Growing up in a British coastal town during the 1980/90s, much of my youth (and pocket money) was misspent in the video game arcades that lined the seafront. Of course, my mates and I had consoles and home computers, but these never quite captured the excitement of the coin-op experience. Coin-op versions were simply faster, louder, and better looking; the screens were bigger, the control systems more elaborate and fun, and it was easier to team up with or play against another person. Seeing all those games lined up in nice neat rows, each one vying for your attention and coinage, was simply intoxicating.
In recent years we’ve had a number of books focusing on the games, their visuals and the creators, but perhaps one of the more underappreciated aspects of classic games culture is that of the artwork that adorned the wooden arcade cabinets. Not only did this serve as a means to sell the games to potential players and to allow your favourites to be quickly identified from afar, but it helped bridge the sizeable gap between the reality of the graphics and the player’s imagination. Inspired by comic books, manga, and fantasy art, these colourful and often mesmerising illustrations were very much a part of the magic and escapism of the arcades.