Retro fix–Art of Atari, a great flashback to hours of 1970s and 1980s gameplay


If you didn’t live through life with an original Pong video game console or the groundbreaking Atari 2600, then you missed out on the beginning of the video game phenomenon.  Coinciding with the advent of the coin-op video game, the home version ultimately sold 30 million units, making Atari the legendary brand it became to this day.  And it all started with a couple of visionaries and an idea to get a dot on a television screen to be moved using the vertical and horizontal hold.  The history of Atari is interwoven with the early history of Steve Jobs and Steve Wozniak of Apple fame, the founder of the Chuck E. Cheese pizza and gaming parlors, creators who would leave to form competitor Activision, and countless others who finally get their story told in Tim Lapetino’s book, Art of Atari.  We have a preview of the book for readers below, courtesy of Dynamite Entertainment.

If you’re like many, including Lapetino, you likely threw away the boxes that housed the video game cartridges to your Atari 2600 immediately after getting the game home.  If you missed out on the Atari games altogether, like classic games Breakout, Space Invaders, Pac-Man, Asteroids, Centipede, Pole Position, Jungle Hunt, and hundreds more, you may not be aware of the role the box art played for early video game buyers.  The artwork on the boxes was much closer to the video game realities of today than the original games of the past, which frequently were as simple as boxes and line barriers with the same dot representing a football, a cannonball, a bullet, or a laser bolt.  But, as the designers interviewed in the book recall, it just didn’t matter.  It didn’t really, as the new form of gameplay was exciting in its own right.  Yet the box art is memorable for many, providing an easy recall to every game from Atari you once owned in an instant flashback.

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Lapetino provides interviews with former Atari designers and staff, including those who created everything from the games, to the consoles, and the marketing materials that sold it all.  The artists who created the box art are identified and featured in their own sections.  No doubt Atari fans will likely encounter games they’ve never seen, including countless movie tie-ins.  You might recall the Raiders of the Lost Ark game and the infamous E.T., the Extra-Terrestrial, but how about Superman, Dukes of Hazzard, Pigs in Space, and Gremlins?

Influences of the artists, art of the era that seeped into the box art, and art that was shared in concept such as that of the Wonder Woman TV series and The Beatles Yellow Submarine album are all discussed, as well as the classic fonts selected from the 1920s that would forever establish what we think of as futuristic to this day.  Sourced from private collections, the book spans over 40 years of the company’s illustrations used in packaging, advertisements, catalogs, and more, in its nearly 350 pages.  Here is a preview:

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Art of Atari takes a look at an entrepreneurial company, its marketing department and strategies, and what worked and what didn’t in the past, which may prove helpful to students of marketing and public relations today.  The book features a forward by Ernest Cline, author of Ready Player One, soon to be a motion picture directed by Steven Spielberg.

The standard edition of Art of Atari is available now at Amazon here, and a deluxe edition, available here, includes the following extras:

  • A Deluxe Edition slipcase capturing the design of vintage game packaging
  • A unique, leather-bound Deluxe Edition Game Cartridge cover design for the actual book
  • An Atari Vault Steam Key, with 100 of the most popular iconic games (including Asteroids, Centipede, Missile Command, and more), now with online multiplayer capability
  • A frameable Limited Edition Print featuring brand-new artwork by original Atari artist Cliff Spohn


Also recounted in the documentary Atari: Game Over, reviewed here at, the history of coin-op and home video games in Dynamite Entertainment’s Art of Atari is a great trip back to the 1970s and 1980s, sure to bring back memories for players who lived through it, and a historical document for modern video gamers who want to learn about the origins of modern gaming.

C.J. Bunce

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