What Makes A Great Video Game Tattoo?

What Makes A Great Video Game Tattoo?

I collect tattoos in the same way that I collect Converse or Playbills. I… uh, don’t, actually… but I would if they were less expensive, and I had more disposable income. Sure tattoos are permanent, and they’re embedded in your skin via a tiny needle-tipped jackhammer, but they’re absolutely worth it.

Out of all the pieces I currently have, only one is a video game reference. That’s not because there’s a shortage of good gamer tats but because my personal tattoo selection process is, quite frankly, ridiculous. If you’re curious or looking for a bizarrely specific set of guidelines to apply to your future ink, stick around.

I Have To Genuinely Care About The Game

First things first – I have to be passionate about the media to even consider a piece designed around it. We’re talking deep, emotional devotion here. For instance, I enjoy Crash Bandicoot but at the end of the day, it never defined my relationship with gaming. On the other hand, I adore the Kingdom Hearts series. It was the first Playstation 2 game that I ever played, it allowed me to interact with my favorite childhood movies in a new way (for the time, now everything is a crossover), and it provided an outlet where I could experience music and action at the same time.

By this standard of care, there are still plenty of options for me to go with that don’t include permanently inking Disney’s Hot Topic phase on my body, but you get it, right? No pleasant ambivalence is allowed. Sorry, Crash.

It Has To Be Aesthetically Pleasing

Love might be blind but I’m not. If I’m going to consider a game for ink inspiration, then it has to be something I enjoy looking at. It’s okay to be a little superficial here. Tattoos are visual art, after all, and a crucial aspect of visual art is the aesthetic value you find within it. One of my favorite games is Jak II but I’m not entertaining the notion that Daxter’s obnoxious, furry smirk would make a good wrist decoration.

While not a hard facet of this stance, I probably won't ever consider a character model, just symbols. They’re more self-enclosed and somehow feel cleaner, design-wise. Now, the Precursor Orbs from the Jak And Daxter series might work, but they’re just eggs, really. Hey, what about a quote in the Precursor language? Well, that alphabet is cool, hang on… no, it looks too much like the Monster Energy Drink logo. Bummer.

It Has To Be A Reference, Not A Logo

In one fell swoop, this stipulation axes any hope of ever having a Marvel tattoo. If a design is too much like a logo, like Captain America’s shield, or Harry Potter’s lightning bolt scar, then I probably don’t want it. At least, I probably won’t get it. I’m kind of this way with clothing, too. When I choose to honor a piece of media with a reference rather than an obvious logo, it feels more like I’m sharing that space with the art instead of giving myself over to it.

The line between logo and reference will vary with each person and, even then, with each situation. With the right idea, a reference can stand on its own without requiring the full context. An incredible public example of this rule would be the famous YouTuber Jacksepticeye who proudly wears a tattoo from Bloodborne – the Hunter's Mark, specifically. People who get it will get it, and everyone else will just see an eye-catching pattern.

It Has To Make Sense With The Story

Here’s where I usually start losing people. If I’m going to get a tattoo based on a video game (or honestly any media), then the design has to make sense as part of the story. This is actually why I don’t have a Kingdom Hearts tattoo because it makes more sense to honor that bond with a keychain pendant than an outline of Paopu Fruit. To put it another way, if marking it on my skin doesn’t gel with how it’s used inside the confines of the original canon, I’m probably not going to get it. For this reason, the Heartless symbol might work, if that were something that interested me.

A more personal example – On my right thigh, I’ve got the four elemental symbols from Avatar: The Last Airbender in big, styled paintbrush strokes. Along with all my other criteria, it satisfied this particular preference because, in the show, tattoos representing the elements are not only common, they’re almost expected. Also, I feel like I have to get this off my chest but the tattoos were the only aspect Shyamalan’s film adaptation did any justice.

It Has To Balance My Body

I’ve only briefly mentioned placement so far, not because it’s unimportant but because every time I bring it up I’m forced to accept how weird I sound. My tattoos have to balance my body. If that doesn’t immediately make sense to you, then I envy you. I have to choose the perfect spot for each piece, otherwise, I feel physically off-kilter. This can translate to a couple of different placement options but my personal favorite is balanced asymmetry.

For instance, The piece on my right thigh is massive, so to even the scales, I have multiple, smaller pieces on my left shoulder/pec/upper arm area. With me now? I am not joking when I say that this is genuinely a more important consideration for me than pain level. So, even if something checks all the previous boxes but can’t be balanced with the current pieces, then it gets immediately, if not grudgingly, nixed.

I Have To Still Want It After Time Has Passed

Okay, so let’s say that I’ve decided on a piece. I set it aside for a while, and wait. This step has no fixed time frame, it just has to be long enough for me to feel comfortably confident that, when I eventually come back to it, my final decision will be sufficiently separated from the initial adrenaline high of selecting a new tattoo design. This rule alone immediately excludes me from getting a tattoo that popped out of one of those re-purposed gumball machines.

I’ve actually got a piece sitting in the back of my mind on this step right now. Not to expose myself but it’s chess-themed. Yeah, as in the board game that only old people and Anya Taylor-Joy play. Look, you’re this deep into an article about video game tattoos, you have no right to judge me.

My Video Game Tattoo Is Hilariously Basic

With all these rules at play, what do you think I got as my first video game tattoo? I have to be honest with you… it’s pretty basic. On my left shoulder blade, I have the Tri-Force from the Legend Of Zelda. In my defense, I altered it so that the Digimon Crest of Courage is forever inside the Tri-Force of Courage, which I think is cool, but also shove it, you know? It brings me joy.

It's basic because it's common, but it's common because it's amazing. Who doesn't love the Legend Of Zelda series? It's not really the logo, but it's instantly recognizable without being overbearing, and it's beautifully simple (unless you make it double as a Digimon tattoo, but that's totally optional). It doesn't have to have a meaning, but I got it with my two siblings, each of which put a different Digimon crest in their favorite Tri-Force triangle. Do you know what that is? That's precious.

When I first began collating these rules, I realized that I was denying myself thousands of designs I might find otherwise compelling on another person. Even more limiting still is how I prefer my pieces to all be in pure black ink. I just don't like tattoo color on me. Maybe that's a choice, maybe that's a self-esteem issue, I'm not sure yet. Here's what I do know, though — If these parameters don't match up with what you want, ignore them! You do you.

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