least once before. The graffiti has also popped up in various locations around Austin. Austin is well known for being a bit antiestablishment, with mottos like "keep Austin weird," and I would assume that a graffiti artist could find an audience in that city. That might explain why he or she has left his or her mark in both cities, as well as between them.
I can't help but draw a bit of a connection between this graffiti and actually playing video games. It reminds me of a time when gaming was a little bit antiestablishment. The public viewed it as an unhealthy counterculture made up of basement-dwelling hermits and antisocial geeks. In the early '90s, I can remember going to the local bowling alley and watching the older kids perform fatalities in Mortal Kombat, one of the first titles to draw fire because of its violent content. A few years later, armed with a 486 system, I would be tipping strippers and blasting Pig Cops in Duke Nukem 3D. Pixilated boobs on a 15-inch CRT monitor never looked so good.
Over time, people saw the potential for success that the medium had in the mass market. Soon after, long-held prejudices and stereotypes began to subside. Now games are on par with movies and music, capable of generating billions of dollars in sales. We have huge marketing campaigns aimed at every demographic imaginable.
Despite this, we still cling to the antiestablishment culture of our roots. We hear news of hackers combating corporate goliaths and fans celebrating countercultural icons like Mortal Kombat and Duke Nukem. I still enjoy both these franchises as much as the next fan, if only for nostalgia's sake. They seem kind of quaint now. Regardless, you can't argue that in their day, these franchises were the "bad boys" of the industry, and we loved them for it. Whether or not we still do has yet to be seen, but developers seem to think it's worth a shot.
In the end, it leaves me to wonder what other graffiti the hobby has inspired around the world. I have myself have seen one other piece that reminds me of a famous gaming icon. It was on the John Lennon Peace Wall in Prague. You might recognize him.
If you have any other examples of game-themed graffiti, post 'em in the comments!