Periodically a dream job lands in my lap. In this case it was designing classic stand up arcade game cabinets for Google. How did I get the project? As usual, they found me, I didn't find them. They saw some of my previous work and figured I was the right guy for the job.
As with many of my projects, the brief was pretty loose. "The design of the arcade cabinet should be bright fun and “Googley.” Design elements should convey the spirit of retro gaming with a modern flare. Avoid any actual game characters but think of all the classic themes. Love your style, this is a fairly open brief and should be a lot of fun." That was pretty much it.
In order to not drive myself insane I gave myself some structure to work within. The best thinking usually comes from working within restrictions. Being a child of the 70's and 80's I distinctly remember the first Pac-Man game that was installed at the bowling alley by my house. Then over the next year or two several arcades popped up in the neighborhood. Video game cabinet art was always a dramatization of the game itself. In contrast to the simplistic 8 bit graphics of the games the cabinets were usually wildly elaborate renderings that resembled the back glass from pinball machines.
In light of this, my process started with this thought. If I was 10 years old and a new game called GOOGLE showed up in the arcade one morning, what would the premise of that game be? Would it be a shooter? A maze? A space battle? What would the internet look like as a game in the 80's? My first step was to come up with some simple game ideas. For instance maybe you're a guy who surfs in outer space on a giant arrow, maybe you're a glove character that runs around pressing buttons that open portals? Perhaps you fire rockets shaped like pointers at alien attackers? Once I knew what the games were then I could try to depict them.
My next step was to print out a bunch of blank cabinets and sketch on them. Quick and rough tests to see which ideas had merit. For instance here are the glove and the rocket ideas.
Once I had a couple of ideas I liked I built several rough comps in Illustrator to share with the client. Here are a couple of examples. On the left is a game where you blast shapes (that spell GOOGLE) out of the sky with pointer arrow rockets. On the right is the glove character that I mentioned above.
After the presentation I took the client's feedback and decided to take attributes from several of the favored designs and combine them into one illustration. The rocket came from one design, the explosions from another, and the shapes in the sky were replaced by Android aliens. This basic design formed the platform for the finished product.
Tune in next week for the dramatic conclusion of this project in Part 2