Games That Make You Ink

My finished Brotherhood Of Steel tattoo...

We all have one… that one particular game that will, no matter how old it gets, always pump our ‘nads. It’s either going to be a game that we remember from childhood as being the “most bestest game ever”, which undoubtedly turns out to be crap when you play it again as an adult (yes I mean YOU, Icicle Works on the Commodore Plus4) or a masterpiece which, as an adult, took our breath away to the point where we’d be happy to have our bodies violated until the end of eternity as an homage.

I’d wanted a tattoo for quite some time, maybe twenty years actually, but could never settle on something that I could spend the rest of my life with and not think “dammit dood… why!?”. Favourite bands come and go and, invariably, end up being shelved after they bring out one too many dodgy albums and you can no longer support them as a fan… so it’s never a good idea to go down that route unless you’re willing to paint that fake smile on your face and pretend that you really do still love them, in spite of their flaws. I had even considered getting my own band’s logo inked on my left upper arm, but decided against it as I had planned on updating the logo at some point and wouldn’t want an inferior logo to be stuck there forever, which is just as well as I ended up quitting the band and they disbanded without me. Lucky escape there methinks.

It then hit me, only last year, that the ONE aspect of my life that has never changed is gaming. I still love, and still play today, so many games from when I was in my teens and so it made perfect sense to go with a tattoo of a game that was not only timeless, but one that struck such a personal chord with me. The eventual toss up was between UFO: Enemy Unknown, Oblivion and Fallout 3 with each of them having their own pros and cons. Ultimately, Fallout 3 won out and I set to designing a hybrid piece so I could still sport the Brotherhood of Steel logo but still add a dash of “me” to the mix and, as expensive as it was, I adore it as much today as the day I first looked at the finished masterpiece.

GamingLives writer Iain's awesome Bub and Bob

Whenever I look in the mirror I smile at my little dermatological shrine and, if my t-shirt sleeve is covering it, I’ll always have a peek under to remind myself of my first tattoo. All too often, however, I glance over to my other, naked, arm… shunning it with petulant contempt, knowing that it’ll be a considerable time before I can afford to bring that arm into my all exclusive Inked Club. They say that getting tattooed becomes a compulsion and, as a compulsive myself, I was always wary about getting inked yet also sceptical as I couldn’t imagine how something decorative could become an addiction but, much to my surprise, I am exactly the same. I long for the time when I can afford to head back in to Blancolo and have the incredibly talented Lesa reproduce the Oblivion logo, complete with burning lava exposed through cracks, on my other arm.

This led me to look at other gaming tattoos and, whilst some of them were absolutely incredible looking, others had me wondering why people would do that to themselves and whether they immediately regretted their decisions. From very small, tasteful and subtle Mario inks through to horrificly bad scarification featuring a NES controller layout, one thing became very clear and that is that most gaming tattoos are either specific to Mario or other Nintendo characters… that’s not to say that most gaming tattoos ARE Nintendo related, but the majority of the images I found certainly were, but this could be down to the fact that they’ve been doing it a lot longer than most.


Perhaps one of the most surprising finds was this Red Dead Redemption tattoo above, mainly because it was pretty accurate to the preview poster art AND it was created before the game was even released, so this guy really did take a chance. Imagine the disappointment of ripping open the blister pack, popping Red Dead Redemption into the console, sitting back and admiring your tat while the game kicked in and then suddenly hating the game. As someone who has spent almost all his life dedicated to music, I half expect every new album from any of my favourite bands to be dreadful so I’d never contemplate getting their artwork scrawled on my skin for life, yet this dedicated gamer was confident enough to do the same with John Marston’s face. That’s devotion!

Each to their own, of course, but if I was going for scarification... it wouldn't be a NES controller

What it is that drives us to show the world how much gaming, or a particular game, means to us?  Does it stem from the origins of tattoos where tribes would use them to differentiate themselves from one another as a way of immediately showing which faction they had an allegiance to?  It may be easy to spot a rock fan with their denim and leather that emulates their on-stage idols, or a goth with their vampiric stylings and Michael Jacksonseque pallor, but how does one spot a gamer from a distance?  It’s more difficult to style themselves to emulate the characters they idolise… I mean, they’re hardly going to be wandering around dressed as Pikachu (unless you’re THAT guy) and they can’t exactly dress like their favourite developer as that’ll likely just be jeans and a t-shirt… so perhaps the gaming tattoo is our way of saying “Hey, this is OUR tribe” and just hope that people actually know what the hell we’re wearing on our skin.

Whatever reason may be behind it, a tattoo is an expression of oneself and, as such, is something that shouldn’t be done on a whim. There’s no guarantee that any other tattoos I get throughout my life will be gaming related but it’s a pretty safe bet that they will be… rarely does something grab hold of my psyche and pull me in as much as a damn good, immersive, game. Tastes may change over the years but, if the emotional attachment is deep enough, that same game can keep on pulling us back year after year, decade after decade and permanently imprinted on our brain… much like a subconscious tattoo.

I’ll leave you with some of the best gaming tattoos I found on my travels…

… and some of the… well… I wouldn’t get them!

Last five articles by Mark R



  1. Edward Edward says:

    I’ve never really thought about tattoos until recently, when I decided if I ever got a tattoo, it’d be the triforce on my left hand. Or that really awesome Triforce with wings like that guy had on his back.
    I just kind of worry about the permanence of the things, and always looking back and going “Man, I really should have realised Nintendo would eventually make bad Zelda games” or something of the like.
    There are some wicked tattoos of gaming related stuff, like your one (which I’ll admit, I whistled like “wow” at that picture), but that NES design on the arm made me want to vomit slightly.

  2. Lee says:

    i always wanted a tattoo, but im too much of a pussy. i was gonna get the gate address to earth incase i ever got lost but it’s dependant on where exactly in the galaxy i’m lost as to what it would be. it’s also dependant on me being topless and the local people knowing how to dial a stargate. The idea was never going to work.

    that brother hood of steel one is awsome and the zelda one

  3. Kat says:

    Is that a Pacman arse tattoo? I can’t decide it that’s horrific or the work of a genius.

    I’ve toyed with the idea of a tat although I’m more of a piercings gal. If I did get inked I couldn’t imagine it being of a favourite game. Having a pus-oozing, mid-vomit Boomer down my leg prob isn’t the nicest look ^_^

  4. Victor Victor says:

    Is that Pacman arse tattoo on a woman? Because if it is and I was her boyfriend, well, this is a family website, but I’d never get bored of…

    /trails wistfully of, thinking of Snoop Dogg’s first album.

  5. Ste says:

    Look closely on that tattoo of the SNES pad in that guys hand and it looks like there are a few swastika’s inked in at the top of the pad. Nazi gamers? Back on topic, I dont think I could pick a favorite game to have a tattoo of. I love too many games. If I had to choose a game to borrow something off then it would have to be something from a classic like Mario or Zelda, but not necessarily a ninty game.

    I did think about having a decepticon transformers symbol tattoo for my second tat but a) my gf would hurt me and b) the new films have ruined the idea for me a little bit.

  6. Pete says:

    Sorry Vic but I think that’s a fella lol :D

    I’ve been thinking about a tattoo for probably 15 years now! lol For a long time I couldn’t find a design I liked enough! Then I found a certain one on the back of a pound coin! :D Still haven’t had it done but I have created it in picture format (at work) so that it’s easily copied when I do decide it’s worth it :)

    Never really been so into a game that I’d consider something from one though…. guess my gamer side is hugely repressed lol

  7. Lorna Lorna says:

    I loved getting my tattoos and though I want an Eye of Horus on my right wrist, I would also like a gaming tattoo…what one is the dilemma though. I have considered the Oblivion gate logo, Mirror’s Edge logo, and various others….still undecided. I love the MegaMan example in this article, though you’d have to get a fucking good artist to do it, because 8 bit or pixel art will look shockingly bad if you get it screwed up by bad workmanship.

  8. Mark R MarkuzR says:

    I noticed the swastikas too Ste, but they could be the Hindu Swastika as they have tails and dots, plus there looks to be some other form of script on his thumbs that looks Arabic. It’s an odd tattoo anyway, and pretty poorly done. I feel SO sorry for people who go out to get themselves inked up and end up with some idiot with a tattoo gun and enough self importance to put themselves out there as a tattoo artist. I could go out and buy some shifting spanners today, but it wouldn’t make me a mechanic. The problem is, once it’s done… it’s done. When I was in getting my tattoo done, there was a young girl in to get a tattoo “fixed” because she’d got it elsewhere and it was a mess, so one of the other artists was fixing the curves, recolouring it and the girl was over the moon when it was done. Imagine how she must have felt when that first one was finished though, looking at something she’d have on her body forever… that looked like shit? Wow.

    Took me weeks of looking at various artists online before deciding which one to go with. I’d hoped that I’d get Lesa and, if she was busy, was going to ask when I could be scheduled in to see her. Thankfully, she was the ONLY person in the studio willing to take on my tattoo because of how precise the curves and lines all were and the fact that there was a lot of equidistant work. Cost me a lot more than expected (actually £200 more than I took with me!) but it was worth it in the end. Was disappointed that it wasn’t more of an “experience” though as people often describe how it’s a pleasure/pain thing and how weird it feels to be tattooed… I didn’t feel anything, and feel slightly (or a lot, actually!) cheated out of that “my first tattoo” experience.

    Am looking forward to the next though!!

  9. Adam Adam says:

    I have plans for my first tattoo. It’s not gaming related but it’s pure geek. I got in touch with a few people that worked on Jim Hensons Farscape to get hold of the artwork used for one of the characters in the show. I eventually got put in touch with one of the guys that did some of the origional moudlings for the aliens who had the concept work and from that, designed my tattoo -without ever charging me for any of it.

    It’ll still want looking over by whoever I get to have it done who may make some adjustments for where I want it, but some day soon….

    Interesting to see just how many people are willing to get gaming tats’. Obviously if you link with something so closely like you have with fallout then its hugely personal but I question if people that go for the staple stuff like Mario and Pacman if they’re just buying into the art rather than really doing it out of pride? But who am I to judge, it’s a personal thing that everyone has their reasons for.

    Still, the arse pacman is scary.

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