the mind-boggling video game packaging of designer Hock Wah Yeo

Yeo’s groundbreaking work in the game industry eventually drifted into obscurity. Aside from a loyal following of fans who continue to hunt down Yeo’s work online, often paying hundreds of dollars to procure an original Ultrabots, his impact had been largely forgotten – until 2021, when game historian Phil Salvador published a feature on 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 revisiting for the designer, something he says he enjoys, as a time full of fond memories. The only hardship, Yeo jokes, comes from having to “dredge up the bottom of my memory to come up with why I did this, or how I created that”.

While Yeo hasn’t kept up with the game world, he still drifts to sleep thinking of design problems. To this day, he experiments with shapes, now through ceramics and, despite having no architectural training, he recently built an outhouse at his home in California: a cyberpunk creation made from corrugated steel with rose petals encased in the walls.

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

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