A Critical Theory Blog


This critical analysis is based around a recent project I am currently undertaking. I recently created a logo and as such a “brand identity” for a hypothetical website called Retro Game Review. The purpose of the website is to provide a reasonable outlook on “retro” video games in order to preserve them and introduce them to a newer audience of gamers. Most of the information will take place through streaming video reviews, showing clips of game-play with audio commentary to give the viewer a rounded experience of the game. The experience is an audio-visual alternative to a magazine or other written review. With the emergence, success and growth of the Internet, this medium seems to be a natural solution for reflection on the nature of the subject, which is almost entirely screen-based itself.

“The World Wide Web could now fashion a much larger class of earlier media. In addition to the scientific report, it could now remediate the magazine, the newspaper and graphic advertising.”

(Bolter and Grusin 2000:198)

The next stage of the current project will involve creating a set of motion graphic pieces that will appear at intervals during these videos, which will act as a continuation of the site’s brand identity.

Old And New Media

Over the past century, advances in technology have completely changed the way we communicate. We can now categorise these methods of communication into two simple types; old media and new media. Old media is generally considered to be traditional forms of communication, such as print and photography. Magazines are considered to be a form of old media. When a consumer buys a magazine, the limited content within defines what is read.

A lot of the inspiration for this project came from an old media source; a magazine called Retro Gamer. The image above is from the cover of the most recent edition of the magazine, which promotes the article about the 1980 Atari game Missile Command. Certain features of the magazine remain consistent throughout each cover, making up the brand identity. These features include the title, magazine description and use of the “old!” graphic in the top left hand corner, which is a reference to the graphics on the ZX Spectrum console. The typeface used in the title seems more reflective of video-gaming in general, whereas the visual elements used reflect games and themes associated with more specific retro gaming. The contrast shows the bringing of retro-gaming to the modern day. The main visual imagery is not just a mimicry of the game it is portraying, but an interesting bricolage or “active manipulation of signs” referring to  Atari and retro gaming (Baudrillard 1981:5).

ZX Spectrum Console


On one level this magazine cover acts as a simulation of the original packaging for the game Missile Command. The rough edges printed along the outside of the page simulate those from the cardboard box that the game was originally packaged in. A variation of the box art has also been used in the centre of the page, along with a similar typographical layout which was common to all Atari games. Even the representation of the hand-written price label is a simulation of a real sticker. Despite this transition from the real to simulation however, the viewer knows that this is not a cardboard box. Baudrillard refers to this as the first level of simulation (Lane 2000:30). This is the least complex level of simulation, whereby it is obvious to the viewer that they are witnessing a fake rather than reality.