by on Sep 2, 2019

Game Box Art Critique: Borderlands 3, Link’s Awakening, PES 2020

Each month, we invite élite art critic Braithwaite Merriweather to appraise the box art of the latest game releases. In between his time spent wandering the corridors of culture, Merriweather writes on a freelance basis for various publications, including Snitters and Nuneaton à la Carte. If you are unaware of his prowess, rest assured; he’s on a crusade to educate the unwashed. Put simply, he’s a man that needs no introduction.

As I write this, I’m sitting in the Saatchi Gallery. The weather has cooled. The summer has started to shiver, and we will soon be surrounded by coats and coughs. I am perusing the Nancy Cadogan: Mind Zero exhibition, and I feel the need to stop and reflect – rather like the pale blue figure in Cadogan's ‘A Room of One's Own.’ The website has sent through my usual bundle of box covers, and I feel myself given over to a fluttering of reverie; like Proust, I am borne back ceaselessly into the past by cakes. Although, there are actually no cakes. There are game box art covers. But I still find myself transported to the past.

Borderlands 3

There was a time when I frolicked in the frivolity of youth like a potbellied pig merrily rolling itself in a duvet of the finest filth. It was, needless to say, during my studies. Hearts were broken, dalliances were danced, and art was made. However, after the excesses of that period, I found myself in need of spiritual sobriety and enrichment. I needed, in a way, to say Goodbye to All That. This was – I’m sure you have already gleaned – before I met my ex-wife (in the same way the wrongly accused meets a set of manacles). As part of my pilgrimage, I ventured to Brazil, wherein I happened upon the Santa Ifigênia Church and was transfixed by the figure of the Sacred Heart in the very centre of a rose window. This was a religious experience, to be sure, but the higher power was no god; it was Art!

This ‘Borderlands 3’ made me feel as though I was being lured back to that enlightened place by a puckish demon imp. The picture is a parody of the Sacred Heart, yes, but it looks as if it were painted with the emptied-out powder of a firework – sickly-bright and ready to burn. Yes yes, the entire thing is primed to blow! The grenade at the heart of it all, the splayed and radiant guns, and this clearly deranged individual in the midst of it all, who reminds me – with his mask and his glowing glare – like the pest control man I called for, back when I had trouble with a gang of particularly brutish rats. I find this work a limp and pseudo-intellectual attempt at beggary – for attention, for a laugh, for commendation – when it is, in fact, a work of cowardice. That pin needs pulling!

The Legend of Zelda: Link’s Awakening

The box art for ‘The Legend of Zelda: Link’s Awakening’ has a rum, quaint, and faintly outrageous Warholian property to it. The fellow squatting in the foreground reminds me of a toy that was the object of my affections when I was a child. This trinket, a small wooden soldier bequeathed to me by my grandfather, had the same blank, determined stare that I would later encounter in the form of my sculpture tutor, in the Hildebrand-Rothchild St John-Benson-Brandruthson institute of fine, contemporary, and experimental art: the same wooden personality, immovable stubbornness, and illusions of grandeur. And what was it all for? Because I want to cover myself in clay for an installation open day and demonstrate the boundlessness of the sculptural form by chasing the applicants.

Small-minded tutors to one side, this little toy fellow has curious features: beady black eyes, glossy plastic bootlets, and hair with a felt finish. The creator behind this work seems almost to be calling attention to the toylike nature of the medium, just as Warhol blew up the minutiae of advertising and other gauche 20th century ephemera. The world that looms behind this elfin fellow is as bright as boiled sweets, and gazing at this work I feel myself returning to my inner child – reminded of that little toy soldier, and where is it now, all these years on? Where are any of us, really: the toy soldiers of our own lives, marching ceaselessly on in our mission to break free of our rigid wooden lives, hoping, indeed, for an awakening!

eFootball PES 2020

When I first saw the title of this work, as I looked at the envelope, I presumed that this venerable website had accidentally sent me a print of the wrong thing: a new type of vaping apparatus, candy dispenser, or E number. Imagine my surprise when I tore the package open and was met with this monstrosity. Whatever ‘eFootball PES 2020’ actually means is beyond me, but it matters not; I am merely a conduit for the art, and it is through me that you will gain a superior understanding of the crassness of this work. That Warhol should rear his head a second time in one month is a curious pattern of fate, but it is a thing of great sorrow when such a second strike of lightning should feel like the recrudescence of some foul thought-to-be-cured affliction of the body and spirit is doubly damning.

I am reminded – you will doubtless be nodding yourself into neck pain with disgusted agreement – of Warhol’s ‘Quadrant Mickey Mouse/Myths, 1981.’ These four men who adorn the cover – mythical figures, I’m sure, to all the lollygagging football fans out there – in various states of exertion, remind me of that irritating mouse, which Warhol cast in pastel colours and copied into quadrants. If Warhol meant to put the mouse under a magnifying glass and replicate the strange obsessions of our cartoon culture, then he failed. He came up with the sort of tat that belongs on an IKEA wall, and perhaps that was the point. I would say that this ‘eFootball PES 2020’ has failed in similar fashion, if I thought for a moment it had any sort of mission in mind.


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Borderlands 3

on PC, PlayStation 4, PlayStation 5, Xbox One, Xbox Series X

Release Date:

31 December 2019