Vintage Elements in Video Games: The Banker's Lamp

Monday 18 November 2019

If you have played enough video games of all genres, you must have noticed in many of them the presence of a special kind of lamp that can be seen standing on desks, tables or benches. It is that characteristic old-style lamp with the green shade, that usually has a metallic body and a chain on the side with which it can be turned on and off, and it is called the banker's lamp.

The banker's lamp is an actual item that was first designed in 1909 by Harrison McFaddin and subsequently produced in large numbers to fill the needs of offices, companies but also civilian homes. As its green light was both bright and soothing, it became particularly popular in financial institutions, such as banks - which is where its name came from eventually. Its initial name, however, was a direct reference to its color and its function. It was called Emeralite - a blend of "emerald" and "light". Most banker's lamps are made with the same green shade that the original ones used to feature, but there are also blue, orange, even white ones.

Like most vintage objects that appear in video games, the banker's lamp is usually just a part of the decoration, adding to the overall atmosphere with its bright green light, if it is lit, or simply its stylish design, if it is turned off. The list of games that feature banker's lamps could go forever, as they can be seen in all kinds or genres. I have compiled just a few notable examples from action games that I have played, and afterdarkmysweet contributed with four samples from adventure games.

In Bioshock: Infinite, we can see several banker's lamps in their "natural" environment: in the Bank of the Prophet:

But we can also spot some others in various places, like in Elizabeth's tower, where the banker's lamp has a more elaborate shade design:

Random ones can be spotted on desks in other places:

In Murdered: Soul Suspect, there are banker's lamps in the back rooms of the church:

In Rise of the Tomb Raider, there is one sitting on Lord Croft's desk in the Manor:

There is one more on his study desk in the Library:

As well as on a side table in the same room, where he used to keep several items, papers and books:

In Resident Evil 6, there is one banker's lamp on the dean's desk in the Campus building:

There is one more in the same room, on a small table next to the entrance:

In the remake of Resident Evil 2, many banker's lamps can be seen in the RPD Library:

There is also a lone one on the desk of Chief Irons' private office:

In Devil May Cry 5, there are several ones in the Red Grave Library:

In Inmates, there is a banker's lamp on a bench in the Prison:

And one more on another bench in the same place:

In True Fear: Forsaken Souls 2, there is one in the doctor's office in the Asylum:

In What Never Was there is one in the grandfather's house:

As contemporary culture digs more and more into the past for inspiration and ideas, it is only natural that the game developing teams do the same. Digital art can recreate literally everything and breathe new life into elements that come from the past, more so since items like the banker's lamps are still perfectly usable today, although it's been over a century since their original creation.

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