Giant Plastic Alien Heads, Badass Fantasy Art & Video Games

Illustration for article titled Giant Plastic Alien Heads, Badass Fantasy Art & Video Games

Fans of classic rock and fantasy art will no doubt be familiar with the name Roger Dean. The British artist is as synonymous with 1970's prog rock (especially the band Yes) as epic guitar tracks, and his bold, unique art style means you've probably seen and remembered his work, even if you've never remembered his name.

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He also, if that's not cool enough, drew some of the most badass video game covers I've ever seen. And then, just for good measure, came up with one of the strangest (yet most fascinating) ideas arcade gaming has ever seen.

Dean was born in England in 1944, and is a man of many talents: while a graduate of the Royal College of Art, he's also received training in furniture design (with props featured in A Clockwork Orange) and architecture.

But it's his fantasy and science fiction art that defines Dean, often focusing on alien landscapes with long, sweeping features and using bright colours that stand in stark contrast to the grim tones many other artists in the genres employ.

Having become somewhat famous with his work providing such pieces to bands for use as album covers in the 1960s and 1970s, Dean teamed up with British publisher Psygnosis in the mid-80s, and would be responsible for the iconic box art featured on games like Chrono Quest, Shadow of the Beast and, my personal favourite, 1987 fighting game Barbarian.

You can see the covers for those games in the Psygnosis gallery I published last year.

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Yet his most interesting video game work has nothing to do with box art. And everything to do with vintage arcade machines.

When arcade gaming was first taking hold in the 1980s, the cabinets the games would be played on all looked the same: drab brown boxes. It's a big reason awesome art had to be used to help differentiate them!

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Dean (and his brother Martyn, who also worked in similar fields) saw a way around this, and drawing upon their skills in industrial design set about creating cabinets to house an arcade game that were as memorable and entertaining as the games themselves.

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They came up with two designs, one a giant alien bug head, the other an enormous "robot knight", which were sculpted to fit over the top of Taito's Space Invaders cabinets of the time. They were certainly...unique, the bug coming off as maybe a little much while the robot knight, while looking much cooler, looked absolutely terrifying at the same time.

These two designs became known as the Taitans (owing to the publisher they were working with), and while it was hoped they'd be manufactured en masse and used all over the world, by the time the Deans had finished work on them Taito had changed the design of their Space Invaders cabinet and they could never be used.

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Today, a few units survive. Since you'll likely never see one in the flesh, take a look at the images in the gallery above instead, with all pictures courtesy of jamesg22's great site.

Total Recall is a look back at the history of video games through their characters, franchises, developers and trends.

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You can contact Luke Plunkett, the author of this post, at plunkett@kotaku.com. You can also find him on Twitter, Facebook, and lurking around our #tips page.

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Illustration for article titled Giant Plastic Alien Heads, Badass Fantasy Art & Video Games
Illustration for article titled Giant Plastic Alien Heads, Badass Fantasy Art & Video Games
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Illustration for article titled Giant Plastic Alien Heads, Badass Fantasy Art & Video Games
Illustration for article titled Giant Plastic Alien Heads, Badass Fantasy Art & Video Games
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Illustration for article titled Giant Plastic Alien Heads, Badass Fantasy Art & Video Games
Illustration for article titled Giant Plastic Alien Heads, Badass Fantasy Art & Video Games
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Illustration for article titled Giant Plastic Alien Heads, Badass Fantasy Art & Video Games
Illustration for article titled Giant Plastic Alien Heads, Badass Fantasy Art & Video Games
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Illustration for article titled Giant Plastic Alien Heads, Badass Fantasy Art & Video Games
Illustration for article titled Giant Plastic Alien Heads, Badass Fantasy Art & Video Games
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Illustration for article titled Giant Plastic Alien Heads, Badass Fantasy Art & Video Games
Illustration for article titled Giant Plastic Alien Heads, Badass Fantasy Art & Video Games
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Illustration for article titled Giant Plastic Alien Heads, Badass Fantasy Art & Video Games

DISCUSSION

HowardC

"When arcade gaming was first taking hold in the 1980s, the cabinets the games would be played on all looked the same: drab brown boxes."

What country did you live in during the 80's because I don't think it was the US.

First off, in the 80's "generic" cabinets didn't exist yet. Each company had it's own unique "generic" cabient design. (Midway, atari, nintendo, ect). Secondly if the game had a speciality controller it usually got a custom shaped cabinet. (Tron, Gorf, Centipede, ect...). Also many cabinets were given crazy, colorful shapes just for the heck of it. (Bubbles, Wakko, ect..)

Finally, cabinets were ALWAYS either painted colorfully or had very colorful and expressive side art. The only "drab brown" arade cabinet that I know of was Bosconian. Seriously, that's it, they didn't paint cabinets brown.

While an interesting art project, it is quite obvious why these otherwise awesome fiberglass toppers didn't catch on.

1. They aren't officially endorsed by the game manufactuer and don't have any official ties to the game. This is why the characters are a little generic and only vaguely remind you of the games in question. Yup they changed the cab design on you.... that's what happens when you make bootleg cabinets. ;)

2. They block the marquee. You know the thing that advertises what game it is?

3. If you have the special a header on a cab, it better damn well have a special game to go with it. I can see the childern now. "Woah cool! What game is that?..... Oh it's just galaxian, I've played that before, nevermind."