ARTCADE: The Interview with Tim & Sam


So much has been covered in the recent video interview with Tim Nicholls with Artcade (as shown in the YouTube video below) we would like to get some questions from the team here at GYL and also for our community.

We had a direct line into Artcade Author Tim Nicholls and Publisher Sam Dyer of Bitmap Books to get the in depth story of Artcade which has just recently released. Read this exclusive interview below... 

Our original unboxing:

SAM DYER - Bitmap Books

Sam Dyer

GYL: Sam...tell us about why Bitmap Books felt this was an important book to collaborate on

SAM: A few reasons really. The first been that Artcade really fitted into our style of books of high quality art books that focus on the visual side of things. I thought it would really compliment our other books in the range and the arcades is something we haven’t covered yet. Secondly, I wanted to try and help Tim as he helped me right at the beginning of setting up Bitmap Books, giving me lots of great advice.


Tim needed a publisher that was trusted and well known to bring the project alive. It was also important that Tim’s original vision for the book was respected and the book still felt like his. 

GYL: Were there any particular challenges from a print reproduction or finishing side..or even the size of book for delivery?!

SAM: Not really, Tim had a really strong view on how the book should work so it was a case of bringing it all together and making the files print ready. I’m really pleased with how the book has turned out. The colours are really bright and the imagery just jumps off the page.

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GYL: Do you think it's important to show this archive of arcade art?

SAM: Absolutely. If this stuff isn’t recorded now while it’s so in-vouge, it will be lost forever. The marquees are real pieces of artwork made by real artists. It’s pretty much irrelevant that they were for arcade machines as they hold up on their own as an art form.

It’s great that all this artwork is now captured in book form and can be referred to in years to come.

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GYL: Will you be publishing any similar books related to the arcade in the future?

GYL: We hope so. I’m currently bending Tim’s arm to do a follow up book as he still has loads of artwork this didn’t make the book!


Tim Nicholls

GYL: Tell us about the early thoughts of the arcade art book and how this came about?

TIM: When I originally started restoring the artwork I acquired from a Hollywood movie props company that was closing its doors, it was so that I could get my buddy Mark (@madboxes) an amazing picture framer, to frame some of it for me to put on the wall of my office at home. I hadn't even considered a book.

Another friend of mine who has no real interest in the games themselves, said she thought it'd make a great subject for a book. The following day, I sat down in front of my Mac and recorded the Kickstarter video in one take, straight to camera (and it shows!)

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On reflection, a little more planning might have been a good idea! - what is it about the arcade that conjures up strong nostalgic feelings? I think for me, it's something that places me firmly back in a specific place and time, depending on the game.

The sound of an 80s arcade is something that triggers a flood of memories of family holidays, walking around in bare feet on sandy carpet clutching a handful of 10p pieces, trying to decide which game might be the next one to play.

Defender drops me right back in Gulla's Chip Shop in Hinckley, circa 1985. My school uniform smelled permanently of chips! 

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GYL: Lets go back to childhood again and tell us which arcade games mean a lot to you personally?

TIM: There are a few that are really embedded in my memories, for various reason and from various different parts of my childhood too. Death Race was the first arcade game I ever played, back in 1977 in the Funland arcade on Swanage seafront.

I remember the feeling of whipping that steering wheel around and laughing with my brother when the pedestrians screamed as we ran over them! The sense of freedom I felt when I played that game comes flooding back to me every time I think about it: I was 7 years old and I was DRIVING! Fast forward a few years and it was Defender or Track & Field in the chip shop on the way home from school.

Defender was a disaster for me and I still totally suck at it now, even with MAME and unlimited credits to practice with! I totally dominated at Track & Field though: every high score on the first few pages had TIM next to it (three letter names are a gift to an arcade fan!) and I'm slowly creeping up on the MAME world record: I'm 50 points away right now. -

GYL: What 3 games do you play a lot even today as great gameplay - challenging the most hardened of gamer?

TIM: I mostly focus on Track & Field at the moment and I have a small MAME cab in my office at home with just that one game on it, with only the three buttons needed to play it. That stops me from getting distracted and playing other games instead!

When I'm not practicing T&F, I play 'MAME roulette' where I close my eyes and randomly scroll through the 28,000 MAME titles I have on my Mac Mini, playing whatever game I land on. It's a great way of discovering new games and I've found some real gems this way (and a whole lot of utter garbage too!) Air Gallet is great for an all out 'shoot everything that moves' vertical scrolling stressbuster and I'm trying to get to grips with Buck Rogers again, after spending an entire summer holiday when I was a kid, playing the sit-down version.

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GYL: What artwork has really been a challenge in terms of preparation for the book?

TIM: Most of what's in there needed at least a couple of hours of fixing, but there are a few marquees in the book that were really damaged beyond repair, with pieces missing and giant cracks through some very detailed elements of the artwork.

Any sensible person would have given up on them, but I ended up using multiple scans of different physical examples to create one good one out of two or three trashed versions! Satan's Hollow was a real mess when I started it and it took about 12 hours of work to turn into something viable for the book.

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Krull was missing a lot of sections and had to be composited together from different examples. Inferno was badly scuffed and faded and I couldn't find an original to colour match with, but that really was a labour of love: I wanted that one in there as part of the tribute to Python Anghelo.

The one thing I didn't want to do was redraw anything - it had to be the original, not my interpretation.

GYL: What has it been like taking the book from concept to final print for you -tell us a little about this journey?

TIM: I don't think it's any secret that the whole project has been a rollercoaster ride. There have been some really tough obstacles over the past couple of years and there were times when I couldn't imagine how it was ever going to result in an actual book.

In fact, there were a few times when I couldn't even bear to look at anything even vaguely game-related. When the preview copy arrived and I opened the package, I'll admit that it had me in floods of tears. To finally have a physical book after everything that had happened was overwhelming.

Sam and I had put in some serious effort in the final few weeks before the book went to print, with ridiculously early starts and late finishes for days on end and that extra effort really shows in the final result. I'm really proud of what we've achieved and the huge volume of positive feedback has been incredibly moving.

GYL: Do you think this book has a place in real art archives - even if some people might say it's just video games? (Not us!)

TIM: The whole basis for the book is my belief that arcade artwork has been overlooked for far too long. It's a legitimate piece of the cultural history of the late 20th century and needs to be preserved. Examples like Doug Watson's Solar Fox and Scramble marquees stand up as art in their own right, along with many, many others.

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I'm working on putting together a moving gallery exhibition of arcade art and every gallery I've spoken to so far has been massively supportive of the idea.

GYL: Finally - tell us about how it's been like working with a Bitmap Books to produce the final book version?

TIM: Working with Bitmap has been a breeze. I know a lot about arcade artwork (probably more than is healthy!) and I can bend Photoshop to my will, but I know nothing about publishing, printing or book design.

The fact that Sam could take care of that, leaving me to focus on the content has resulted in book that's far more than the one I originally planned: it's bigger (324 pages -vs- 208) and better and has a real 'presence'. The really great thing is, after everything that happened, the philosophy of the book remained the same. The execution, however, is much better :-)

Thanks to Tim and Sam for their time out on this interview. You can buy the book here:

FULL INTERVIEW WITH TIM (courtesy of Bitmap Books):



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