I was very sad to learn this morning that Bob Wakelin has passed away. Bob was not a games programmer; he was not a musician. In fact, he did not work on any of the games we loved at all. Nonetheless, he made an enormous impact on our gaming lives with his work. Bob was the cover artist for Ocean Software.
Cover art was an extremely important part of our game-buying experience. For gamers, it was our first glimpse into the new world we were about to inhabit. It offered the promise of intense sci-fi shoot 'em up action, the chance of sporting greatness or a trip to a fantastical world. For software houses, it was the first opportunity to attempt to seduce the money from the pockets of impressionable youngsters.
Bob Wakelin was one of the best seducers of all.
There's not a person who owned a computer in the Eighties who doesn't have a favourite piece of Bob Wakelin artwork. His covers for both Ocean and Imagine were... ARE both iconic and legendary. Not only that, many of them served as inspiration for the loading screens for the games whose boxes they adorned, further drawing us into our newly-purchased games. That artwork was an incredibly important starting point for a game, for everyone concerned.
Bob's art was so good that we wanted it as posters. In a way, we got that. How many of us cut or pulled adverts for games out of magazines and stuck them on our bedroom walls? Of those that did, I'm willing to bet that some of them were for Ocean Software's games. I know that the Parallax advert, in particular, was on my wall for ages, and there were many others over time.
Of course, an artist of Bob's talent was not restricted purely to computer games but it's for those that he will be chiefly remembered, and with almost unlimited fondness. I'm sure it would have been so easy to bang out generic, uninteresting covers, especially if it was about a subject in which he had no interest, but take a look at Bob's efforts and they're all real pieces of art.
In recent years, Bob has been a presence on social media and at gaming events around the country, providing many of his fans with the opportunity to meet one of their idols from their youth, buy pieces of his work, have it signed and get to know and befriend him. As a result of this, his loss will be felt even more greatly this morning by many people than it might otherwise have been. We may have lost the man, but his art is indelible and I like to think it will be enjoyed by gamers for centuries to come.