Box art – what’s the big deal?

The last month in gaming has seen a string of complaints surrounding the cover art for high-profile upcoming releases Fuse and more particularly, BioShock Infinite. While the art behind both games has been met with much criticism, Insomniac have stood firm on their stance of taking creative risks, with Irrational Games taking a similar approach despite offering a selection of six reversible covers for gamers to choose from, due to the uproar. But what gives us the right, as gamers, to kick up such a fuss over something most of us will only ever look at when unpackaging a game for the first time?

BioShock Infinite’s boxart was revealed for the first time recently (see below) and met with scathing reviews from fanboys alike, mainly criticising the artwork for being too “generic”. While an argument can certainly be presented against its uninspired design, it still looks pretty damn cool and will catch the eye of those who know nothing about the game – which, according to the game’s Creative Director Ken Levine, is exactly its intended purpose.

“We went and did a tour… around to a bunch of, like, frathouses and places like that. People who were gamers. Not people who read IGN. And [we] said, so, have you guys heard of BioShock? Not a single one of them had heard of it.

And we live in this very special… you know, BioShock is a reasonably successful franchise, right? Our gaming world, we sometimes forget, is so important to us, but… there are plenty of products that I buy that I don’t spend a lot of time thinking about. My salad dressing. If there’s a new salad dressing coming out, I would have no idea. I use salad dressing; I don’t read Salad Dressing Weekly. I don’t care who makes it, I don’t know any of the personalities in the salad dressing business.

For some people, [games are] like salad dressing. Or movies, or TV shows. It was definitely a reality check for us.”

— BioShock Infinite Creative Director Ken Levine

Levine’s words create a sense of irony regarding the larger gaming community; if the company is directing the game’s cover towards the uninformed market, what right do we, as the informed, have to condemn it? After all, we’re the ones who revere the BioShock series and are well aware of the expectations and hype surrounding the upcoming third installment.

Would people still be saying the same thing if this was the latest Call of Duty game? The box arts for the last four releases in the aforementioned franchise have been near identical – but can anyone recall any form of mayhem surrounding the unveiling of their cover art?

Comparisons of recent Call of Duty games – as generic as they come?

Can the lack of chaos regarding Call of Duty be attributed to the fact that we expect nothing more from the generic shooter year after year (that would include cover art as well, seemingly)? Are we a prejudicial bunch or are we only so critical because we want to see the games we love succeed? “All of the above” is probably the most accurate answer these days.

It would seem, as though, that companies are willing to abide by our every demand. Whether we’re still on the topic of Infinite’s cover art or even Mass Effect 3’s dubious ending – developers and publishers are going to lengths previously unheard of to keep consumers happy, and that’s not exactly a good thing. It’s important for developers to maintain control and be satisfied with the product they’ve created – backing down and providing alternate content (in the case of Mass Effect 3) tells us that developers are questioning their efforts, which in turn could lead to future expansions/titles failing in an effort to please everyone.

Of course, sometimes are unified opinion can do good, in the case of Capcom’s on-disc DLC fiasco with Street Fighter X Tekken. That is an example of a case where action was necessary – had gamers not spoken up, Capcom would still potentially be utilising the unethical practice.

So are gamers right to feel “entitled” enough to kick up a fuss about something as trivial as box art? Perhaps it’s due to the advent of the internet and social media, but has our growing connection to developers blurred the line between business and consumer? The increasing negativity within many communities would suggest we consider ourselves as much a part of the design process as the actual developers.

We should be content with what is given to us – unfortunately, social media allows the negative opinions of the few to amplify and far outweigh those who are happy with the product. This inherent sense of entitlement is nothing short of a plague subconsciously seeping through the worldwide gaming scene, and ultimately hurts all parties involved.