Typography in video games

Aren’t video games amazing?

Graphically stunning, the 3D is incredible, throwing round millions of polygons effortlessly, the lighting effects mind blowing, sun rays blazing through windows across rooms and highlighting dust motes. The typography… errr. 

Generally, the typography in video games is tragic. I was playing Motorstorm on the PS3 (after getting it on a two for £9.99 deal! score!) and was dismayed to witness the poor typography on the loading screens. All centre aligned, all caps in something like Trajan, orphans and rivers galore. How can this be? How can a game they put so much stock in visually and audibly have such shit typography?

Digging a bit deeper, I suppose it’s easy to see why. Screens like cut screens and loading pages will probably be done by one of the 3D team who’s handy with Photoshop, or one of the GUI (game GUIs, ohh, there’s enough for another blog rant in there!) or texture map team, again, handy with Photoshop. There’s no one in charge of the games brand, no one to champion the look and feel as a design agency would.

Games are made by technical teams. I can relate to that, having one foot in the tech camp and one in design circles, but good typography is sorely lacking in most video games. We’ve worked with a couple of freelancers/contractors in the past who’ve been fantastic at 3D, and decent at all round design, but woeful at type setting. I think a lot of the artists in the industry will be adept at a few skills, like 3D, animation, texturing, and thus considered graphic designers, certainly with no traditional training, hence the misconception will be that they’ve got all bases covered.

There are of course exceptions. I’m a sucker for the Ridge Racer series, their interfaces and overall design work is great. I believe Colin McCray’s has good type. But I’m hard pushed to think of any that made me sit up and take note.

Next time you’re playing a game, just keep an eye on the type, and let me know what you see, both good and bad.