Forgive the informal, first-person tone here, but this is a confessional work. The story begins last year, in 2012, when I was looking to revamp the video offerings on my YouTube channel. I had acquired a new laptop, and with a newfound boost of confidence, was looking to liven up my home office space for the coming grand new age of video-making.
Now, in hindsight, I realize that bigger issues like camera quality and weird lighting quirks are the more significant reasons for stalling that still-in-progress revamp. But I sure did spruce up the ol' backdrop with a piece from Packmania Posters, who specialize in retro-gaming-relevant printings.
As cool as their product line-up is, I wanted something special; partly because I really wanted it to stand out, and partly because I wanted a very specific size. On the hunt for a distinctive picture, I took to Google Images and punched in a search term, probably something like “retro gaming collage.”
Soon enough, I found a perfect visage: A collage, featuring the authentic pixel renditions of many of my favorite old-school Nintendo characters, set against a background of retro-style features, all elements askew. Mega Man is next to a Rubik's Cube. The 8-bit Mario stands beside his 16-bit self. Yoshi, Abobo, and Little Mac can be seen peeking from the edges, not to mention characterizations from Contra, Metroid, and the original Legend of Zelda.
Weeks later, I had the physical product in my hands. Then, I made a short series of videos. These were simple text slides and webcam clips, presented as Q&A videos to address inquiries taken over social media.
The segments are not noteworthy. But among their viewers was a man named Matt Hosley. Hosley has interacted with me before, on the website NintendoAge.com, which has some great discussion forums for retro gamers, especially collectors.
He noticed something, as he watched one of my new videos. The poster I had on the wall behind me had an eerie similarity to one he had received from his wife for his 30th birthday, one that can be seen in a thread begun on the NA site to celebration the occasion.
By “eerie,” here, what we really mean is “done in the exact same, signature style.” Hosley recognized the art as being done by a friend of his: Mike Black. In fact, he had seen the original, hanging in a store in Kentucky.
I know this because Hosley emailed me, after talking to Black and confirming that he was unaware of my usage of the imagery. Black, rightly, was now concerned that someone, somewhere, was mass-producing his craftsmanship and selling it online. He could not know that I just happened to pick it from a line-up that, even today, is difficult to replicate.
Receiving that email gave me a mixture of feelings. I was actually somewhat excited to know who did the original graphics now. That was cool. But I was also disappointed in myself for not being careful about the source of images I used as part of my own creative endeavors. To Black's credit, all the instances of that image on his own website have his website watermark intact. Somehow, I had found a copy without, which made me feel really shady.
Hosley provided me with Black's email address, so I could contact him directly. I think he was just happy to hear that I had used the image as a special order, not chosen it as just one of many posters being offered by a printer out there. Nonetheless, though, we reached an agreement that, in any video where that poster appears in the background, I give him credit and link to his site.
Which, in addition to just being fair, I am quite happy to do. I mean, the poster is literally behind me as I type this, and I still love it. I also still hope to get back to a resurgence on my video content, though a technical hurdle or two still needs to be hopped. Regardless of my own failings, however: Mike Black is a nice guy who does remarkable paintings. You should consider checking out his website at MikeBlackArt.com.
Eric Bailey blogs at NintendoLegend.com, where he is reviewing every American-released NES video game. He also serves as Editor-In-Chief of retro gaming features site 1MoreCastle.com, and can be followed on Twitter @Nintendo_Legend.