For me, the boxes were always part of the experience - and why I never really bought into pirated games in the way many of my peers did. I wanted games delivered in the way their creators intended - with the manuals, and box artwork, and all the razzmatazz. Even now, holding an old game in its original packaging can send a shiver along my spine. Although, that might just be a herniated disc.
Ha ha - I'm probably going to end up in a wheelchair!
Anyway, with downloading fast becoming the standard way in which games are delivered, packaging, alas, seems to be dying out. Yes, that's good for the environment, of course (though, frankly, do we really need all those polar bears? I've never even seen one in real life, so it's not like I'm going to miss them), but it also - for me - dilutes the emotions a bit.
With this in mind, let us now celebrate the golden age of games packaging.
The cardboard box had been invented in 1817 by the British firm M.Treverton & Son (though there is some argument that it was first created concurrently with a German company, who used it for a strategy board game called The Game of Beseiging).
You can trace the history of cardboard back even further, to China in the first or second century BC, where mulberry tree bark was used to wrap food (note: the Chinese also invented paper and "whispers").
Jumping forward a few thousand years, Atari packaged its VCS games in large cardboard boxes, containing a cardboard frame which held the cartridge in place, along with a manual.
Famously, the fully painted artwork on many 2600 game boxes wouldn't have looked out of place hanging in the art gallery. Paradoxically, the graphics of most Atari 2600 games looked like somebody had attempted art therapy with a box of geometric Fuzzy Felts while in the midst of a full-on psychotic episode.
Invented in Beligium in the early-1960s, the "compact cassette" was originally used for dictation machines. It started to become popular as an audio format when Sony released its iconic Walkman personal cassette player in 1979, thus introducing many youths to this popular parental phrase: "You'll damage your ears".
Software for most home computers - prior to those which favoured floppy disks - used the standard cassette tape case; a hinged plastic shell, into which the tape fit snuggly... with just enough room for an inlay card featuring instructions and cover artwork. Some early-to-mid 1980s games were bundled in larger, custom, packaging which helped them stand out on shelves or to include a novel or something, but generally most games used this standardised format.
When I wasn't using cassette cases to store my games, I'd remove the cassette and fold the case back on itself so that the clear front stood vertically. I would then use them for my Star Wars action figures, as one of those clear glass computer planning screen things the Rebels had on Yavin IV.
I was the coolest kid in my school.
A few publishers used their own variation on this format - notably EA (whose cartridge design also bucked the trend). Sega's cartridge case wasn't hugely removed from the sort of cases which would later become accepted for DVDs, but at the time it was suitably distinct from the packaging of its closest rival. Who dat? Nintendooooo... ooo... oooh nooooo! Nooo! Oh nooooo!
Admittedly, there was a degree of faff involved when removing a Nintendo game from its packaging - and even more faff when returning it and trying to keep the inner frame intact - but somehow the unique printed sleeve made SNES games feel special in a way that the Mega Drive's mass-produced plastic cases didn't.
Admittedly though, the cardboard hasn't held up to the ravages of time as well as plastic cartridge boxes. Much like YOUR MOTHER'S FACE.
There was no standard PC games packaging for much of the late-80s to mid-90s - and the size and dimensions of the boxes tended to vary quite a bit. Sometimes they'd be absolutely huge, occasionally to house multiple diskettes and a big, thick, manual.
Other times, a single disk would be rattling around inside - making it pretty clear that the size of the packaging was solely an attempt to draw attention to itself. You know: like a peacock does when it "fans" its "plume".
Certainly, it made storing PC games a right pain in the brownsie.
There have been variations of course - Nintendo, obviously, didn't need an off-the-shelf DVD case for the Switch, but even that design is effectively a slimmed-down version of such packaging. On the one hand... this is good when it comes to displaying your games on a shelf. On the other hand, it's ever so slightly disappointing that the basic packaging for games rarely surprises - regardless of the publisher or format. The homogenisation of gaming is complete.
Yes, yes - before you whinge, we do, of course, get variations on the theme; steel cases, cardboard sleeves, and other custom special edition packagings - full of tat which, frankly, you really need to have a word with yourself about if you're ever tempted by. And!