Royal Mail has revealed its first special issue stamps of 2020 will be a collection dedicated to classic UK-designed videogames.
The set consists of 12 stamps which have been designed by Supple Studio, in consultation with graphic designer and video game expert Sam Dyer, video game expert Julian Rignall, and the Association for UK Interactive Entertainment.
It traces the story of the UK’s contribution to videogaming, beginning in the early 1980s with Elite (1984) and ending with a four-part celebration of Tomb Raider protagonist Lara Croft, who made her first appearance in 1996.
“Each game featured is ground breaking in its own way”
The project began with a longlist of potential games to feature. This was narrowed down by Dyer, and then finalised by Royal Mail to nine titles.
Games were chosen not only based on the ability to obtain the appropriate rights, but also with consideration for which ones were actually available to UK gamers at the time, according to Jamie Ellul, creative director at Supple. “All of them could have been played by UK gamers on UK consoles,” he says.
Dyer, who’s publishing company Bitmap Books specialises in retro gaming literature, adds: “Where we ended up was a really good mix from early eighties to late nineties, and each game featured is ground breaking in its own way.”
“Each stamp had around 50 versions”
Each design started with “literally hundreds” of in-play screengrabs, according to Ellul. From there, the team began playing around with the stamp furniture – that is, the mandatory queen’s head and price, and then titles of the games themselves.
“However simple they might look, each stamp ended up having around 50 potential versions,” says Ellul. “It really was a case of trial and error.”
A subtle nod to each original game can be found here. “We borrowed the typography from each game for all the stamp,” says Dyer, who points out the typographies therefore transition from pixelated in the case of Dizzy (1987), Populous (1989) and Lemmings (1991), to less so as the stamps reach WipeOut (1995) and the later editions of Tomb Raider.
After designing the stamps themselves, the Supple Studio team moved to the additional special release material. The Classic Video Games collection features a presentation pack, complete with Tomb Raider Miniature sheet, post cards and first day covers.
“Recognising the work of past designers”
Nostalgia was a big part of the design process, according to both Ellul and Dyer. For Ellul, working on the Sensible Soccer (1992) stamp took him back to his adolescence, he says.
Dyer adds: “Researching the project – going to back to playing the games – was always going to be fun.
“But more than that, what’s really special is recognising the work of designers who created these games 30 years ago – who probably had no idea about this collection until it got unveiled.”
The Video Games Special Issue stamp collection will be available from 21 January. Prices start at £4.20 for a book of six first-class stamps, and £4.50 for display materials.