“Art Of Atari” Review

Hardcover copy of "Art Of Atari", by Tim Lapetino.

Hardcover copy of “Art Of Atari”, by Tim Lapetino.

Art Of Atari1 by Tim Lapetino is wonderful, and should be considered the definitive visual-history of, not just the artwork used on game cartridge boxes, but of Atari and its video game products (home and coin-op) as well.  Lapetino has put together something special, which captures the spirt of the classic design and art style of Atari.  A look that helped defined that late-70’s sense of the future.  Lovingly crafted, “Art Of Atari” is not, however, a fully comprehensive history of the company.  While, ultimately a wonderful book, its exclusions are generally minor, but curious.

Printed on thick and glossy paper and bound in a thick and heavy hard-cover, “Art Of Atari” comes in at just over a hefty four pounds.  The 9.5×11 layout is big enough for the books specular imagery, while being reasonably comfortable to hold.  This is a good thing because, at just over 350 pages, the book is rather long and engrossing – you may find yourself losing time as you go through it.  It even includes a handy, built-in, bookmark, just-in-case.  The entire experience oozes quality.

The first forty or so pages of “Art Of Atari” detail the history of the company, including background on its art and design philosophy.  Attention is also given to the history of Atari video game hardware, including the XE-Game System, Lynx, and Jaguar.  These last, Jack Tramiel-era, items seem odd inclusions, considering the book doesn’t even mention the XL/XE/ST generations home computers at all.  By Page 56, you are into the collection of box-art, and it is glorious.

Across nearly 300 pages, high resolution images of each games box is accompanied by a short description and a screenshot of the game itself.  Best of all, each includes a quote from the artist themselves, offering insight and background into the piece, or corporate history behind it.  Frequently, the history will include unused or concept art as well.  For an old-school video game geek, “Art Of Atari” is a wonderful way to time-travel back to the golden-era of video games.

In addition, several of the artists themselves are profiled, such as Cliff Spohn, Susan Jaekel, Terry Hoff, Marc Ericksen, etc.  The book also goes deeper into the history the Atari 2600 versions of Pac-Man and E.T. – the companies most controversial game releases.  It also includes chapters on Atari’s Hardware/Industrial Design philosophy from that era, and even dives into Atari’s old advertising and marketing materials.  “Art Of Atari” is not just a high quality and lovingly crafted book that is fun to read, it is also a ridiculous value – frequently priced between $21-26.

Art Of Atari2, by Tim Lapetino –

Pros:

  • The finest visual history of Atari video games, and the artwork associated with them.
  • Incredibly well sourced and written.
  • A very high-quality, and well-crafted product.

Cons:

  • Missing out on the XL/XE/ST lines of Atari computers is minor, given the company is most famous for its video games, but is still an odd exclusion.

References   [ + ]

1, 2. Amazon Referral Link

Mike Knotts

Mike Knotts was born in 1968 in a small town in southern Indiana. Even when very young, Mike showed a love for all-things technical and sci-fi. Moving with his family to California in the early 80's, he eventually graduated from UC Santa Barbara with a degree in History. Rather than put that to good use, Mike continued to pursue his passion for technology by working for early, regional ISP's in the mid 1990's. He currently resides in the Pacific Northwest, where he works as a project manager for an Internet startup. Mike is a co-founder of Geekometry.

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