In his exploration of the hacked PlayStation games on sale at a Nairobi shopping center, Joe Keiser characterized pirate-game publisher Syrian Games as “video game cover artists of great vision and poise.” That only begins to describe the treasures that have emerged from the Syrian Games Photoshop lab. (If you haven’t read Joe’s report yet, you should start there and then come back for more amazement. It’s worth it, trust me.)
The library of game covers in the company’s online back catalog is a nearly bottomless well of delight. The Syrian Games image-manipulation maestro seems to have hit his or her peak during the heyday of the PlayStation and PlayStation 2. The covers for those systems’ pirated games—which number in the thousands—demonstrate a well-considered lunacy, a dadaist disregard for the conventions of the source material. (The covers for most of the company’s Xbox and Wii ripoffs, on the other hand, simply steal the art from the original game, part and parcel. How trite!)
We know little about Syrian Games. The description on their “About Us” page is a single word. Their contact page lists their location as Damascus—the capital city, currently in paralysis and acting as president Bashar Assad’s stronghold in the Syrian civil war. Given the all-consuming viciousness of the war, it’s hard to imagine that Syrian Games is a going concern right now. But we genuinely hope that the people responsible for these bizarre images are doing okay, because their work is hilarious.
Although the aesthetic varies wildly, you can discern fragments of an artistic style running through the covers. There’s a fondness for rainbows, for instance, and a strong predilection for tropical backdrops with sunny blue skies (even when the title explicitly calls for darkness). But other touches are perplexingly isolated. On the Hitman cover, why does Agent 47 have a heart tattoo? Why is Snoopy a panda in one version of Snoopy: The Red Baron’s cover—and why make two versions? Since when is Jim Carrey’s character from The Mask a superhero?
We’ve selected a few of our favorite covers for the gallery you see below. We could have included hundreds more. The images are presented without further comment because honestly, what can you say?