designer Hock Wah Yeo’s stunning video game packaging

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Yeo’s groundbreaking work in the gaming industry eventually faded into obscurity. Aside from a loyal following of fans who continue to stalk Yeo’s work online, often paying hundreds of dollars to get hold of an original. Ultrabots, his impact had been largely forgotten – until 2021, when gaming historian Phil Salvador published an article about his career. Later the same year, Colpa Press published the first monograph on the designer. The renewed interest in Yeo’s work has meant a lot of revisits for the designer, something he says he enjoys, like a period full of fond memories. The only hardship, Yeo jokes, comes from having to “dig into the depths of my memory to find out why I did this or how I created that”.

Although Yeo hasn’t kept up with the gaming world, he still falls asleep thinking about design issues. To this day, he experiments with forms, now through ceramics and, although he has no architectural training, he recently built an outbuilding at his home in California: a corrugated iron cyberpunk creation with rose petals embedded in the walls.

Looking back on Yeo’s career in video games today, it would be easy to conclude that the commercial industry is the antithesis of creativity, but the real story isn’t quite so clear cut. Yeo’s designs worked because they brought something artistic, visceral and exciting to a space where experimentation is unexpected. His work is a compelling reminder of what can happen when a client opts for the riskiest option, for the uncharted choice. They begin to shape an everyday world where rose petals might hide in the walls and severed heads lie under the lids of boxes.

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