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THE VIDEOGAME TEXT: TYPOGRAPHY AND TEXTUALITY
ZACHARY NATHAN WHALEN
A DISSERTATION PRESENTED TO THE GRADUATE SCHOOL
OF THE UNIVERSITY OF FLORIDA IN PARTIAL FULFILLMENT
OF THE REQUIREMENTS FOR THE DEGREE OF
DOCTOR OF PHILOSOPHY
UNIVERSITY OF FLORIDA
2008 Zachary Nathan Whalen
To my wife, Stacy; and to our dog Teddy;
who both listened patiently to all my ideas.
First and foremost, this project could not have been envisioned without the unwavering
support and encouragement of my wife, Stacy, who continued to be my strongest supporter through
everything. Several other individuals have contributed nuggets of their time or knowledge toward
the successful completion of this project. My committee members, Donald Ault, Terry Harpold,
Marsha Bryant, and Brian Slawson each provided crucial feedback in the early stages and were
willing to work with my accelerated schedule for completing this project on time as well as my late
changes to the organization of chapters. Additionally, although not officially part of my dissertation
committee, Paul Fishwick supplied an important perspective on my work in its developmental
stages, and Gregory Ulmer was kind enough to write a letter of recommendation on my behalf.
Matthew G. Kirschenbaum provided feedback and encouragement, and his book
Mechanisms proved to be an important influence on the development of my thinking about digital
media. Steven Jones kindly offered a pre-publication copy of his book, The Meaning of
Videogames, which has been similarly helpful in enhancing my ideas about how to study
videogames with a textual approach.
My friends and colleagues at the University of Florida, particularly the Digital Assembly and
the Editorial Staff oflmageTexT, have sharpened my focus in numerous ways, mainly by fostering
an active community of Digital Media scholarship through collaborative projects and annual
conferences. Similarly, the wider community of Gameology.org and its readership provided an
important audience and sounding board for discussing ideas. In particular, my co-editor Laurie N.
Taylor read early drafts of chapters, offering numerous helpful suggestions.
Several individuals offered their time or knowledge to help answer key questions on
historical matters. Luc Devroye and Grant Hutchinson pointed out or provided sources of
information on the Moore Computer typeface, and Simon Daniels of Microsoft Typography
supplied background information about Westminster. Sean Riddle and Fredric Bliholtz answered
my questions about the Channel F console and its Easter Eggs, and Warren Robinett kindly
provided his recollection of the implementation of a character set in the Basic Programming
cartridge. Finally, Gio Wiederhold and Ted Panofsky provided valuable insight into the function
and programming of Galaxy Game.
I would also like to thank the faculty of the Department of English, Linguistics and Speech
at the University of Mary Washington who will accept me as their colleague in Fall 2008.
TABLE OF CONTENTS
A C K N O W L E D G M EN T S ................................................................................. .................... 4
LIST OF TABLES................................................................... 9
LIST OF FIGURES.............. ......................................... 10
L IS T O F O B JE C T S ...................................................................................................................... 16
A B S T R A C T ........... .....................................................................................17
1 VECTORS TOWARD A DISCOURSE ON VIDEOGAME TYPOGRAPHY ......................... 19
Terminology: Video Games, Videogames, and Gaming........... ..................................... 21
Ludology and N arratology......... .......................................................... .................. 25
D digital Textual Studies................................. ... ..........................................33
Text in V ideogam es............................................................ ...............................36
V ideogam e as Text .......... .. ................................. ................................ ........ 40
2 PARATYPES AND PREDECESSORS........................................................... ............... 47
Introdu action ................ .. ............. ............................................................................................. 47
Paratypical Videogam e Typography.................................................... ............ ............... 52
M IC R esqu e ............................... ...............................................5 5
Optical Character Recognition (OCR)................................ ... ...............57
Magnetic Ink Character Recognition (MICR) and MICResque Type Design................... 62
M o o re C o m p u ter ............................................................................................................ 6 4
D ata Seventy ................................................. 67
O rb it-B ................... ...................6...................8..........
W e stm in ste r .................................................................................................................... 6 9
H oloty pical M IC R esqu e ............................................................................................... 7 1
M odernist P recursors ................................................................................ 73
C o n clu sio n ................... ...................7...................8..........
3 H OLO TYPES AN D H ARD W ARE .................................................................................... 105
H ardw are ................... ...................1...................1.........0
P latfo rm s ...........................................................................................1 12
O X O ............................................................................1 1 3
Tennis for Tw o ........... .......... ................................................... 114
Spacewar! ......... ......... .................................115
Galaxy Gam e ............................................................................................................. 115
Computer Space.................. ......... .................. 117
M agn av ox O dy ssey .............................................................................................. 119
Pong on a chip..................................................... 120
C h a n n e l F .............................................................................................................. 12 2
A tari V C S ........................................................12 3
G C E V e ctrex ......................................................................................................... 12 9
F am icom an d oth ers ...................................................................... .................... 134
H o loty p ical F o rm s.................................................................................. .................... 13 7
The 7-segm ent form .......................................................... .. ................. 137
Character generator R OM chips............................................. ........................ 141
The "N am co" Font............ ... ... ...... .............................. ........ 143
V ideogam e G ram m atology .............................................................................. ...................146
T he K keeping of the Score............................................... ........................................ 146
Easter Eggs ....................... .................................................153
Conclusion: Phosphor Burn............ ....... .............................. ........................ 157
4 FUZZY AND JAGGY: AESTHETIC AND ONTOLOGICAL
DISPOSITIONS OF VIDEOGAME TYPE.................................................................. 181
T h e D iffere n c e s......................................................................................................................... 1 8 5
Jaggy Type ........................ .......... ...................................................................187
F u z z y T y p e ................................................................................................................... 1 9 1
Plotting the Differences............................................. 195
Type on the Television Screen .............................................................................. .................... 200
Conclusion: Toward a Fuzzy Critical Approach ......... ........................204
5 A TYPOGRAPHIC ARCHEOLOGY OF BERZERK ............................... ..............218
L ev els an d L ay ers ................................................................................................................ 2 2 2
B erz erk (s) ............ .. ................ .................. ..................................................2 2 6
B erzerk on A tari V C S ......... .......................................................................... ................ 230
B erzerk on G CE V ectrex .......................................2...........................6
C o n clu sion ................... ...................2...................3.........8
A ROMSCRAPE: A SOFTWARE METHOD FOR ANALYZING VIDEOGAME DATA.......249
T h e N e e d ............................................................................................................................ 2 5 0
Similar Applications: ROMsearcher and DiStella ....... ................... ......... 251
D eploym ent in D rupal ......... ....................................................254
A Tw o-Stage Index ...................... .................................................255
Sam ple Q uery .............. .. ....... ............. ..... ............................... 258
B CHARACTER SETS, TYPEFACES, AND TYPE SPECIMENS .................................265
F airchild C h ann el F (1976) ................................................................................................. 266
G C E V ectrex ................... ...................2.............................7
M attel In telliv isio n .............................................................................................................. 2 6 9
C olecoVision .......................... ...................................... ...........................271
A tari 5 2 0 0 ............................................................................................................................ 2 7 5
Nintendo Famicom / NES......................... .... .................... ...............278
Sega M ega D rive / Sega G enesis......... ................. ................... .................... ............... 279
L IST O F R EFER EN CE S......... .. ..... ............ ...............................................................281
B IO G R A PH IC A L SK E T C H .................................................................................. ....................290
LIST OF TABLES
2-1 Implementations of MICResque numerals in Atari VCS games......................................103
3-1 Sample numeric character sets employing 3 x 5 pixel grids................ ............ 179
4-1 Summary and examples of characteristics of jaggy type. ................................................217
5-1 Countdown numerals, Berzerk bitmap code, and Berzerk screen images.........................246
B-1 Character set stored in Channel F BIOS ROM. .............................................................266
B-2 Character set stored in GCE Vectrex BIOS ROM............... ................ ............... 267
B-3 Complete character set extracted from Intellivision graphics ROM (grom.bin)................ 269
B-4 Character set extracted from ColecoVision original BIOS. .............................................271
B-5 Character set extracted from alternate ColecoVision BIOS. ...........................................273
B-6 Character set extracted from Atari 5200 BIOS ROM image...........................................275
B-7 Character set extracted from Nintendo Entertainment System (NES) BIOS ROM...........278
B-8 Character set extracted from Sega Mega Drive (a.k.a. Sega Genesis) BIOS ROM...........279
LIST OF FIGURES
1-1 Screenshot of "John K erry: Tax Invaders!" .................................................. ............... 45
1-2 Screenshot of Jesper Juul's "Game Liberation."....... ........................................45
1-3 Screenshot of C all of D uty ................................................................................... .........46
2-1 M agnavox O dy ssey logo. ............................................................................. ...................79
2-2 Star Trek arcade cabinet......... ...... ... ........... .....................................................79
2-3 "Blip," a table-top electronic game by Tomy........................................ .............. 79
2-4 Standard OCR characters established by USASI X3.17-1966................... .............. ....80
2-5 The detailed specification for the OCR numeral 3..................................... .................80
2-6 A sam ple character set for a font of OCR-B ................................... ...................... ........... 81
2-7 Cover of Cyber Crime Investigator 's Field Guide.......................................................81
2-8 C over of Persuasive G am es.......................................... ........................... ............... 82
2-9 C over of G am er Theory .................... .................................................. ................... ... 82
2-10 C over of H halting State ....................... ... .. ............ .................................... ................. 83
2-11 B rief shot from The M atrix ........... ......... ...... ......... .................................. ............... 83
2-12 Screenshot from the videogame Enter The Matrix ............. ..................................... 84
2-13 Shot from Terminator: The Sarah Connor C(hl ,m. le, ............................85
2-14 Shot from Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles........................................................85
2-15 A dvertisem ent for Scan-D ata 200.................................................. ............................ 86
2-16 Sample E-13B characters used in a "Check of the Future."................................................86
2-17 C M C -7, an alternative to E -13B ................................................................. .....................87
2-18 "Computer" originally sold as "Moore Computer" by VGC................................................87
2-19 Logotype for the M agnavox Odyssey (1972) ........................................................ ..........87
2-20 "E lepong" (1973).................................................... ......................... ...... 87
2-21 Coleco Telstar (1976)................. ......... ........ .......... ........ .....88
2-22 Logotype for vintagecomputing.com .......................... ................................ ............... 88
2-23 E nd credits for W arG am es......... .. ................................................... ....................... 88
2-24 Shot from The Simpsons. Mechanical Itchy heads-up display .........................................89
2-25 M oore Computer's M N, W and 0 (zero) ................................................................. 89
2-26 Sam ple characters from D ata 70.................................................... ............................ 89
2-27 Comparing Arabic numerals from Data 70 with E-13B.....................................................89
2-28 Comparing numerals 1, 4, and 0 in Data 70 and E-13B............................................90
2-29 0,0 D and Q from D ata 70................................................ ....................................... 90
2-30 "Star Trek" A rcade C abinet................................... ..................................... ............... 90
2-31 "C om puter Space B all" flyer ...................... .... ......... ................................ ............... 91
2-32 "BiSci B lood Type Challenge."...................................... ............................................. 91
2-33 Cover, Electronic Games: Design, Programming, and Troubleshooting ...........................92
2-34 Sam ple of O rbit-B B T..................................................................................................92
2-35 Comparing numerals from Orbit-B with E-13B......................................... ............... 93
2-36 Shot from Johnny M nem onic........... ............... ......... ................................ ............... 93
2-37 Cover of Broderbund's Galactic Empire ......................... .. ................94
2-38 Sam ple of W estm inster typeface.............................................................................. ..... 94
2-39 W estm inster in use on three book covers.......................................... ......................... 95
2-40 Comparing numerals for Westminster, E-13B and, Data 70..................................... 96
2-41 Screenshot of Strongbad's Tandy 400......................................................... ............... 96
2-42 Screenshot of "Thy Dungeonman" cartoon from, "Web Comics.".....................................96
2-43 "X-Beelden" ("X-images") by Van Doesburg....................................................................97
2-44 De Stijl logo, designed by Theo Van Doesburg and Vilmos Huszar ................................97
2-45 Vilmos Huszar, Ornament XXe eeuwse stijl (1917)........................................................98
2-46 Vilm os Huszar, Composite II (1917)............................ .............................. ............... 98
2-47 Comparing figure from Huszar's Composite II with Superman............. ................99
2-48 Sam ple of"Architype van Doesburg."............................................. ........... .................99
2-49 WiredM magazine spine text and section logos. ........................................... ............... 99
2-50 B going B going logotype ..................................................... ...... ....... .......... ........... 99
2-51 Text "START" from Blue Print compared with same rendered in P22 De Stijl...............100
2-52 "Pac-M ondrian"..................................................... ............... .................... 100
2-53 Cover of New Alphabet: An Introductionfor a Programmed Typography........................ 100
2-54 Page describing "Eurostile" from Aldo Novarese's Alfa Beta brochure ..........................101
2-55 B ox art for Coleco Telstar M arksm an....................................................................... ..... 101
2-56 Detail of television screen images and text on Marksman box...................... .......... 102
3-1 Screenshot of R ogue .................................................... ...................... .......... 160
3-2 Screenshot of OXO running in an EDSAC simulator ...................................................160
3-3 EDSAC processing a "Hello, World" program..........................................161
3-4 Screen im age of Computer Space........... ......... ...... ......... ........................ ............... 161
3-5 D detail of Computer Space screen.................................................................... ....... ........161
3-6 Schematics for Computer Space's "SYNC-STAR" circuit board ............... ...............162
3-7 Ontological progression of rocket ship image generation........................ ...................162
3-8 Magnavox Odyssey overlay for Haunted House............................................................162
3-9 Datasheet for General Instruments' AY-3-8500 chip............... ................... .............165
3-10 D etail of figure 3-9........................................ .. ................................. ................. .. 165
3-11 Comparing numeral 5 from Computer Space with PONG clone.............................. 166
3-12 Screen illustration of GI AY-3-8810 chip playing Draw Poker............... .. ............. 166
3-13 C channel F 5 x 5 num erals............................................................................. ..................166
3-14 A common 6 x 7 numeric character for Atari VCS games....................... ...............166
3-15 A common 7 x 7 numeric character for Atari VCS games....................... ............... 167
3-16 A common 6 x 8 numeric character set for Atari games by Activision.............................167
3-17 The numeric character set used in a series of Atari VCS games by Mattel........................167
3-18 Select characters from Intellivision system font....................................... .....................167
3-19 Select characters generated by Vectrex console....................................... ............... 168
3-20 A demonstration of the difficulty in emulating Vectrex game display...............................168
3-21 Screenshot from B attlezone......................................................................... ................... 168
3-22 Screenshots of Vectrex game Spike with overlay and without................. .... ................169
3-23 A TA SC II character set............................................................................... ... ............ 169
3-24 Screenshots of Zaxxon illustrating contrasting BIOS fonts................................................170
3-25 The 7-segment figure generator patented by Frank W. Wood..........................................170
3-26 Thomas Ross Welch's 1937 design for a text-displaying Electric Sign..............................171
3-27 Illustration of the 7-segm ent truth table......................................................................... 171
3-28 Illustration of display circuit for 7-segment generator .....................................................171
3-29 Selected characters from 2513 character-generator ROM ...........................................171
3-30 Comparing serif and sans-serif ROM characters .............................................................. 172
3-31 The "opening credits" for Namco's Pac-Man ..... ........... .................. ..............172
3-32 Comparing sample characters from BASIC Programming and Namco Font. ....................173
3-33 PON G screenshot. Score is 11 to 7............................................. ............................. 173
3-34 Game statistics for a Call of Duty server generated by Gametracker..............................73
3-35 Screenshot of Space Invaders ................................................................................ 174
3-36 Warren Robinett's "autograph" in Adventure.................. ...............................................174
3-37 The first C channel F E aster Egg.............................................................................. ..... 175
3-38 Easter Egg in Channel F game Video-Whizball................ ........................................176
3-39 Easter Egg in Channel F game Alien Invasion ................ .......................................177
3-40 An example of extreme screen bum -in........................... .. ........... ................ ............... 178
4-1 Selection from "Lo-Res 9 W ide Bold."....................................... .............................. 208
4-2 Logotype for the journal Game Studies............................................. ...................... 208
4-3 B anner logotype from D estructoid. ......................................................................... ....... 208
4-4 Cropped banner im age from PA X 07................................................................................ 208
4-5 Enlarged screenshot captured from emulated Dig Dug.............................208
4-6 Banner image (original size) from Coin-Operated.com..................................209
4-7 Image from figure 4-6 shown at its implied size................................................... 209
4-8 Text detail from advertisement for Star Wars: Death Star Battle...................................209
4-9 Full ad for Star Wars: Death Star Battle ..................... ................................... 210
4-10 A single subunit (dot) from the text in figure 4-8.................................... .................210
4-11 Title and logo for B lip m agazine..........................................................................................210
4-12 Image detail from advertisement for James Bond as Seen in Octopussy............................211
4-13 D etail from figure 4-12. .............................................. ....................... ....... .............. 2 11
4-14 Screenshot from H alf-L ife 2............................................................. ..............................211
4-15 Photograph of actual TV displaying Dig Dug on aAtari VCS. .............. .................212
4-16 Continuum between visual features, sharp and soft.............................. ............... 212
4-17 Granularity and contiguity, two other features of videogame type .....................................212
4-18 Graph of the visual properties sharpness, softness, granularity, and fluidity......................213
4-19 An illustration of layers of mediality in Star Wars. The Empire Strikes Back.................14
4-20 Combining the graphs from figures 4-18 and 4-19.................................. ...............214
4-21 Illustrations of News Gothic Bold and CBS News 36..................... .............................. 215
4-22 Matthew Carter's design for Bell Centennial ..................................................... 216
5-1 Comparing JPEG images with little compression, and high compression........................240
5-2 Comparing screenshots of emulated and actual Dig Dug..............................240
5-3 Comparing Montfort's levels for game analysis........................................................240
5-4 An array of the four licensed videogame versions of Berzerk................. ................... 241
5-5 "Bulletproof bow tie" technique, demonstrated on Berzerk VCS ................ ...............242
5-6 Detail from flier advertising original Berzerk arcade machine. ......................................242
5-7 Humanoid stick figures from the four videogame versions of Berzerk..............................242
5-8 An array of different versions of the numeral 3 as depicted in different Berzerks.............243
5-9 The numeral 3 from Berzerk for Atari VCS............................................................. 243
5-10 The machine code (ROM) which executes Berzerk for Atari................... .. ...................243
5-11 Same code section as figure 9A, compared with emulation ................................................243
5-12 Same code section as previous two figures, compared with photograph ............................244
5-13 A print version of the same numeral 3 in Berzerk for Atari VCS ..................................... 244
5-14 Comparing letter R on Vectrex with R on Battlezone machine.................... ........... 244
5-15 Berzerk score display photographed and without overlay.......................................245
A-i Selection of Barn Storm output from Distella Dissassembler............................ .........262
A -2 D istellam ap ofA dventure.bin......................................................... ................................261
A-3 Screenshot of Ben Fry's Sprite Deconstructulator. ............................ ............... 262
A-4 Contrasting numeric similarity with visual similarity.............................. ...............262
A-5 Illustration of forming fuzzy thumbnails................... .......................... ............... 263
LIST OF OBJECTS
2-1 A simple animation using the skating figures in Huszar's painting as sprites..................104
3-1 Video capture of Warren Robinett's Easter Egg in Adventure .............. ...............180
3-2 Video capture of the shimmering chalice, the player's objective in Adventure.................. 180
A-1 Video capture of ROMscrape performing a search and comparing the results.................264
Abstract of Dissertation Presented to the Graduate School
of the University of Florida in Partial Fulfillment of the
Requirements for the Degree of Doctor of Philosophy
THE VIDEOGAME TEXT:
TYPOGRAPHY AND TEXTUALITY
Zachary Nathan Whalen
Chair: Donald Ault
Chair: Terry Harpold
This study asks how the design and configuration of text in videogames contributes to their
textuality. I argue that videogames are texts in the sense that they consist of material artifacts
generating meaningful content when engaged by users. Videogames are complex and expressive
digital artifacts worthy of critical analysis, but much of the existing scholarship on games
emphasizes their formal elements like narrativity, genre, or interactivity, without giving enough
attention to their specific technological constitution. As is the case in any aesthetic medium, such
as verbal text, film, or still images, videogames are subject to the affordances of their raw
materials, and like these other media, videogames communicate in ways that incorporate the traits
of those materials, where materialsi" include physical structures like console hardware and
display screens and logical logical like bitmap graphics. The Videogame Text argues that
alphanumeric characters shown on the videogame screen (including score display, character dialog,
user interfaces, title screens, etc.) reveal discursive patterns of materiality embedded in these
I orient this argument by beginning with the origins of videogame typography, but not in
order to claim that earlier forms are archetypes which newer forms invoke. Rather, since both
typography and material affordances are traits designed to be taken for granted or made invisible,
videogames of a sufficient historical remove illustrate more obvious and visually apparent
evidence of these constraints. Typographic echoes of those constraints appear in other media and
graphic designs as a way of invoking a video game context, so a study of videogame typography
must account for this diffuse set of forms much like the textual studies approach to literature that
treats the text as a multifaceted paratextual entity. Drawing a parallel between the textual studies
approach to literature (exemplified by the work of Jerome McGann, Johanna Drucker, and others)
and a trend toward artifactual analysis in new media and game studies (exemplified by the work of
lan Bogost, Nick Montfort, Steven Jones, and Matthew G. Kirschenbaum). In short, I argue that
the textuality of videogames consists of differently and densely layered modalities of
representation, which include formal structures such as game design, physical structures like the
television or monitor display, and logical structures like programming code. By unpacking the
inner workings of these modalities, we may better understand the impact of videogames as cultural
artifacts. We may also move beyond prevailing theories of videogame analysis, which too often
emphasize formal taxonomies as well as conceptual and disciplinary boundaries.
VECTORS TOWARD A DISCOURSE ON VIDEOGAME TYPOGRAPHY
The title of this study, The Videogame Text, comprises two distinct but related assertions. The
first, is that videogames contain text: alphanumeric signifiers that communicate verbal or semantic
data to the games' player. Therefore, the videogame text is that specific kind of text appearing in
the context of videogames. The second assertion is that videogames are texts: they are materially
distinct digital artifacts which give structure to a specific communication act through the
manipulation of symbols. These symbols may be significant verbally, textually, culturally, or
ludically (in the sense that their symbology serves the functions of play), but their coinvolvement
in the production of meaning creates a characteristic textuality of videogames. By invoking this
dual sense of the term "text," this study argues that videogames depend on typographic expressions
of textuality because the design of alphanumeric symbols in games depend on the constraints of
the game's platform. Typographic symbols exhibit a textuality that can demonstrate constraint
without necessarily impacting a glyph's ability to reliably function in a symbolic context. In other
words, a highly constrained "3" is still as much a three (and as legible) as an highly ornate "3," and
as such, the aesthetics of typographic expression are not tied as closely to questions of
representation as is the case in other symbolic systems.
Furthermore, text plays an expressive role within games, determining how they produce
meaning and express their unique aesthetics. Analyzing how these alphanumeric forms participate
in and give shape to videogame textuality invites an analysis that goes to videogaming's
programmatic core as a medium. In this way, the major thrust of this study is that videogame
typography exemplifies the discursive mediality ofvideogames. This places videogames alongside
other forms of electronic textuality such as interactive fiction because I find the visual articulations
of their status as digital artifacts to be relevant contexts for analysis.
This project is also an effort to bring together two lines of inquiry which have previously had
little contact: textual studies and videogame studies. The benefits of this convergence will be made
apparent through the course of this study, but I propose typography as a logical entry point.
Standing astride the textual and graphical regimes of signification, typography is an invitation to
explore possibilities of meaning-making in multiple, simultaneous modalities. So-called expressive
typography communicates through visual means as much as or more than the verbal or numeric
content being rendered, and videogames routinely combine visual, verbal, auditory and even haptic
sensory information into a coherent expression of a game space. The typographic form of the
printed word has proven a valuable avenue for critical analysis in literary studies, so it is an
important addition to the nascent field of videogame studies. Put another way, videogames have
been one phenomenon that critical studies of typography and textual studies have overlooked;
conversely the growing field of academic videogame studies has yet to incorporate an approach to
video game typography within its emerging critical vocabulary. Videogame typography does,
however, exhibit aesthetically unique properties and demonstrates through its gestures and forms a
textual ontology that depends for its expression on the constraints of its material environment in
addition to its semantic content.
In order to provide the appropriate context for this argument, this first chapter situates the
question of videogame textuality within the present academic conversation around videogames.
Game Studies as such casts a wide disciplinary net, and as a result it is difficult to faithfully
summarize even the most dominant ideas that inform its current state of what Jesper Juul has
described as "productive chaos."' The fact that Ian Bogost less optimistically uses the phrase
"functionalist separatism" (Unit Operations 52) to describe the same situation indicates the degree
to which conflict is at the heart of the shaky interdisciplinarity of the collective field. Because
1 Jesper Juul uses this term in his introduction to Game Studies 5.1 ("Where the Action Is"). Though Juul is being
optimistic, his attitude implies that there are serious, intractable disagreements among those who study
videogames are still a relatively recent cultural genre, it is not surprising that game studies has yet
to engender a fully autonomous academic discipline focused on their study.2 Given the wide variety
of themes and genres within videogames, perhaps this is not a bad thing. Those who write on and
research video games, therefore, usually do so as a function of a primary field (Media Studies,
Sociology, English, etc.), though a growing number of scholars do identify themselves as primarily
video game theorists. Both Juul's and Bogost's statements hint at the way interdisciplinary tension
comes to bear upon conversations within the nascent field, but this may be a sign of the field's
robust potential for growth. Researchers have been studying videogames for at least 20 years now,
but foundational principles such as what constitutes genre in games have yet to reach a consensus
view.3 As a way of orienting what is at stake and what is assumed in the various conflicts, a brief
discussion of the basic terminology around the object of study may illuminate some of the ideas
certain parties bring to the conversation.
Terminology: Video Games, Videogames, and Gaming
Although there are differences, competing terms like "video game," "videogame,"
"computer game," "electronic game," "digital game" seem at first glance to be more or less
synonymous. Considering that each construction attaches a technologically specific descriptor to
"game," it is worth noting how little restriction these modifiers seem to place on the way these
terms are actually used. Some of the objects commonly referred to as "video games" may not
actually use video technology at all. In fact, one of the earliest games that can make a case for
being the first ever videogame was displayed on an oscilloscope.4 Furthermore, many games that
2 Several schools do offer majors in game design, and there are programs like the one at the Georgia Institute of
Technology, which encompass the broader field of Digital Media. To my knowledge, however, there is not yet an
autonomous university department of game studies on the order of similar film studies departments.
3 Genre in videogames is complicated by the way generic labels describe different qualities in games than in other
media. For example, while "Western" and "science fiction" are valid genres of film that describe something
about the film's setting, videogame genres such as "first-person shooter" or "real-time strategy" describe
something about how the game is played. A first-person shooter game may be set in a far future context, but it
will not be labeled a "science fiction"game. I attempt to address the problem of game genre in an earlier essay
4 William Higginbotham programmed Tennisfor Two in 1958 for display on an oscilloscope (Burnham 28).
Spacewar!, developed on the PDP-1 computer in 1961 used vector graphics on a Type-30 CRT display (Graetz
possess electronic components, such as pinball machines or board games like Operation, are not
normally included in conversations about videogames. Therefore, "electronic game" is not specific
enough, and "electronic" may potentially describe such a diverse group of games (all those relying
on electricity) that it will be difficult to form a coherent concept of a medium. "Computer games,"
like "arcade games" and "TV games," suggests a particular platform for gaming at the exclusion of
alternative platforms, although it is true at some level all of what we think of as videogames
require some kind of computation. In common usage, however, those using the term "computer
games" often mean to make a distinction from "console games" even though current generation
game consoles contain more computing power than average PCs. David Buckingham
acknowledges this distinction, but concludes that, at least in the United Kingdom, "games are
called 'computer games' irrespective of whether they are played on a PC or on a dedicated games
console such as a Playstation or an Xbox" (5).
Other terms are simply unsatisfactory for the task of limiting the definition to a core of ludic
media. More general terms like "entertainment software" and "interactive entertainment" are
simply too vague because they remove the technological descriptor as well as the crucial "game,"
without which one may plausibly include Microsoft Excel among "entertainment software" if it
used for purposes one finds entertaining. Some of the differences among these terms appear trivial,
but a conscious choice to use any of the above may cordon off certain critical assumptions while
foregrounding others. Using "video," for example, emphasizes the visual and graphical elements of
the game object, while "computer" emphasizes the programming structure or, perhaps, the rules
that generate the game. Because my present study does focus on the visual elements of games,
"video" does reflect the appropriate emphasis. There is, however, another matter to consider.
If we accept the term "video" to mean any visual display of moving images, as opposed to a
specific technology involved in the production of video imaging, like VHS, PAL, or NTSC, there
is still the question of how the "video" prefix performs a modification of "game." No major
dictionaries yet include the portmanteau, "videogame," but some writers use the term consciously
as a way of declaring that these artifacts are not simply a gaming alternative co-equal to parlor
games, pinball games, or sports games. As Ian Bogost explains, "But I use the term 'videogame'
for rhetorical reasons. Separating the words, in my opinion, suggests that videogames are merely
games with some video screen or computer attached. But, I believe that videogames are
fundamentally a computational medium ... I think that closing the space, in part, helps consolidate
this concept" (Bogost, "Videogames or Video games") So-called "videogames" are, therefore,
fundamentally unique phenomena that carry with it concepts that are not clearly evoked by either
"video" or "game" alone. From this point of view, videogames still depend on visual technology
and borrow practices from prior gaming forms, but their significance lies elsewhere than either
their status as games or their display technology. For the purposes of this paper, I have chosen the
term videogame in part because it is the more familiar term, but also because the unique
technological constraints of videogames, including the specifics of video display technology, play
an important part in the analysis that they engender. Furthermore, the argument that there is a
coherent videogame medium is assisted by employing the neologism, videogame.
A further idiomatic subtlety calls attention to an additional wrinkle in the academic studies of
video games: the use of the gerund gaming (or videogaming, computer gaming, etc.) to invoke
what is being studied. Using a verb form as opposed to the noun, game, implies that the object of
study is the act of playing, and this starting point leads to different theoretical conclusions.
Accordingly, some contemporary theorists who look to classic discussions of play such as Johan
Huizinga's anthropological text of 1947, Homo Ludens, or Roger Caillois's Man, Play, and
Games tend to use the verb form. Markku Eskelinen, for example, devotes an essay to what he
calls the "gaming situation," a term he uses in order to disrupt the narratological argument
stemming from assumptions that treat the game as a textual object ("The Gaming Situation").
Huizinga and Caillois are both worth noting because theirs are among the first scholarly studies of
the broad concept of play in culture and they are each useful for placing videogames in a cultural
context. But both focus on play as a cultural idea, necessarily including all kinds of games (that is,
not videogames) as well as instances of unstructured or even metaphorical play. By placing their
emphases outside of specific instances of games, Huizinga and, to some extent, Caillois, provide
logical starting points for approaches to videogame theory that do not focus on the material or
textual aspects of the experience. Rather, a game is simply what one uses to structure play, so to
refer to the cultural idea of gaming as opposed to the specific case of any one game bypasses the
question of materiality altogether.
In a different sense, the title of Alexander Galloway's book, Gaming: Essays on Algorithmic
Culture, does seem to correspond to his emphasis on the act of play which is manifest in his thesis
that "video games are actions" (Galloway 2). Galloway clarifies that video games are an active
medium, and in his book he explicitly takes into account the actual artifact of the videogame. But
by approaching the subject originally through the titular designation gaming, Galloway subtly and
specifically sets up his argument about what kind of thing videogames are and how they should be
Finally, there is a grammatical ambiguity regarding the word game in the English language
such that it is correct both to speak of checkers as a game, as well as to refer to a game of checkers.
In the first sense, game refers to the general category of experience under which checkers may be
appropriately cataloged, and in the second sense, game refers to a unique instance of playing
checkers that is distinct from other instances of playing checkers. This ambiguity also presents an
opportunity for theorists to extrapolate positions regarding videogame textuality, such that game, in
the sense of labeling what checkers is, can refer to a text: a system consisting of signs and
operations intended for reception by an audience of game players. Accordingly, the term
videogame as it is used throughout this study is intended to invoke that sense of textual
Ludology and Narratology
The most prominent disagreement about how to study video games resides in what has come
to be known as the "ludology vs. narratology" debate. Though the debate as such seems to have
cooled,5 and some suggest that it never really occurred,6 the disagreement does reveal some very
different ideas about how videogame studies should be carried. Part of the reason for the escalation
of rhetoric in this debate is surely that the field is young, with much of the disciplinary territory
remaining unclaimed. The territorial attitude is directly encouraged by Espen Aarseth's position
statement to launch the journal Game Studies:
The greatest challenge to computer game studies will no doubt come from within the
academic world. Making room for a new field usually means reducing the resources of the
existing ones, and the existing fields will also often respond by trying to contain the new
area as a subfield. Games are not a kind of cinema, or literature, but colonising attempts
from both these fields have already happened, and no doubt will happen again. (Aarseth,
"Computer Game Studies, Year One")
In this formulation, the work of game studies as such is first and foremost that of staking a claim of
priority and warding off theoretical conquistadors from other fields of study. While Aarseth's
attitude is perhaps understandable in the context of introducing a journal, his often-repeated
colonial metaphor is indicative of a surprising hostility in what really should be a congenial
The terms of the debate are allegedly simple: so-called ludologists are supposed to argue that
videogames' formal properties such as rules define gaming's core characteristic and require an
appropriately rule-oriented criticism, whereas so-called narratologists are supposed to argue that
5 Julian Kiicklich's DiGRA Hardcore column, for example, addresses the debate as having already concluded. In
his estimation, the ludologists won ("Game Studies 2.0")
6 See, for example, Gonzalo Frasca's presentation at the 2003 Level Up conference, "Ludologists love stories, too:
notes from a debate that never took place."
videogames are simply a new form of storytelling much like film or hypertext fiction. But both of
these characterizations are inaccurate and promote flawed arguments if taken in the isolation that
some more vocal scholars have advocated.' The term "narratologist" is also particularly
problematic since those who do study games with an eye toward narrative are not necessarily
following the methods of the narratology that has its roots in Vladimir Propp's morphologies of
folktales. That is, someone accused of narratologism may not necessarily be at all interested in
incorporating the ideas of Gerard Genette, Tzvetan Todorov or Seymour Chatman into a study of
games. In fact, so-called ludologists are more likely to draw on Structuralism in general or Russian
Formalism in particular in developing their own typologies of game structure.8 Michael Mateas and
Gonzalo Frasca have used the term "narrativist" to more accurately portray non-ludologists as
those simply interested in story elements, but even that term carries its own baggage as it also used
within discussions of table-top role-playing games to refer to a particular game strategy.9
Though much of this debate does appear to be territorial, there is more at stake in these
disagreements than one type of discourse simpling holding privilege over another. Videogames are
a powerful and pervasive medium, and the ultimate objective of any study of gaming, whatever its
disciplinary heritage, should be to increase or improve our understanding of these artifacts.
Thinking critically about and with videogames can only come about through an open and
intellectually honest discourse that involves the best thinking of all relevant fields.
As a way around the ludology versus narrativism discussion, some writers have either sought
to strike a compromise between the two positions or, recognizing that both extremes are untenable,
sought entirely new approaches. Jesper Juul's Half-Real attempts a compromise route, arguing that
games are always both rules and fiction. The title of his book puns on the games Half-Life and
7 The otherwise excellent volume First Person: New Media as Story Performance and Game contains some of the
shrillest examples of this kind of exchange.
8 Aarseth's taxonomy of the varieties of cybertext is particularly indebted to this variety of category formation.
9 Cf. Edwards, Ron, GNS and Other Matters ofRole-playing Theory.
Unreal and proposes that the half-reality of games consists in their rules being real, and their
"worlds" being fictional. While Juul's conciliatory approach is encouraging, the organization of his
book betrays his belief that rules are the fundamental characteristic of games and that the fictional
worlds are superimposed arbitrarily on the underlying rule structure. Certainly, there would be no
game without rules in some sense, but the so-called "fiction" of games (which must include the
graphical representation of game entities as well as aesthetic and narrative features) exists only in
service to those rules. The risk of separating these two functions of gameplay is that a videogame's
potential for expression, including elements like narrative, aesthetics, and cultural context, is
relegated to the game's non-essential or arbitrary components. In other words, the fiction of games
is not a fundamental component, and any expression we identify in gaming is something that could
also potentially appear somewhere else. This bifurcated view is tempting from the perspective of a
designer, since some games like the endless Space Invaders clones available as Flash games on the
web do attempt to inscribe meaning onto a universal game template by exchanging the symbols for
the aliens or the gun turret.10 The transformation of Space Invaders into Tax Invaders (Figure 1-1),
Pepsi Invaders, or countless others occurs at Juul's fictional level, and therefore, the most
important message of these games is occurring at a symbolic level.
Juul actually demonstrates this in two ludically identical games offered on his website: the
comic "Puls in Space" (after a Danish TV Show) and the satiric "Game Liberation" (Figure 1-2)
which replaces the invading aliens with invading academic fields (narratology, psychology, film
studies, pathology) threatening to destroy ludology's position of privilege." Furthermore, while
this oppositional structure is appealing as a universal template for the production of meaning in
games, it sacrifices too much of the experience by relegating it to a phenomenological autonomous
10 "John Kerry Tax Invaders" (archived at
example of this type of game.
11 Game Liberation is available on Juul's website:
space in which its meaning-making need not be actually game-derived. In other words, in the
"Game Liberation" example, following Juul's formula for analysis, we gain the entire meaning
from a description of the game (that ludology shoots down other theories) without having to play it
Furthermore, it is interesting that Game Liberation is a piece of software, and as such is
subject to non-explicit affordances which nevertheless influence how the game may be interpreted.
By considering the formally material conditions of the game as it is deployed in a web browser, we
can arrive at contrary interpretations of the game text that rely on the limitations of the game's
fiction. Game Liberation is a piece of software written in the programming language, Java. The
game runs in a Java applet within a web browser, so in that sense, its primary platform may be
considered the Java engine running on the user's computer, while its secondary platform is the
user's specific web browser. In some cases, the applet or section of the web page containing the
Java engine, fails to render the game correctly, resulting in alterations of the experience, and if we
are meant to understand the rhetoric of the game by interpreting the appearance and behavior of the
symbolic elements within it, then the variations in those elements must also be considered
significant. For example, in one memorable instance of playing the game, an error in my browser
caused the graphic for the player-controlled gunship to disappear. I discovered, however, that the
game was otherwise running correctly, and because the game encodes the player's ship sprite in a
way such that its ability to fire bullets does not depend on its actual visual presence within the
game space, I found I could fire at will without any risk of my ship being destroyed. Reading this
in the context of the argument Juul is making both with the game and with Half-Real, it seems that
the meaning that my broken version of the game generated communicates the idea that ludologists
attack competing theories without asserting their own or exposing themselves to counterattack.
This may be an effective tactic, but it is a unfair one, only coming into play when the rules of the
game had already been broken. This counter-reading of Game Liberation relies on an accidental
intrusion of the apparatus, but it exposes the limitations both of the template game as a rhetorical
form and the adversarial rhetoric implied by its counter-reading.12
These technological and material elements of the apparatus remain external to the "real"
structure of the game and seem to be elided in Juul's discussion: "the material support needed to
play a game (like the projector and the screen in cinema) is immaterial, since games are not tied to
a specific set of material devices, but to the processing or rules" (Juul, Half-Real 53, emphasis in
original). By this, Juul does not necessarily mean that material support is irrelevant, but statements
like this betray the positivist assumptions behind Juul's argument and foreclose certain kinds of
analysis in the same way that a good deal of the more general conversations around computing
treat electronic text and image as entirely separate kinds of objects. The technological reasons for
this separation are practical, but the intellectual fallout is debatable and, I would argue, is at the
core of the hyperbole surrounding some discussions of computers within Humanities. In other
words, by granting a separate ontology to words and image, theorists encourage thinking of text
(code) as a sort of ideal form of presence for an image. In the same way, rules form the source code
for Juul's discussion about the structure of games, and his analysis similarly favors semiology at
the expense of a more robust, materialist approach to the medium.
A different response to the ludology and narratology divide identifies each extreme as a
consequence of similar same functionalist impulses. In Unit Operations: An Approach to
Videogame Criticism, Ian Bogost outlines an approach based on understanding a videogame or
potentially any text as "a configurative system, an arrangement of discrete, interlocking units of
expressive meaning" (Unit Operations ix). The key to this idea is that it defines games as
configurative systems whose meaning is determined by the relationships among constituent
12 I understand, of course, that Game Liberation is intended facetiously, but the way it presents the relationship
among schools of thought is literally (and ludically) confrontational.
elements, but Bogost makes an important point to distinguish his approach from earlier videogame
For Bogost, these units can include programming structures (specifically, object-oriented
programming), story elements, or player interaction, and their significance is in the way they
mutually interlock to generate the expressive content of the game. Among these elements, the
graphic appearance of game content also contributes to the game's total expression. In a typical
first-person shooter (FPS) game, for example, the three-dimensional environments of the game are
generated through a software engine that projects three-dimensional planes and decorates these
with image files known as textures. Together, these textures and spaces generate the cumulative
effect of a game's spatiality, and that spatiality can be as expressive and aesthetic on its own terms
as architecture is in the real world. In other words, the labyrinths, cityscapes, and forests that
provide the setting for three-dimensional video games express their particular sense of spatiality
through the interaction of graphical and architectural elements. But moreover, the goals and
pathways set by the rules of the game involve the player in a performance that, along with the
rendered spaces of the game's environment, expresses its spatial "feel."
Along with these surfaces, an additional surface that is often taken for granted stands
between the player and the game world into which text intervenes. This surface, known as the
Heads-Up Display or HUD, usually provides information to the player that corresponds to her
goals and status in the game. The information acts as a kind of glue connecting the elements of the
game world that constitute its peculiar spatiality with the actions and intentions of the player in a
way that completes the total, unit-operational system of the game. At first glance, the HUD seems
to provide a textual context for the visual, spatial world of the game, and if considered this way,
one might argue that this demonstrates a hierarchical relationship between words and images in
which images provide content and words provide context. But this hints at the same semiotic
tension underlying Juul's definition of games. In the FPS game, Call ofDuty, for example,
alphanumeric text and informatic images at the covers and top of the screen provide constant
feedback indicating the values of various statistics like ammunition quantities and health, as shown
in figure 1-3.
Unit analysis also provides a reasonable means for including typographic form within the
expressive domain of videogames. Among the units in operation that potentially contribute to the
game's overall aesthetic, the appearance of text and the shapes of letterforms contribute to the total
expression of the game experience. This is especially important when considering the role the
HUD plays in making sense of the player's interface with the game diegesis, and it is logical to
think of this text as a image when it is narrowly informational or numeric. That is, since text within
the HUD supplies little semantic content of its own and is most often plainly numeric, its primary
function is fulfilled in being glanced at as opposed to being read. Also, although the numerical
values do correspond to discrete values assigned by the programmatic conditions of the game as it
progresses, the HUD communicates those values in a particular way, and the aesthetic appearance
of that text depends on the graphical context of the game world and works together with it to
produce an overall effect. Therefore, even though text and images in computing are stored and
retrieved through fundamentally different means (at least for modern games), the possibility of
expression, particularly in video games, depends on their interlocking operation. In other words,
with unit operations in play, a game like Half-Life 2 can be said to rely on images and text in such
a way that visual information (e.g., spatiality) is employed toward semantic ends and textual
information in turn contributes to the visual spatiality of the total game apparatus.
The recurring question of narrative and whether games should be considered narratives is
something of a MacGuffin for game studies. Markku Eskelinen, for example, uses the specter of
narratology as a wedge for excluding certain individuals or disciplines from the valid study of
videogames. Marie-Laure Ryan, an acknowledged narratologist, addresses this by taking the
question of narrative as one of degrees. In this way, and through a list of potential qualities, Ryan
elaborates a context in which videogames may be acknowledged as having some degree of
narrativity, which is a different type of conclusion than the "games are narratives" argument
Eskelinen selects to disagree with. This is relevant not only to the question of narrative in games,
but also other areas of narrativistic controversy such as instrumental music. As Ryan writes, the
question of intent and recognition is also significant to the narrativity question:
The property of "being a narrative" can be predicated of any semiotic object produced with
the intent to evoke a story to the mind of the audience. To be more precise, it is the receiver's
recognition of this intent that leads to the judgment: this text is a narrative, though we can
never be sure that sender and receiver have the same story in mind. "Having narrativity," on
the other hand, means being able to evoke such a script, whether or not there is a text, and if
there is one, whether or not the author intended to convey a specific story. (Ryan 10 11)
Later, Ryan refers to the relationship between computer games and narrative as one of elective
affinity, rather than "necessary union," indicating a productive way forward in the debate (183).
Ryan does not mention expressive typography specifically, but it is clear that this elective
affinity could strike parallel balance in these and other forms of semiotic text. As an example of
this, Johanna Drucker writes in The Alphabetic Labyrinth of many attempts in the 19th century to
divine the hidden meaning of alphabetic symbols. Paraphrasing one such writer, Luther Marsh,
Drucker writes, "Nicely articulating the crucial stimulus to fascination with the history of the
alphabet, Marsh stressed that the alphabet itself was the repository of history, not only its
instrument or means" (Alphabetic Labyrinth 278). In this way, the tension between content and
form in typography, and the interpretation of form as expressive content, is in some ways similar to
the conflict between narrative and interactivity. Both invite the reader to engage the text on more
than one simultaneous and (possibly) mutually exclusive semiotic levels.
Digital Textual Studies
Typography combines verbal and graphical expression, so its importance within the overall
expression of a videogame is consistent with the modality of the videogame medium. But the
specific ontologies of text and image in computing media invite humanistic scholarship that takes
this separation for granted. For example, all too common conflation that words and images in
computing are both reducible to binary code creates the impression that the binary code is the
ideal, abstracted form of any text without acknowledging the differences inherent in the successive
layers of abstraction intervening between the act of digital inscription and of reading. Mathew G.
Kirschenbaum has skillfully unpacked these layers, arguing that a digital artifact exhibits both
forensic and formal materiality through the interventions between these layers (Kirschenbaum,
Mechanisms 9 11). Furthermore, as Jerome McGann argues in Radiant Textuality: Literature
after the World Wide Web, the problems inherent in electronically archiving literary works
foreground latent problems and assumptions in traditional, semiotics-influenced textual studies. In
this context, the main challenge for the bibliographer lies in capturing visual and textual
components of a work in a way that allows electronic search and retrieval (the main advantage of a
computer archive) but also remains faithful to the original work itself. The works of William Blake
provide clear examples of the difficulties inherent in this challenge. An archivist can simply
transcribe the apparent text in a plate of Urizen and store it as a searchable text file, but if a
researcher is cross-referencing instances of, say, words with the capital letter 0 when they appear
near images of orbs, even combining a text file with a scanned image of the corresponding plate is
inadequate to retrieve the relationship the researcher is investigating. This hypothetical conflict
between the affordances of an archive and the aims of a researcher can be seen as an outgrowth of
the Romantic ideology of intentionalism to which McGann responds in his Critique ofModern
Textual Criticism. The alternative approach to textual studies that McGann develops in conjunction
with what D. F. McKenzie terms "the social text," necessarily includes a robust sense of textual
materiality, and it is interesting to juxtapose McGann's sense of materiality with the fictional
worlds of games which Jesper Juul identified as immaterial in the quote mentioned above. Like the
eclectic text that is the goal of the New Bibliographer, the immaterial videogame envisioned by
Juul and others can only lead to similar forms of scholarly crisis whether that is considered a
"productive chaos" or a "functionalist separatism."
Juul seems to use the term, immaterial, in the sense of, irrelevant, but at a fundamental level,
Juul's approach bears the same kind of semiotic logic that McGann critiques. Juul's formula pits
fiction against rules in a manner that imagines rules as the transcendental form of the game toward
which artifacts of the fictional world are arbitrary or at best autonomous. In other words,
videogame fictions are important only because of the means by which they communicate the
transcendental reality of the rules. This basic assumption forecloses the procedural, material-based
criticism that McGann suggests and that Bogost, I would argue, opens up for videogames. The
alternative approach to videogames that I am arguing for here follows this trajectory, recently
articulated by Kirschenbaum, and begins with the medial and material conditions of the game as
the foundation for expression, aesthetics, and interpretation of typography.
Johanna Drucker has written about some of these issues in relation to electronic textuality,
and her work therefore provides an interesting bridge between game studies and textual studies.
Discussing the problems inherent in the electronic archive, Drucker begins with the basic entity of
the letter, and by considering the form of the letter as it initiates the production of meaning, she
provides a context for discussing typographic form as an object available for textual criticism. In
her essay, "Intimations of Immateriality," Drucker poses the central problem of electronic
textuality as a pair of identities for the bodies of letters letters either have an inherent essence so
that recognition proceeds from correspondence to that form, or letters derive identity from their
relationship to a system of signs. She describes the first identity as phenomenological and the
second as semiotic, but it is important to note that neither of these ideas involves expression or
aesthetics as a necessary feature. Accordingly, Drucker proposes a new approach which is
surprisingly harmonious with Bogost's: "Therefore, I suggest that in addition to logical and natural
language, we consider configured language (that is, language in documents where format,
graphical organization, or other structural relations contribute substantively to textuality) in the
electronic context" (Drucker, "Intimations of Immateriality" 55, emphasis in original). She further
suggests that this approach corrects a rift between form and meaning in text that is unique to the
electronic environment, but it is interesting that by employing the term, "configurative," Drucker
echoes Espen Aarseth's definition of one type of cybertext that is in turn echoed by Bogost's
definition of unit operations.
In his influential work, Cybertext: Perspectives on Ergodic Literature, Espen Aarseth makes
a case for a new kind of text, one that is ergodic in the sense that it demands non-trivial input from
the user.13 Aarseth does not spend much time in this work dealing directly with videogames, but he
develops a typology of cybertexts that contrasts ergodic with linear texts. From this it is clear that
videogames are among those texts in which configuration is the dominant activity of engagement.
Markku Eskelinen argues that a criticism based on this understanding should itself be configurative
rather than interpretive; this requires including "a combination of ends, means, rules, equipment,
and manipulative action" within the gaming situation (Eskelinen, "Towards Computer Game
Studies" 38). But it is not clear from Eskelinen's essay how one practices configurative criticism
unless one takes an approach similar to Bogost's unit analysis. For Bogost, unit operations define a
system that is itself configurative, so a criticism that first identifies a system's constituent units and
then proceeds by rearranging those units into a logical meaning also configures meaning in a
13 Turning a page is trivial effort, choosing a hyperlink to click on is non-trivial because it requires the user to make
similar way. As an example of this, Bogost analyses the Tom Hanks film The Terminal by
identifying and juxtaposing units that, when taken together, configure the entire film as a
meditation on different kinds of waiting. In this way, the work of criticism lies in recognizing and
arranging the elements that generate productive meaning, not in responding correctly to the film's
inherent meaning or transcendent ontology.
For Drucker, the configuring that takes place in configured language appears to originate in
authorship, but preserving an appreciation for it through the act of criticism bears some
resemblance Bogost's procedural criticism. Simply put, both attempt to move beyond the dominion
of structuralist criticism by calling into question its semiotic basis. Drucker moves this kind of
criticism, derived from McGann's initial critique, into purely electronic contexts (as opposed to
transcribed or electronically archived print works), and Bogost moves from the programming logic
of video games to produce a similar kind of criticism that accounts for their unique ontology.
Bogost does not discuss typography or textuality specifically, but since Drucker does, this coming
together provides an important critical framework for developing a critical approach to videogame
Text in Videogames
Whereas textual studies has the benefit of decades of textual scholarship to respond to,
videogames themselves do not yet have a standard historical narrative to account for the
development of their characteristic typefaces and letter designs. One initial goal of a theory of
videogame typography should be, therefore, to discover and document that history. While the
chapters that follow provide a first step in this historical direction, this is a history mostly taken for
granted by both academic and hobbyist communities. What I set out to discover through this
project are the technical, material, and aesthetic influences that bear upon the design of type and
arrangement of text within early videogames.
If the lesson of textual studies is that a materialist approach to criticism tends toward
increasing (rather than collapsing) the availability of plausible interpretations of a text, even at the
risk of supplying incommensurable textual singularities, one task of the archivist in service of this
approach seems to be to increase the granularity of the textual object. In other words, as finer detail
and greater variation appear within available materials, a logical result is an approach like the one
mentioned above. For example, since the Blake Archive (www.blakearchive.org) allows easier
access to the multiple versions of Blake's work, and it improves the detail available in its
proprietary image notation system, critical interpretations of Blake's corpus logically proliferate in
more directions. Similarly, classic studies of typography like Robert Bringhurst's elegant volume
The Elements of Typographic Style illuminate minute particulars of type form that are practically
indiscernible to the uninitiated reader to harness productive readings of typographic form. For
example, these readings of technical elements like stroke, axis, and weight, provide evidence for
conclusions about the prevailing type forms of different historical eras. Two recurring themes in
Bringhurst's discussion compare type forms by the way they relate to the human body and
architecture. Early typefaces mimicked handwriting for their forms, so their leaning axis is an echo
of the slant of the calligrapher's stroke. In this way, the form of the type contains an element
traceable to the human body that is distinct from the so-called rational vertical axis evident in neo-
classical type forms. Typefaces of this variety such as Baskerville, contain an idealization of form
that is also evident in neo-classical architecture, so the shape of the letter contains within it an
element reminiscent of a particular spatiality. Both the humanist and spatial properties of type are
relevant to videogame typography for the way game text sutures the game world to the players
experience while at the same time interlocking with the three-dimensional spatial forms within the
game diegesis to produce an overall aesthetic effect. Bringhurst, not surprisingly, does not discuss
videogame typography, but the closeness of his reading provides an elegant inspiration for the
kinds of insights that can be drawn from similarly particular or technically minute features of
typographic form in games.
Another matter for consideration is the ontological status of the text within the game world -
both text that appears as part of a HUD as well as that which appears inside the spatiality of the
game. In early games for systems like the Atari VCS that lacked native text rendering or character
sets, programmers had to create every letter or number required as a graphical bitmap. For the VCS
and most console systems, these bitmaps are formed by essentially switching bits on and off in a
stack of 8-bit bytes to essentially draw the character on an approximation of a section of the raster
grid. In this way, text is literally an image from the perspective of the machine, and its unusual
ontology is such that letterforms are legible within the assembly code itself. In other words,
videogame software can be accessed in a way that views its programming code as a literal list of
bytes (bytes in this case are a sequence of 8 binary values, 1 or 0). By aligning the bytes vertically,
all letterforms that appear in the game are visible. By contrast, more advanced textual encoding
methods store numeric values from 0 to 255 in the binary code and access a given character based
on its assigned ASCII value and render the character based on the visual instructions supplied by a
separate font file. The technical differences between these two formats for the retrieval of
typographic information supply an interesting complication to the previous discussion about
semiotics as a basis for thinking about video games. With the logic of a unit operational approach,
both forms of text signify their semantic content in the same way, but their contradictory formal
conditions open up possibilities for divergent interpretations of their expression as interlocking
units of an overall system. This difference can also manifest in shaping the player's experience of
The constraints imposed by the underlying technology provide another avenue for discussion
because they come to bear strongly on the forms available to typefaces in video games. This
creates an interesting link between cultural and artistic movements concerned with the effect of
constraint upon creative expression. Again, the early videogames, particular home console games,
are especially relevant to this discussion because their visual forms bear a surprising affinity with
minimalist graphic design popular in the 1950s and 60s. They also specifically echo type forms
produced by the Dutch De Stijl group in the 1930s. What is significant here is the way that
constraint by necessity relates to constraint by choice in the production of aesthetics, an idea that is
developed in the works of the Oulipo and their relationship to New Media and hypertext
literature.14 Experimental type designer Wim Crouwel, writing in 1970, characterized the future of
type design as one of constraint and configuration. He bases this projection on his analogy of the
"cell" as the fundamental unit of computing (Crouwel seems to mean both the pixel and the bit),
and he argues that the new logic of type design recognizes this fundamental unit and uses it to
build "nuclei" (letters) which form "units" (words or concepts) that together assemble to form
communication (Crouwel 57). His use of the term "unit" as well as the configurative logic of this
philosophy seems even more appropriate for the videogame context in light of the unit operations
approach, so it is interesting to compare Crouwel's own type design that reflected this philosophy
with videogame type. This is a relationship I explore in the second chapter of this study.
Finally, just as the problems of electronic textuality are brought to the foreground by the
challenge of creating an archive, the specific aesthetic forms of videogame type and its dispersal
throughout culture betray a belief about their ideal forms. In other words, there is a kind of
restorative nostalgia for early videogame graphics that frequently "cleans up" the material traces of
the display technology. Although the appearance of so-called jaggyy" fonts has come to
14 It is appropriate, therefore, that The New Media Reader, edited by Nick Montfort and Noah Wardrip-Fruin,
includes a selection of Oulipean writing. The authors explain this connection in away that appeals especially to a
favorable comparison videogames: "The potential that lies within such an understanding of interactive
experiences is a reconfiguration of the relationship between reader, author, and text. The playful construction
within constraints that the Oulipo defined as the role of the author can become an activity extended to readers,
who can take part in the interpretation, configuration, and construction of texts" (Wardrip-Fruin & Montfort
characterize computer generated type, the low resolution (particularly of early TV console
systems) meant that the supposedly harsh, "stair-stepped" curves of letterforms were actually more
fuzzy than j aggy. The fact that the hard-edged, j aggy form prevails in so-called "retrogaming" and
related invocations of videogame nostalgia suggests that the material form of the original game
situation is being lost as it has been replaced with the supposedly ideal, hard-edged form of the text
image. In other words, hard-edged forms promote a nostalgia for an imaginary aesthetic, but in the
critical context, this revisionary imagination seems to conform to the fiction of the game object as
transcendental form. The challenge for the scholar, therefore, is to find ways to recreate or simulate
the original material conditions of the videogames' design. This is relevant to the study of
typographic forms because programmers of early games were certainly aware of the peculiar
optical effects of the CRT display, so successful type design in the context had to take that
distortion into consideration, often by taking advantage of its peculiarities. For example, the fact
that the first numeric forms for keeping score in early games like Pong contain only straight lines
and right angles is partly a way of dealing with the blurring effects of the television raster display.
An approach to the materiality of videogame type should include the television or monitor screen
among the interferential layers of production standing between the encoded typographic object and
its reception in the space of a videogame.
Videogame as Text
Returning to the question of what a videogame is, the question of narrativity in videogames
has a parallel in the question of videogame textuality. Though this study focuses on text literally,
the idea of the videogame itself as a text is a foundational assumption. This concept has not
garnered the same controversy as the narrative question, but it is nevertheless one that Diane Carr
notes has been implicitly objected to in the theme of the 2007 DiGRA conference, "Situated Play."
Drawing on Roland Barthes, Carr notes a contrast between structural approaches to videogame
criticism and textual analysis of videogames, concluding that the latter has untapped potential:
When adapted for digital games, Barthes' work (1977) suggests that structural analysis
would involve looking at the units in the game-as-system, and these units' relative (and
shifting) values, organisation, placement, mobility, relationships, as well as the scope for
manipulation afforded by these units. ... Textual analysis, then, goes beyond content
description, it's not limited to the 'static' or the linear aspects of a game, and it does not
involve seeing a game as an isolated, static object. It looks to the game-as-played, to games
in culture, and to culture in games. For these reasons textual analysis offers one approach to
questions of meaning. (Carr)
She has also developed this idea in the collaborative essay collection, Computer Games: Texts,
Narrative andPlay, which was itself the product of a research project titled "The Textuality of
Video Games" (Carr et al. Acknowledgments). Similarly, though it lacks such a specific defense of
textuality, Geoff King and Tanya Krzywinska's Tomb Raiders & Space Invaders: Videogame
Forms & Contexts takes a definite textual approach to unpacking videogame systems of meaning.
Calling attention to contexts in the title implies there is a core of textuality in relation to which
there is a contextuality.15 In one example, Doom is described as a communicating a specifical
formal modality by way of its paratextual materials: "Cover and interface artwork immediately
establishes a fantasy framework twice distanced from the material of external reality, a blend of
neo-gothic and science fiction imagery" (King & Krzywinska 20). In this way, the "distance"
between the external and internal reality is mediated through a specifically associational paratext
that establishes the means through which players make sense of the "in-game-world."
In a more explicit treatment, Barry Atkins in his book More than a Game does not hesitate to
recognize the computer game not only as a kind of text, but also a full-fledged form of fiction. He
even eschews his initial term computer game in favor of game-fiction, insisting that a game-fiction
"presents a fictional text that rewards close critical scrutiny" and that that scrutiny "is not intended
to be a work of theoretical enquiry, but a work of close textual criticism" (10). The nature of this
15 In their actual use of the concept, it appears that what King and Krzywinska refer to as context might better be
described as paratext (after G6rard Genette) as Steven Jones has and as I will throughout this study.
scrutiny, however, is textual to a fault, to the exclusion of visual textuality. He eschews the term
videogame, for example, because it overstressess sight with no reference to cognitive
understanding" (Atkins 20). In contrast to this, my goal in this study is to deal directly with the
kinds of meaning produced through visual textuality in videogames.
James Newman appears to be in at least implicit agreement. Although he acknowledges the
objections of ludologists "for ludologists, it makes no sense to talk of the videogame text, in part
because it cannot be seen to be constituted without the activity and action of the player"
(Videogames 95) it is clear that Newman is comfortable with applying the term text to refer to
videogame content. Throughout both Videogames and his coauthored 100 Videogames, Newman
offers qualitative analyses of specific games, and frequently invokes the term text in reference to
the object of study.
One other sense of videogame text bears mentioning in this context: the genre of computer
which is completely text-based in its content. Nick Montfort has written what is perhaps the
definitive scholarly work on so-called interactive fiction, Twisty Little Passages, and has also
contributed an excellent piece, first presented at the 2005 Word and Image conference, on the role
of text and image within gaming environments. In "How Stella Got her Text Back," Montfort
concludes with a call to what can only be considered a textual studies of videogames: "To
understand the place of text and image within computing, we should bring humanistic concern for
history, social and cultural contexts, the computational equivalent of intertextuality, and all the rest
- and we should bring an appropriate technical understanding of the systems we are considering,
and a grasp of the basic nature of computing" (Montfort, "How Stella Got Her Text Back").
Clearly, text adventure games are worthy of visual analysis in terms of their presentation and
arrangement of text, but this statement from Montfort highlights how the study of digital artifacts,
including videogames and text adventures, benefits from a thorough understanding of the material
condition of production and reception which constitute their textual identity. For example, Dennis
Jerz has created one such comprehensive textual criticism of the seminal "Colossal Cave
Adventure," the goal of which analysis was to perform a close reading of the game's sources -
both its recently recovered source code and the actual cave in Kentucky which inspired the game
(Jerz). Significantly, Jerz's goal in this article is not to recover the original text, but to inform our
understanding of its origins and evolution. As such, this work presents a fascinating example of a
criticism focusing on the social text of a digital artifact.
With a more explicit acknowledgment of the field and techniques of textual studies, Steven
Jones orients his approach in The Meaning of Videogames on the question of the social text of
videogames. In this work, Jones defines paratext in a way that will be useful in chapter 2 of this
study. Specifically, the concept of paratext is a useful way of organizing my approach to
videogame typography because it establishes a framework through which to build an
understanding of interiority and exteriority for the videogame text.
Borrowing terminology from botanical nomenclature, I define typographic signifiers in these
internally and externally textual situations as holotype andparatype, respectively. Chapter 2 begins
this analysis with a focus on paratype, which is followed in chapter 3 with a discussion of
holotype. I chose this organization because the textuality of typography works in both ways -
establishing the signification obtained by text in videogames and signifying the textual conditions
of videogames in other situations. In other words, the textually distinct meaning production
inherent in videogames exists in a dialectical relationship with other situations of (possibly) related
textuality, and the semantic content carried through typographic expression exert meaning across
and through the permeable barriers of material technology separating videogame textuality from
other media. Chapter 4 continues this analysis by focus on a particular dimension of expressivity -
the competing or complementary aesthetics of"jagginess" and "fuzziness" which imply different
ontologies for the videogame artifact. Chapter 5 concludes by offering a close typographic reading
of the various versions of the game Berzerk.
In addition, two appendices provide additional information relevant to this study of
videogame typography. Appendix A outlines a piece of software, ROMscrape, which I created in
order to assist my qualitative analysis of letter design in Atari VCS games. As a flexible and Web-
deployed tool, it is hoped that this software and the core search algorithm it uses can be useful for
other researchers in the digital humanities. Appendix B catalogs various character sets and
typefaces discussed throughout.
Figure 1-1. Screenshot of "John Kerry: Tax Invaders!" The game is programmed in Flash and
builds on a Space Invaders template. Available at
io- object 10
Figure 1-2. Screenshot of Jesper Juul's "Game Liberation." Available at
Figure 1-3. Screenshot of Call of Duty. The heads-up display reveals information about the current
state of the game, including the player's location relative to other players and the fact
that he just "fragged" the player Blue Dragon.
PARATYPES AND PREDECESSORS
"Great care must be used in speaking of types, as definitions are very precise." (Wikipedia
contributors & 184.108.40.206)
The epigraph for this chapter appears in the Wikipedia article for the biological nomenclature
term, holotypee." The text itself offers a rather technical and thorough definition of the concept of
type as it applies to biological taxonomy, but it concludes with this strangely aphoristic and
ominous phrase, contributed by an anonymous user at the IP address 220.127.116.11. Although this
user is speaking of type of a different sort (that is, a "nomenclatural type"), he or she supplies a
succinct, if ironic, summation of the chief concern of this chapter and the next, the classification
and description of typography as it relates to video games. Chapter 1 dealt with the issues at stake
in a typographic approach based in textual studies and laid the conceptual groundwork for
proceeding to study the textuality of videogames. In order to advance a general typographic
approach that encompasses textuality, this chapter and the one that follows seek to describe and
analyze typographic forms and draw conclusions about their discursive functions within
videogame expression and in the broader field of cultural signification surrounding videogames. I
begin by considering some issues relevant to type classification and propose two broad categories
or dispositions, adapted from botanical nomenclature, which describe competing typographic
categories or gestures: paratype and holotype. I explore paratypical videogame typography by
examining the historical origins of some prominent typefaces commonly used in paratextual
relation to videogame texts. Those origins, in turn, illuminate what it is at stake in unpacking the
discursive plane of videogame typography, namely, the medially situated, technologically
constrained mode of expression unique to videogame textuality.
Since videogames are a pervasive part of culture and any expansive conception of
videogame textuality includes a continuum of artifacts that will be indistinguishable from other
textual domains, typography that is external to videogames yet still warrants an association with
gaming culture provides a valuable starting point for approaching the unique and definitive aspects
of videogame texts. If one begins with the truism that videogame typography is that subset of
typographic form and function which in some way relates to videogames, then the range of
phenomena earning the label paratype is that segment of videogame typography which is at the
edges (phenomenal, discursive, or logical) of that overarching set. By contrast, holotype describes
those instances of typography which occur at the center of the set (typically, as a part of or
immanently contiguous with actual videogameplay) and which define the paratypical thresholds by
comparison. In this way, holotype necessarily includes any instance of alphabetic writing or
numeric characters within videogames, and paratype includes alphanumeric characters used in
gaming paraphernalia or other contexts that have something to do with gaming. Examples of
videogame holotype include the numbers used to indicate a player's score, the start screen, menus,
heads-up display (HUD) interface, and objects in the game's virtual world which contain text (e.g.,
a billboard or a magazine cover). Examples of videogame paratype include that the typography of
arcade cabinets, instruction manuals, t-shirts, or the sign in front of the arcade. Whereas any
instance of videogame holotype is always an expression of a specific game, paratype need not be,
and as the examples in this chapter demonstrate, a paratypical relationship with videogames may
be entirely anachronistic or a-contextual.
The boundaries of both holotype and paratype are necessarily imprecise, since different
observers may disagree whether a given in-game specimen is indeed alphabetic or whether an
external example legitimately recalls videogames. However, this imprecision does not mount an
impassable hurdle. Instead it underscores the significance of thresholds and boundaries for the
unique textuality of the videogame medium. Furthermore, the mathematical concept of fuzzy set
theory provides a logical basis for proceeding with the sort of classification at hand, and because it
allows multiple planes of simultaneous similarity, a fuzzy set approach to classifying videogame
typography, both holotype and paratype, justifies a clear focus on the videogames produced in the
so-called "Golden Age" of the late 1970s and early 80s. Put simply, this is the period in which both
formal and empirical definitions of videogame typography are at their most reliable. I will return to
the notion of "fuzzy" as an aesthetic mode and theoretical paradigm in a later chapter, but the
difference between a typological and a taxonomical approach to classification is worth exploring as
a basis in which to discuss the significance of videogame paratype.
In a thorough discussion of classification theories for social sciences, Kenneth Bailey makes
an important distinction between typology and taxonomy as similar but differently-oriented
synonyms for "classification." Whereas a typology depends on "concepts" and proceeds by
introducing "criteria types," (K. D. Bailey 5) a taxonomy is concerned with "empirical entities" of
specific physical qualities (6). The difference is important because each suggests a different
approach to classifying videogame type and separating it from the larger set of all typography.
What is interesting about this classification is that by using two separate criteria, empirical context
and ideal form, draws our attention toward the same historical period. In other words, whether one
defines videogame type as that which most faithfully complies with an established set of principles
(for example, employing a low-resolution grid or bitmap for its composition) or one defines
videogame type as that which appears most frequently in or around games, both organizing
principles are at their most distinct when applied to the Golden Age.
Tentatively, therefore, I offer the following two criteria for determining the boundaries of the
set of typographic phenomena logically relevant to the subject of videogame typography.
Following Bailey's distinction, the first is typological, the second taxonomical.
1) Videogame typography is the semantic use of alphanumeric characters, the form of which
exhibit any of the following properties in sufficient measure: geometric precision, rectilinear
constraint, and raster granularity.
2) Videogame typography is the semantic use of alphanumeric characters in the context of
an actual videogame or in paraphernalia or other material that directly augments or supports
Each of these definitions contain a number of unqualified assumptions, which the remainder of this
chapter attempts to address, but they provide some traction in establishing what is at stake in
arriving at the various nuances and in the present discussion. As the first definition is not
historically bounded, many of the paratypical samples following this formal definition occur in
sources well before videogames and in contexts that appear to be entirely unrelated, but the value
of aligning their aesthetic features with similar features in videogame holotypes underscores the
significance ofvideogame textuality and provides a basis for its cultural importance. The risk
associated with definitions, and especially essays that begin with definitions, is that sometimes the
only way forward a definition offers is to fulfill its own prophecies. These two criteria are,
therefore, meant only as signposts with which to describe the diverse coalescences in the examples
that organize the discussion which follows.
It is worth noting also that the relationship of form to function is an important problem in
other systems of classifying typography. In fact, Lewis Blackwell uses technologically derived
fonts to undermine all typographic classification. Noting that faces like Barry Deck's Template
Gothic, Zuzana Licko's Lo-Res fonts for Emigre, Wim Crouwel's New Alphabet, and OCR-A have
forms heavily influenced by their technology, Blackwell concludes,
...the faces clearly draw on technological contexts, and are in histories. But it is apparent
that to map the location of a typeface, to pin it down in history and in formal properties,
requires a system of multiple criteria, plotting the nature of a design on more than one axis.
... There is no rule book, only a series of possible readings to be made of each new font and
from which its coordinates may be plotted. (Blackwell 183)
Other authors have been more optimistic, and a number of typographic classification systems do
exist. The most common uses of these organizational schemas are within the pages of font catalogs
or type specimen books. For example, The Concise Guide to Type Classification includes the
following taxonomic chapter titles: "Old Face," "Transitional," "Modem Face," "Slab Serif,"
"Sans Serif," "Decorative and Display," "Script and Brush," "Black Letter" and "Broken"
(Apicella, Pomeranz, & Wiatt 2). And Homage to the Alphabet employs the following categories:
"even weighted sans serifs, thick and thin sans serifs, bracketed serifs, ruled serifs, spur serifs, soft
serifs, square serifs, extra light, ultra bold, condensed, italics, scripts,
inline/outline/contour/shaded, ornate, rustic" (Phil's Photo, inc Cl C2). Though many of these
categories describe differences and similarities that experienced typographers will recognize and
find useful, it is clear even among these two examples that different evaluations of sameness and
difference can result in very different groupings. The Concise Guide, for example, mixes form and
function, logically producing broad overlaps between categories like Sans Serif and Display (many
of which lack serifs). The Homage is more precise, but many typefaces may exemplify more than
one category. Benjamin Bauermeister has proposed a more rigorous, scientific method for
typographic typology which relies on 7- or 10-digit values for a typeface where each digit
represents a different criterion. This method, the PANOSE system, has its limits, however, and
Bauermeister acknowledges that there are a number of criteria combinations which are possible
within PANOSE but which would be impractical or impossible in any one typeface (Bauermeister
4). As these methods demonstrate, strict typological classification of typography is made
impossible by the lack of non-exclusive qualifiers. In this way, a typeface may only exhibit
qualities to certain degrees; therefore, any successful classification system must be based on a core
of fuzzy logic.
In its most well-known formulation, fuzzy logic is defined by L.A. Zadeh as follows: "A
fuzzy set is a class of objects with a continuum of grades of membership. Such a set is
characterized by a membership (characteristic) function which assigns to each object a grade of
membership ranging between zero and one" (29). The benefit of fuzzy logic for typographic
classification is not only that it allows for degrees of membership to a set, but that a set's well-
formedness or (in this case) its ability to provide insight into textual analysis is not a function of
the sharpness of the set's boundaries. Rather, it depends on the unique qualities of the entities with
high membership relative to entities with zero membership. This is important because, when
considering paratypical specimens, those typographic qualities most likely to garner an association
with videogames are most similar to historical holotypes from the early 1980s. The fact that these
associations need not indicate a specific historical contact with videogames suggests how
important the formal classification is. Since that form depends on specific material constraints of
videogame technology, the associations these constraints accrete form the context of a textual
reading. Specifically, other modes of constraint which influence similar forms bring with them
aesthetic, philosophical, or cultural narratives of their own which then become part of the overall
picture of videogame textuality.
Paratypical Videogame Typography
In both botanical and zoological systems of nomenclature, the terms holotype and paratype
have important meanings related to the designation of names for biological taxa. The International
Code ofBotanical Nomenclature defines holotypee" in its article 9, paragraph 1 as follows: "A
holotype of a name of a species or infraspecific taxon is the one specimen or illustration ... used by
the author, or designated by the author as the nomenclatural type" (International Botanical
Congress 12). By contrast, a paratype is "a specimen cited in the protologue [all elements given in
the assignment of a name to a taxon] that is neither the holotype nor an isotype [a duplicate of the
holotype], nor one of the syntypes [types representing a species which lacks a holotype] if two or
more specimens were simultaneously designated as types" (International Botanical Congress 13).
The significance of the prefix hol- will be treated more thoroughly in chapters 3 and 6, but
para- deserves consideration at this juncture for its significance to a number of relevant textual
theories. Perhaps the most obvious, paratext, is commonly used in reference to videogames to
identify supporting materials. Laurie N. Taylor, for example, uses the term in reference to
videogame concept art: "Concept art as a metastructure is pivotal to understanding video games
because it shows how the culture of video gaming interprets and defines the medium and it shows
the significance of seemingly minor paratextual elements to the actual video game text" (227). The
key principle for Taylor's argument is that a paratextual element like concept art prefigures any
interpretation of in-game art, so in this sense, a textual theory of game content must include
concept art as a crucial apparatus of its reception and interpretation. Steven Jones offers a similar
application, emphasizing the sense in which paratexts contain an opposition of surfaces an
insideness which addresses an outsideness:
This helps to account for what every serious gamer knows: the fact that the full potential of
video games is most fully realized by the kind of dedicated, meaning-making, community-
based players who call themselves fans. And this potential always extends outward from the
game itself into the real social world, the "media ecology," where technologies or
expressions combine with corporate interests and audience demands, and the constructed
"universe" of a game, including its paratextual materials (packaging, game guides,
collectible objects, online stats), narrative elements, story and back-story, and imagined
game world. (Jones 10)
The original term and concept are from Gerard Genette's Paratexts: Thresholds of
Interpretation, where he defines a book's paratext as "what enables a text to become a book and to
be offered as such to its readers and, more generally, to the public" (Genette 1). Accordingly, a
paratext is that which expresses the mediality of a book. Genette continues, "More than a boundary
or a sealed border, the paratext is, rather, a threshold, or a word Borges used apropos of a preface
- a 'vestibule' that offers the world at large the possibility of either stepping inside or turning back"
(2). It is important to note in these three concepts, Taylor's, Jones's and Genette's original
proposal, the different ways in which the units at the boundaries of the paratextual domain are
deployed. Genette's definition emphasizes access, situating paratext as a way into a text. Taylor's
argument also relies on this reading-in, but in Jones's usage, the textual content of the game world
radiates outward through the intermedial layers and channels in which it exists.
The etymology of the prefix adds a further perspective. The Oxford English Dictionary
provides two different histories and, thus, two different meanings for the construction para-. The
most common definition is "Forming miscellaneous terms in the sense 'analogous or parallel to,
but separate from or going beyond, what is denoted by the root word,'" and it derives from the
Greek rcapa, "by the side of, beside" ("para-, prefixl"). An alternative descends from the
imperative of the classical Latin root, parare, "to prepare". This definition signifies, "Forming
words with the sense 'protection from '" ("para-, prefix2"). This is used in such words as
parasol (protection from the sun) andparapet (derived from Italian where petto refers to the
breast; thus, "protect the breast"). It is interesting that, though Genette's discussion suggests that he
intends the first definition, both senses are in play when applied to actual instances of mediality. It
is not difficult to imagine a threshold or vestibule that protects an interior against intrusion from
the outside world.
Paratype in the botanical sense is most clearly relying on the first definition, those types
which are alongside but not identical to the holotype, but I mention the broader, dual sense of
para- as a property of the paratext concept in order to invoke that sense of boundary or threshold
involved in videogame paratype. If we take a strict definition of the videogame text, all videogame
typography is ultimately paratextual, but I do not take this position. While some videogame type is
indeed phenomenological exterior to specific games, I distinguish paratype as a term within the
paratextual field that contains the full liminal energy of the overall concept but specifically points
inward. Taken as paratext, some of the forms and examples which follow show the distribution and
continuity of videogame culture as an aesthetic pattern within broader cultural fields. Since the
influence of that domain is limited to actual, historical reference to videogames, I offer the
examples that follow as cases of paratype because they direct a critical assessment inward toward
the game text itself, but also past the holotypical text to the inner, mechanical workings of the
technological apparatuses of gaming.
When one examines artifacts of videogame culture from the 1970s and early 80s, a few
distinct typographic patterns emerge. One of the most unique and striking patterns appears in the
images shown in figures 2-1, 2-2 and 2-3. The distinctively blocky forms of the letters in these and
many other game-related logotypes helped give videogames a distinct visual culture. The mostly
rectilinear forms of the letters and the inclusions of extraneous rectangular slabs' create a sense of
technological intrusion, but the ancestor of these designs a font known as E-13B, developed for
use in Magnetic Ink Character Recognition (MICR) makes even more explicit the connections
between human and machines as textual agents.
Two key developments in automating computer input led to the creation of fonts which
continue to exert an influence over videogame typography. The core technologies of Optical
Character Recognition (OCR) and Magnetic Ink Character Recognition (MICR) began taking
shape in the 1930s, but the typographic identities unique to each technology emerged in the 1950s
as they each saw broader application in information management (Schantz 7). Although the fonts
used for OCR and MICR were designed to solve specific technological problems, they also found
expanded uses within and in reference to videogames, as well as science fiction more generally,
1 One commenter on the forums at Typophile.com refers to these unnecessary forms as "digital tumors"
through the 1970s.2 Just as alphanumeric character designs employed in videogames can later
reference their origins in videogames by exaggerating the constraints of their digital origins, so too
did fonts designed for OCR and MICR develop an association with technology that depended on
repurposing or exaggerating the awkward intrusions of technological necessity for aesthetic
devices. In this way, although it would be years before a videogame could render a font as
complex as those based on MICR, MICR-based fonts began appearing on videogame consoles and
arcade cabinets almost as soon as they became viable commercial products. Studying these fonts
and the route by way of which technology for machine-reading came to develop an association
with videogameplay reveals the technological discourse embedded within videogame images.
Furthermore, contemporary fonts designed in the late-90s and early OOs which resemble MICR
fonts bear descriptive tags such as "retro," or "futuristic," thus underscoring the discursive
referentiality of the type design. One popular example of this, Time MachineTM by Lloyd Springer,
closely resembles Moore Computer a typeface designed in the late 60s in order to mimic E-13B
- and is tagged with keywords like "data," "ocr," "retro," "coding," "futuristic," and "avant
garde." In this way, Time Machine, employs technique of pastiche to exaggerate explicitly the
associations already implicit in its forebear.
2 I am grateful to Terry Harpold for alerting me to one such font, Moore Cmputer, in use in the opening titles of
Colossus: The Forbin Project.
Optical Character Recognition (OCR)
Early OCR technology such as David Shepard's "GISMO," a "Robotic Reader-Writer" built
in an attic and unveiled to the public in 1951, focused on tasks like reading for the blind and text
duplication (Schantz 8). It was not until Reader 's Digest purchased and implemented a large-scale
OCR machine for managing its database of subscribers that OCR realized its potential for
streamlining data entry (Schantz 9). In this way, utility and efficiency became the driving forces of
OCR innovation as numerous corporate, government, and financial institutions purchased or
developed recognition technology for managing large amounts of information.
In order for any of these tools to work efficiently, a reliable input pattern must be achieved.
The noted OCR developer and prolific inventor Jacob Rabinow writes of the importance of this
input in developing his pattern-matching technique after working with Vannevar Bush on his Rapid
This was a 35 mm film processor where data, recorded on film, had to be identified by a dot
code accompanying each record. The dot code had to be recognized 'on-the-fly' at about 300
frames per second ... In working on the recognition of the dot pattern, it occurred to me that
recognizing a pattern of dots is basically no different from recognizing a character ...
(Rabinow, qtd. in Schantz 10)
Thus, the typographic challenged facing OCR developers was to develop a font as reliable and
uniform as a "pattern of dots" that yet remained legible to human readers. Emphasizing the benefit
of strict control for minimizing costs, Rabinow later wrote, "Now, how can we get this control?
The answer is 'Standardize!' Standardize the type of paper, standardize the size of paper,
standardize the quality of printing, standardize the quality of printing, standardize the format, and
standardize the font" (Rabinow 40). This drive for standardization had culminated three years prior
to Rabinow's writing in a standard document issued in 1966 by the United States of America
3 The 'Rapid Selector' was a device based on microfilm which retrieved and displayed documents when requested
by a user. This was effectively a forerunner to Bush's hypothetical "Memex," a device outlined in his article "As
We May Think" which many see as anticipating the later development of hypertext technology.
Standards Institute (USASI).4 This document, X3.17-1966, presented a recommendation for a
standard set of alphanumeric character shapes for OCR, including 10 numerals, 26 letters (capital),
17 symbols, and 4 abstract symbols ("USASI X3.17-1966" 9 10).
Like the characters designed for videogames, these OCR forms depend on satisfying
technological constraints. Therefore, they exhibit a high degree of stylization (see figures 2-4 and
2-5). Specifically, the angular shape of each character is based on a requirement to make each form
as unique as possible so that the pattern of positive and negative space creates a distinct pattern as
the OCR machine head scans across the page. But as Rabinow's call for standardization illustrates,
the sense in which OCR text is constrained extends beyond the actual form of the characters and
the technical apparatus includes every conceivable material aspect of the document. This move
demonstrates how an aesthetic form emanating from such a thorough constraint can come to
signify the entire material situation of that constraint, which is the same process of transferral
occurring when videogame typography takes on a unique aesthetic identity. Videogames enforce
their own standards (most notably the binary storage method of any given platform), so when any
type design adopts the aesthetic properties of either OCR-A or videogame text, that design recalls
the technical apparatus that constrained the original. However, the independent value of OCR-A
was not immediately apparent, and the fact that some resisted it on aesthetic grounds is important
for contextualizing its later adoption in videogames and elsewhere as a signifier for technological
Shortly after the design and publication of OCR-A, the European Computer Manufacturers
Association (ECMA) sponsored an alternative character set, eventually released by the ISO as
"ISO-B" or OCR-B (Frutiger, "OCR-B" 137). Though its significance is less obvious for
videogame typography, OCR-B is important because of an interesting and revealing conversation
4 Prior to 1966, USASI was known as American Standard Association. In 1969, the group changed its name to
American National Standards Institute (ANSI), which it remains today.
which emerged around the time of its creation and dissemination. In an article describing the logic
behind the character set, Adrian Frutiger, an influential Swiss typographer, implies that OCR-A is
"offensive to human taste" and proposes that OCR-B can provide a "decipherable" alternative
(Frutiger, "OCR-B" 137, 142). OCR-B's forms are indeed less stylized and are less obtrusive than
OCR-A's (see figure 2-6), but as OCR technology rapidly improved and the need for either OCR-A
or OCR-B decreased, OCR-A maintained the most lasting aesthetic influence. Kathleen Spangler,
writing in 1971, notes that "the OCR faces are appearing on posters, advertisements, and other
pieces of display type where their unconventional forms are not purely functional ... It is possible
that the OCR types, with their non-decorative characters, will become associated with accuracy of
fact, and therefore, set a new standard in advertising type" (46). Rabinow seems to anticipate this
possibility even as he dismisses the need for OCR-B on both technical and aesthetic grounds. From
the examples he chooses, it appears that Rabinow's article (published in 1969) is responding to
Frutiger's (1967), and as Rabinow insists on the utilitarian reliability of OCR-A, he makes an
interesting argument about the origin and potential influence of its aesthetics:
Our experience with thousands of users is that the stylizing of the A font doesn't create any
human problem. ... I know of no case where anyone had to go to a doctor for eye treatment
or a psychiatrist because of the font. I don't even know anyone who raised even mild
objections. ... The esthetics of characters vary with time and place in history. The serifs
which we know today are based on something which happened in Roman times due, some
believe, to the problems of chiseling in stone. In any case, the Roman serifs were copied in
our printing. (Rabinow 42)
Rabinow elaborates an example of reproduction technology influencing aesthetics,
explaining that at the turn of the 20th century, photographers using Graflex cameras captured
distorted images of race cars traveling at high speed. Because these cameras expose an inverted
image from the top down, the bottoms of the cars were captured first with the rest of the car
progressively later, creating an impression that the car is leaning forward. When cartoonists drew
pictures of racecars, they tended to mimic this optical distortion, so a forward-slanting line became
a signifier of speed that ultimately influenced the design of actual vehicles (Rabinow 42).5 A
similar progression of influence and signification occurs with videogame type where rigidly
constrained typographic forms in early games are retained in later games where the constraints are
no longer necessary, partly as a way of retaining their geometric aestheticism and partly as a
reference to the earlier technology.
It is through this avenue of referencing technological determinism that OCR-A has been used
in relation to videogames. OCR-A fonts often appear in contexts where they are meant to invoke
technology, often associating that technology with alienation such as the cover for the Cyber
Crime Investigator 's Field Guide (Figure 2-7). Uses of OCR-A in or in relation to videogames are
not necessarily this dystopic. For example, the covers for Ian Bogost's Persuasive Games and
McKenzie Wark's Gamer Theory both use OCR-A (Figures 2-9 and 2-10), as does the cover for
Halting State, Charlie Stross's post-cyberpunk novel revolving around a Massively Multiplayer
Online Role-Playing Game or MMORPG (Figure 2-11).
Significantly, OCR-A is a font of choice for much of the Matrix universe created by Andy
and Larry Wachowski, particularly bringing the font's referential technological constraint to its
logical extreme. Like the forward-slanting lines of bus windows which associate speed with an
optical defect of specific technology, OCR-A in The Matrix vindicates the otherwise false
association between OCR-A and modem computing. Not only is OCR-A the typeface of choice for
the Agents when they are in the Matrix (see Figure 2-12), it also appears in the humans' interfaces
with the Matrix, shown in figure 2-13 as it used in the game Enter the Matrix.
The 2008 television series, Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles, also makes frequent
use of OCR-A both in its advertising and within the show itself. The association it creates in these
5 Curiously, Frutiger supplies exactly this sort of cartoon image in article published in 1970. ("Letterforms in
Phototypography"). The illustration reinforces an analogy Frutiger is making between fast driving and smooth
reading (careful typography is to legibility what smooth paving and wide shoulders are to driving), but its timing
and placement hint that Frutiger may be responding to Rabinow.
contexts (see figures 2-13 and 2-14) is similar to the one employed by The Matrix a sense of
contact, overlap, or contamination bridging the gap between human and machine intelligence. In
both Terminator and Matrix universes, humankind is pitted against superior machines in a fight for
survival. Therefore, OCR-A in these contexts reflects a sense of dystopian anxiety or technological
determinism regarding the prospect of machine intelligence, specifically the relationship between
the visual senses of humans and machines.
Besides this associative or expressive use, The Sarah Connor C hl ninle also uses OCR-A in
a more subtle, discursive way. Figure 2-14 is an image from the pilot episode where the main
protagonists are shown on a security camera. The information displayed on the camera uses OCR-
A, associating ubiquitous surveillance technology with the apocalyptic authority of SkyNet. In
other words, as a declarative statement, this use of OCR-A seems to say, "SkyNet is already
One final example of OCR-A used for expressive purposes illustrates a less dystopian,
though far more articulate use of the typeface, which further underscores the ability for
technological artifacts within typeface design to have meanings and applications within culture.
Figure 2-15 shows an advertisement which appeared in the same issue of Datamation as
Rabinow's column quoted above. The ad is interesting because it uses typefaces to demonstrate a
progression from human-friendly reading to machine-friendly reading. Depicting the device itself
as a robotic Janus head calls attention to the dual-nature of typefaces designed for mechanical
character recognition technology, the sense in which these typefaces must be legible to both
machines and humans. The fact that this ad shows this relationship through a typographic progress
narrative is related to the temporal gestures of Springer's Time Machine typeface and, by
implication, the historically situated, holotypical typefaces and letterings used within videogames.
As a videogame paratype, OCR-A images the same relationship among technological context
and expressive form that characterize videogame typography. Furthermore, OCR technology led
the way for the technology of Magnetic Ink Character Recognition (MICR) and its signature
typeface, E13-B, which would have a more direct influence on and application within the broad
field of videogame culture. In this way, OCR-A is a typeface which exhibits the same logic of
textuality as videogame expression more generally. Therefore, identifying the potentially dystopian
science-fiction narratives embedded in OCR-As form suggests one cultural context in which to
situate videogames and demonstrates one means by which a cultural pattern of anxiety can find
expression in typographic form.
Magnetic Ink Character Recognition (MICR) and MICResque Type Design
The technology necessary for MICR developed roughly parallel with OCR and addressed a
similar need: inputting large amounts of information into a computer system using characters
which could be read and verified by humans. In the 1950s, the growing demand of check
processing demanded that a mechanized, automated solution replace the tedious methods of hand
sorting, routing, and processing all personal checks (McKenney 61). A Technical Subcommittee of
the American Banker's Association convened in 1954 to address the problem, and after a series of
consultations with banks, manufacturers and the Federal Reserve Bank, the committee developed a
recommendation and standard for a common machine language for check processing, which was
published in its final form as Document 147 of the Bank Management Commission, first published
in 1959 and still in use today (McKenney 75). The committee's use of the term language here is
significant because the standards and specifications set forth in their recommendations encompass
the numeric font itself, the location of MICR information on the check face, the ink quality, the
system for encoding routing, transit, and account numbers, and the equipment required to process
it. James McKenney's detailed narrative of the technical subcommittee is careful to note that the
use of language in this context is strictly metaphorical (61), but the sense in which it describes the
entire system strongly resembles Ferdinand de Saussure's use of langue (the complete semiologic
system of any language) as a field that is distinct fromparole (the singular expression of a specific
language act). This analogy between langue and MICR as a "common machine language" also will
help explain the means by which re-appropriated MICR fonts express associations similar to those
identified with OCR-A.
The tone of document 147 is far less figurative than McKenney's, and in laying the detailed
process which produced MICR technology, emphasizes the great degree of effort, innovation and
cooperation which went into its development (Bank Management Commission, Technical
Subcommittee 12). The clear benefit of this technology lay in its commonality (that is, its near-
universal, near-simultaneous adoption), but its significance for aesthetic purposes was that it
depended on the uniformity of mechanized input and processing.
MICR works by a recognition process similar to OCR, except that in MICR, the ink is
magnetized and it is read by a magnetic tape head rather than an optical scanner. This prevents
stray marks and paper degradation from interfering with reading, both of which were important
problems the Technical Subcommittee had to solve. The typeface ultimately selected by the
committee, E-13B, consists of simple, geometric forms adorned with asymmetrical rectangular
slabs (Figure 2-16). This design conforms to the technical requirements of the MICR input devices,
and the variability of the slab location among individual letterforms ensures that even degraded
type will yield a sufficiently distinct magnetic waveform in order to be properly read.
This material durability has also given rise to E-13B's lasting aesthetic influence. Like OCR-
A, E-13B's forms were originally determined by technological considerations but are now retained
as aesthetic signifiers of those material circumstances constituting the original design constraint.
Because E-13B's characters are even less natural,6 their visual legacy has been more pronounced
6 In his article on OCR-B, Adrian Frutiger also dismisses E-13B as .llmolt unbearable" (Frutiger, "OCR-B" 139).
and has had a lasting association with videogames since the early 70s. However, like OCR-A, the
designs tended toward dystopian associations before being applied more generally to science
fiction contexts, including videogames. Mark Owens and David Reinfurt discuss the influence of
E-13B on type design and how it "quickly became a typographic signifier of the emergent
human/computer interface and the intersection of money and technology ... The awkward,
technically derived forms of E13B came to represent the 'pure data' of information networks,
pointing towards a post-industrial future that lay just on the horizon." As evidence for this
argument, Owens and Reinfurt offer that one of the first artistic uses of E-13B was in a 1967 work
by Ed Ruscha which depicts simply the date 1984 set in E-13B, apparently in reference to Orwell's
novel. Like OCR-A in The Matrix, E-13B had become the lingua franca of dystopia. It is,
therefore, interesting to explore several typefaces based on E-13B that were designed in the 1970s
and that made frequent enough appearances in relation to videogames that their associative
qualities today still suggest 1970s videogames.
The minimal aesthetic properties of E-13B saw extended influence in a number of type
designs created in the late sixties and early seventies, and many of these MICR-based faces saw
extensive use in relation to videogames. The typesetting and printing industries were undergoing
rapid and dramatic changes during this period, adapting to new technologies like photo- and CRT-
based compositors, so a number of companies and design studies were going out of business or
changing hands. In addition, the decorative typefaces echoing the style of E-13B were often seen
as novelty products, so records about several of these typefaces and fonts are cursory may be
unreliable.7 Nevertheless, the evidence indicates that the first full alphabet based on E-13B was a
7 The best record of typefaces from this period is a "Typeface Namebase," compiled but never completed, by Tim
Ryan, who passed it on to Grant Hutchinson. The work consists of a cross referenced database of type names,
years of origin, and foundries. Unfortunately, the information lacks illustrations of the designs and corroborating
references on their origins. Still, I am assuming that its information is reliable.
font called Moore Computer (Figure 2-18), published by the Visual Graphics Corporation (VGC),
possibly as early as 1968.
The question of precedence is significant when considering the evolution of forms, since of
the typefaces under discussion, Moore Computer exhibits the least subjectivity or elaboration in its
adoption of E-13B's numeral style to letterforms. The earliest extant, published reference to the
font by that name appears in the 1970 edition ofW. Pincus Jaspert's The Encyclopedia of
Typefaces." The encyclopedia does not include an image of the font, but references it significantly
in relation to E-13B. Jaspert describes E-13B as "Atype face designed to meet the needs of
magnetic character recognition in automatic cheque and document reading equipment. MOORE
COMPUTER complements the numerals" (213, emphasis in original). This phrasing strengthens
Moore Computers case for priority, and indeed the alphabetic characters of Moore Computer do
complement the numeric characters of E-13B since Moore Computer's numbers are identical to
E-13B's. Other early reference sources mentioning Moore Computer include a Visual Graphics
Alphabet Library from 1976 and an undated VGC catalog from the mid-70s. These two sources
provide the further information that the face was created as a VGC original, but unfortunately do
not name its designer. The fact that the Alphabet Library includes two other faces prefixed with
"Moore,"9 suggest that he was an in-house designer, and an un-sourced forum posting states that
his first name is David graphicic6'. Whether it was indeed the first, Moore Computer was the
most rugged of the designs which followed and is the most faithful to its source. It is also the first
MICR-based font to appear in advertising for a videogame. Figure 2-19 shows a slightly modified
Moore Computer in use as the logotype for the Magnavox Odyssey, the first-generation videogame
console first released in 1972. Moore Computer also appeared on arcade games (Figure 2-20) and
8 I am grateful to Grant Hutchinson for locating this reference.
9 These are "Moore Combo," a thick, rounded design exhibiting Bauhaus influence and including several variants
for each character, and "Moore Liberty," a whimsical design imprinting stars and stripes on each character.
on some models of Coleco's Telstar console (Figure 2-21), and it is currently featured as the main
title font on VintageComputing.com (Figure 2-22).
Other uses of Moore Computer stress the human/machine relationship in more dystopic or
paranoid ways. Figure 2-23 shows a variant of Moore Computer (the floating slabs in M, N and W
have been removed) in use as the end credits for WarGames, the 1983 Disney film about a world-
destroying computer game. In an example of a more ironic use, figure 2-24 shows Moore
Computer within a cyborg Scratchy's heads-up display in an episode of The Simpsons. This is
clearly meant to parody similar shots from Terminator, so it is significant that the animators for
this Simpsons episode selected a typeface sharing a related material history with OCR-A.
In general, the forms of Moore Computer's characters closely follow E-13B, except that each
alphabetic character Moore Computer includes at least one exaggerated slab, whereas the
asymmetrical enlargements mainly appear on the 1, 3, 4 and 8 of E-13B. Since Moore Computer is
most commonly used in titling, one possible reason for its proliferation of slabs is to ensure that
any use of Moore Computer included its distinctive characteristic. In any case, the slab seems to
take on an identity of its own and even appears outside the body of the character in a few letters
(Figure 2-25). The slab floats within the letters' open counters, but is not connected to the rest of
the shape. Also, the alphabetic characters in Moore Computer move the location of the slab as
dictated by the needs of the character. For example, the W contains an open counter similar to M,
so it seems logical to place the slab in a similar position relative to the rest of the character. Other
changes are dictated by the needs of a full alphanumeric character set. For example, whereas
E-13B's 0 (zero) is a simple rectangular shape, Moore Computer inserts a floating slab to
distinguish it from O and D.
"Data 70" (or "Data Seventy") is another typeface which some claim is the first full alphabet
based on the MICR font E-13B (Figure 2-26). Fortunately, the origins of Data 70 are better
documented, so its claims to originality can be evaluated in more detail. Owens and Reinfurt, in
their article on the influence of E-13B, only discuss Data 70, but they claim that, like Jaspert does
of Moore Computer, that Data 70 "expanded the look of the E13B numeral set into a full upper and
lowercase alphabet" (Owens & Reinfurt 147). Since Moore Computer is an uppercase-only
typeface, it is true that Data 70 is, in one sense, a further expansion than Moore Computer.
However, the fact that Data 70 includes Arabic numerals bearing little to no resemblance to E-13B
(see figure 2-27) suggests instead an indirect line of influence. Bob Newman designed Data 70 in
1970 for Letraset, a manufacturer of rub-on lettering and other graphics (Owens & Reinfurt 147).
Its characters adopt the extraneous slabs of E-13B, but Data 70's are more rounded and more
judicious and consistent in their distribution. In general, the typeface reflects a specific stylization
that evokes the sense of E-13B while emblematizing the original. This can be seen most clearly
when comparing the characters 1, 4, and 0 (Figure 2-28).
Data 70 is essentially a sans-serif font, which is clearly visible in its version of the Arabic
numeral 1. While E-13B's 1 prominently features an abnormally large slab serif, Newman has
replaced this with the uniform slab present in each Data 70 character. By placing this on the left
side of the vertical stroke and removing the upper spur, Newman has created a sans-serif 1 that is
distinguishable from his lowercase 1, which places its slab on the right side of its stroke. The
transformation of the 4 in Data 70 is more dramatic, enclosing the open counter. Like Moore,
Newman must distinguish the 0 (zero) from O with the strategic placement of a slab. However,
since Data 70's forms are more consistent, the slab placement is also the only distinguishing
characteristic among 0,O, capital D, and capital Q, as shown in figure 2-29.
Data 70 makes frequent appearances on Arcade Fliers and game operating manuals. It was
the logotype for the 1972 arcade game "Star Trek" (a copy of Nolan Bushnell's "Computer Space,"
figure 2-30), "Computer Space Ball" (also from 1972, figure 2-31), and in "BiSci Blood Type
Challenge" (a contemporary educational game that is a "send-up" of 1980s arcade games, 2-32).
Data 70 is also the title font for Walter Buchsbaum and Walter Mauro's 1979 textbook, Electronic
Games: Design, Programming, and Troubleshooting (Figure 2-33).
Orbit-B, designed in 1973 by Stan Biggendon, was another VGC original like Moore
Computer. It adopts a similar slab distribution pattern to Moore Computer (see figure 2-34), but the
slabs themselves are slightly narrower and connect to the body of the letter with a steep diagonal
rather than a right angle. Its strokes are also proportionally narrower than Moore Computer or Data
70 while its counters are noticeably wider. The numerals in Orbit-B are still quite different from
those E-13B, but show more in common than Data 70. Figure 2-35 shows Orbit-B and E-13B side-
Orbit-B is less common than either Moore Computer or Data 70, possibly because its MICR
influence is more subtle and less arbitrarily intrusive, but it still appears frequently in and around
videogames and in contexts where some intimacy is suggested between humans and computers.
For example, Orbit-B appears as display text for a security scanner in the movie Johnny Mnemonic
(Figure 2-36), yet another dystopian science fiction narrative expressing a thinly veiled anxiety
about the overlap or competition between human and machine intelligence. Orbit-B also makes a
significant appearance on the cover of Galactic Empire, a 1979 strategy game which has the
distinction of being the first game released the noted game development company, Broderbund
10 I have not been able to determine the origin of the "B" in "Orbit-B," but it may be a reference to E-13B. I have
not been able to confirm this, however, nor have I yet found an "Orbit-A."
(Falk). Figure 2-37 shows the 1982 release of the game, with Orbit-B clearly augmenting and
invoking an outer-space theme.
The origins of Westminster (Figure 2-38) are somewhat unclear, but it emerged at least as
early as 1971 as figure 2-39 demonstrates. It is also the most pervasive and common of the MICR
fonts because it has been distributed freely with Windows operating systems since Windows 98. Its
distribution of slabs has much in common with Orbit-B, but Westminster's proportions are much
narrower. Microsoft's typography website does provide a few tantalizing details about
Westminster, but does not identify the designer or exact year of origin. Printed below is the full text
of Microsoft's information about Westminster, which comes included with the font software:
In the mid-1960s after banks began printing machine-readable account numbers on checks, a
British font designer made an entire typeface along the same lines. No one took this typeface
seriously, however, until Photoscript produced it, naming the typeface after the bank that
helped Photoscript fund the font's production. Westminster was an instant hit, and the very
font makers who had previously rejected the idea rushed out to commission alternative
designs. This is the first of those designs, and it's the best. Although you're welcome to use
only the numbers (perhaps you run a bank), the rest of the face can provide a number of
interesting uses at both large and small sizes. (Microsoft)
It is difficult to verify the claim that Westminster is the "first of those [MICR-based] designs,"
though its uses in 1971 place it among that original group.
According to Simon Daniels of Microsoft's Typography division, the text embedded in the
Westminster font file would have been composed by the late Robert Norton, head of Microsoft
Typography during the mid-1990s (Daniels). Daniels believes it is possible that Norton originally
designed Westminster himself, and the little available evidence does support this possibility. The
font description mentions Photoscript, a phototypesetting company Norton founded in 1970
(Macmillan 141); the unnamed designer is identified as British, as was Norton; and the choice to
focus the font's description on the story of a willful designer who is ultimately vindicated seems
consistent with Norton's sense of humor" and habit of self-deprecation (Berry).
As to Microsoft's claim that Westminster is "the best," it appears that many designers agree
since the font can be found in many different uses where it is meant to convey some relationship
between humans and computing. Its forms are somewhat similar to Orbit-B's in that they both
employ diagonally angled slabs, but Westminster's strokes are significantly wider than Orbit-B's.
Westminster's counters are also generally narrower, giving the glyphs a more compact look. The
numeral characters are significant because, despite Microsoft's implication that one could run a
bank using Westminster, its Arabic numerals are quite different from E-13B's (see figure 2-40). In
fact, Westminster's numerals appear more similar to Data 70's than to E-13B, suggesting that one
may have influenced the other.
One interesting, recent use is in the web cartoon Homestarrunner, created by Matt and Mike
Chapman, where Westminster is depicted (in a role typical for MICR-based fonts) as the lingua
franca of 1980s computing.12 In figure 2-41, the character Strongbad checks his email (a weekly
feature on the website) on his "Tandy 400," which uses Westminster as its primary display font. In
a later Strongbad email segment, Westminster is used as the embodiment of "characters" from the
parodic text adventure game "Thy Dungeonman" (Matt Chapman & Mike Chapman, "Web
Comics"). In the e-mail feature, the premise of the joke is that a Saturday morning cartoon show
has been made based on "Thy Dungeonman," but since the game lacks graphics, its only visual
components are the input text (Figure 2-42).
This group of typefaces E-13B, Moore Computer, Data 70, Orbit-B and Westminster all
share many common features, the most obvious of which are the angular, geometric glyphs and the
presence of superfluous slabs adorning many of the forms. As a vestige of a technology for
11 See, for example, Norton's Microsoft Typography: A Disagreeably Facetious Type Glossary (1995).
12 Homestarruner is a Flash-based website available at
machine-reading, the presence of these slabs for aesthetic reasons signifies an association with
computing and machinery that can be either reinforce a positive association (in the sense of
"futuristic" and "new") or negative association (in the sense of"dystopia"). Interestingly, these
slabs also serve as reliable indicators of which of these rather similar-looking fonts are in use in a
given sample. Many of the glyphs in these typefaces may difficult to tell apart from the same glyph
in the other typefaces unless one relies on the position and shape of the slab.
The other prominent association encouraged by these typefaces is the suggestion that they
have to do with mainframe computing. In one sense, it is true that OCR and MICR technologies do
rely large computing devices, there was never any case in which the stylized typefaces of either
OCR or MICR were preferable or even necessary in a screen display situation. These faces were
designed for print specifically, for turning printed text into electronic data so using them to
create a sense that a computer screen interface is historically authentic performs a kind of
anamorphic nostalgia in which the historical perception of the original is distorted by descendants
of that original form. This association is borne out in the catalog descriptions published with fonts
of these typefaces and in keywords assigned to these fonts on websites like MyFonts.com. For
example, the website for Monotype Imaging, which distributes "Computer," makes the following
claims about the typeface: "Computer is an all-capitals headline font that immediately implies
early mainframe computer technology. Although desktop computers and better screen and printer
faces have been available for some time, the type style of the Computer font is still used for
futuristic topics" ("Computer Font Fonts.com").
Although MICR-based typefaces discussed above began appearing in videogame arcade
cabinets, consoles, and instruction manuals from their earliest inceptions in the 1970s, it was not
until the late 70s that such lettering was even possible on videogame screens, and not until the
early 80s was it at all common. Adopting the same assumption that type created for mechanical
reading signifies a lingua franca for human/computer interfaces (and hybrids), most of the games
which used this style of lettering did so as part of some kind of science fiction setting, with some
noteworthy exceptions. On the Atari 2600 console, these games include some of the Star Wars
games released by Parker Brothers as well as a few other space-oriented shooter games. The table
2-1 illustrates the Arabic numeral glyphs for a number of these, grouping together similar or
Other games from the early 1980s make use of MICResque design, including Star Raiders,
most popular in its Atari 400/800 version. As these examples demonstrate, these fonts of
MICResque design were not implemented for the purpose of achieving greater clarity. If anything,
these designs are less legible for human readers than simpler designs on the same technology.
Instead, the fact that programmers chose these faces indicates an attempt to make some kind of
associative appeal. Some games from this set adopt a science fiction setting, but that fact alone
fails to prove that these MICResque designs have anything to do with science fiction. The subtler
point is that these designs invoke an earlier, print-based technology that imposed mechanical
constraints on the forms available for letters. Within an environment of similarly restrictive
constraint, these designs reference their own sense of being constrained, not merely by conforming
to the bitmap grid, but by working in spite of that grid to reference something beyond it. The
converse of this relationship between constraint and expression is also true. The strictures of a
bitmap grid preclude mimicking other print-based type design serifss would be difficult to manage
at this scale, for example, as would any humanist typeface), so a game programmer wishing to
refer to something beyond the screen has a clear target in print-based forms which also employ
grids. This, therefore, is the essence of paratypical videogame typography: associations based in
mimesis which derive formal properties from the constraints of material technology.
Though their relationship with actual videogames is purely formal, some typefaces and
lettering created in the early part of the 20th century bear a surprising resemblance to forms found
in videogames of the 1970s. Chief among these designs is the work of the Dutch De Stijl group, an
artist group associated with the periodical, De Stijl, first published in 1918 (Purvis 25). Theo van
Doesburg was the group's founder and sole editor of the journal, and it is his dominant personality
which characterizes much of the groups ideals, expressed in a series of manifestos which lay out
the group's core ideal, identifying and uniting the universal consciousness of artistic expression
(Blotkamp, "Introduction" ix). In practice, this meant "searching for and the most fundamental
elements of each separate field of art and then uniting these elements in a well-balanced
relationship" (Blotkamp, "Introduction" ix). The group's artistic works tend to emphasize
rectilinear forms and primary colors, and the typography employed in the journal itself is strikingly
performative (see figure 2-43). Typography itself is an art based on the mechanical reproduction of
a limited set of forms, so it seems a fitting medium for explore the aesthetic ideas of De Stijl.
The De Stijl artist most responsible for creating videogame-like letterforms was Vilmos
Huszar, who created the famous logo for De Stijl seen in figure 2-44. The block letters for the title
DE STYL, often erroneously credited to van Doesburg (Ex 92), are formed from uniformly spaced
rectangles which create each letter within the space of an identically sized square. Like the bitmap
compositions of videogame letters, the unity of each form depends on the successful arrangement
of geometrically inflexible components. Huszar's anachronistic references to videogames continue
in his Ornament XXe eeuwse stijl (Figure 2-45), which bears a resemblance to the representations
of binary code I discuss in chapter 3. And his Compositie II (Figure 2-46), depicts human figures
ice-skating which look uncannily similar to animation sprites such as the ones used for the Atari
VCS game Superman (1979). Figure 2-47 shows the two side by side, with the figures rearranged
for better comparison. Object 2-1 is a simple animation using the same principle as the Atari sprite
animation, but taking Huszar's figures as the source image.
A typeface (or, more properly, a lettering style) designed and used frequently by van
Doesburg makes another contribution of rectilinear letterforms that have a formal relationship to
videogame lettering. This alphabet, shown in figure 2-48, is based on the same square form
employed by Huszar as a constraint, but even though van Doesburg's design is significantly more
legible, it remains useful primarily for titling and logos.
Piet Zwart, an artist associated with De Stijl, used similar lettering throughout the 1920s,
with the apparent purpose to emphasize "technology, universality, abstraction, and functionalism"
(Purvis 62), ideas which anticipate how this style of lettering is used today. In 1995, type foundry
P22 released a revived and expanded version of van Doesburg's alphabet as DeStijlTM, and in 1997
The Foundry released their own version as "Architype van Doesburg." Like Huszar's letters, these
can be associated with videogames by reference to the forms, but a surprising contextual
association also appears in WiredMagazine.
Figure 2-49A shows the spine text for Wired after its redesign of March 2007.The face is a
custom design by Hoefler and Frere-Jones (Editors 26), but its capital W and capital R are close
matches for van Doesburg's. Furthermore, the logotype used for each section of the magazine
(Figure 2-49B includes the logos used to mark the "Start" and "Play" sections) are similarly
rectilinear and echo the forms used by van Doesburg and Huszar, and also by the type designs of
Dutch architect H. T. Wijdevald whose lettering for Wendingen is also echoed in the logotype for
the digital culture blog Boing Boing 2-50.
What are we to make of these associations between Wired, which connects these specific
typefaces to a context appropriate for videogames? It seems to be the case that Wired's use of these
designs does not depend on their referentiality. Rather, the hard edges and rectilinear forms of
these samples is consistent with the overall look of the magazine's redesign, and is consistent with
previous designs which employed the look of jaggy, pixelized shapes throughout. Perhaps one
conclusion we can draw is that if the aesthetic idea Huszar sought was to reduce letterforms to the
most fundamental units which could still produce a recognizable character, then maybe the alleged
purity of that approach also applies to videogame type design which has the units predetermined by
the raster of the bitmaps which store each shape. In other words, if Huszar's design was successful
for reasons related to its form, then perhaps those same formal elements, unintentionally re-created
in videogame letters accomplish the same aesthetic goals. In one possible example of this, lettering
design for the 1982 Atari 2600 game Blue Print (CBS Electronics) contains text consistent with a
typeface designed by van Doesburg in 1928 (see figure 2-51).
The association between De Stijl and videogames comes full circle with Pac Mondrian
(punning on Pac-Man and De Stijl artist Piet Mondrian), a project created by the artist collective
Prize Budget for Boys ("Pac-Mondrian"). The project consists of a series of playable games
programmed in Java which allow players to carry out a game of Pac-Man in a maze based on Piet
Mondrian's painting, "Broadway Boogie-Woogie" (Figure 2-52). PBFB states that, "Pac-Mondrian
disciplines the syncopated rhythms of Mondrian's spatial arrangements into a regular grid, then
frees the gaze to follow the viewer's whimsical perambulations of the painting: a player's thorough
study of the painting clears the level" ("Pac-Mondrian").
One final bastion of Dutch graphic design having an interesting affinity with videogame
typography is the 20th century designer, Wim Crouwel. In 1967, Crouwel designed an experimental
alphabet specifically designed to accommodate CRT compositors and display screens. Contrasting
his design with the distortions CRT introduced to a Garamond font, the so-called "New Alphabet"
embraces that limitation by constructing each letterform with only right angles (Figure 2-53).
Others of Crouwel's designs feature prominent grids, but it is not necessarily the case that he
intended his grids as a response or appeal to technology.
I am always interested in clarity. It should be clear. It should be readable. It should be
straightforward. ... So I started using, gradually, grids for my designs, for my catalogs for
museums. I invented a grid, and within the grid I played my game. But always along the
lines of the grid so that there is a certain order in it. That is why I use grids. That is why they
call me 'gridnik.' For me it's a tool of creating order, and creating order is typography.
(Crouwel, comments in Hustwit)
Therefore, for Crouwel, a grid is an expression of the ideal modernist impulse toward simplicity,
but the sense in which his designs echo his Dutch forebears while also existing contemporaneously
with OCR and MICResque designs provides an important link between the two domains of
videogame paratype. The Modernist basis of Crouwel's grid-based compositions suggested that
similar, necessarily grid-based designs such OCR, MICR, or bitmap typefaces, may also express
Modernist principles of order and clarity. As a paratype of videogame typography, the New
Alphabet invokes clarity as a condition of order and implies that typographic expression within
videogames is itself "clear" in the sense that Crouwel uses the term. However, the widely varied
and contingent textuality which actually exists within this allegedly idealistic grid-like framework
demonstrates the extent to which the "game" of typography is more subjective than Crouwel seems
to suggest. At least, it is not typically subject to the eye of a master like Crouwel.
Two typefaces by Italian designer Aldo Novarese connect the Modernist impulses of
Crouwel within paratypical and holotypical applications. Microgramma, first published in 1952 as
a capitals-only typeface, and Eurostile, released in 1962 with as a completion of Microgramma,
borrow their basic rounded-square form from technology. In his 1964 book, Alfa Beta, Novarese
also describes his basis for these typefaces within contemporary (1950s and 60s) architecture.
The examples that we have grouped under the title: "square shapes" are typical expressions
of the trends of this century, and have arisen to match the font to current architectural
The squared, compact shape, indeed, is now quite familiar. It is present, even predominant,
in everything that surrounds us. And fonts today, as in the past blend with the expression
of today's world. So samples, even if distinguished, of older writing demonstrate that every
style be it Bodonian, Venetian, Egyptian, or Linear can modify its shapes (especially with
regard to curves) from rounder ones to those that are more squared and sharply angled
without excessively modifying the original shape.
The squared shape is the typical expression of our century, as was the round arch from which
the Roman stone working style arose; or as the pointed arch which evolved into the Gothic
character. (Novarese, qtd. in Blackwell 106)13
Novarese's illustration (Figure 2-54), however, shows a train window as one of many places from
which the Microgramma square derives. This comparison anticipates Jacob Rabinow's discussion
of the aesthetic influence of technological restrictions, but it performs the opposite transition.
Whereas Rabinow argues that the forward-slanting design of bus windows arose from a
consequence of photographic technology which associated forward-slanting lines with rapid
motion, Novarese seems to draw aesthetic inspiration from a technology which may be square-
shaped only by necessity.
Blackwell also notes a comparison that seems a likely explanation for Eurostile's continued
success, the television screen. Figures 2-55 and 2-56 show the artwork on the box for an early
gaming console, the Coleco Telstar Marksman from 1978. The console is a late PONG-clone, with
the addition of two game-modes which make use of a light gun. As such, it is a very typical
gaming device of the 1970s, both in terms of its technology and design. The logotype for the game
combines Helvetica and Avant Garde ITC typefaces, but the description text, set in Eurostile,
makes clear the affinity between the font and the adjacent television screen illustrations, and brings
full-circle the discussion of paratypical videogame typography.
Eurostile appeared on many other game fliers, boxes and artwork, and it is still prevalent in
contexts where it is meant to invoke technological or futuristic style. For example, the Blip box art
in figure 2-3 uses Eurostile (ironically) for the text "No TV set required." Eurostile is also the
13 I am grateful to Mark Vasani and Richard Paez for their assistance in translating this passage from Italian.
typeface of choice for the bibliographic software Zotero and is probably most visible as the
logotype for insurance company GEICO. If the success of Eurostile does have anything to do with
its invocation of the shape of television screens, it is significant to note that this is an increasingly
nostalgic inference as the use of more rectangular flat screen and high definition televisions
becomes more widespread. Crouwel's New Alphabet was also designed specifically with reference
to CRT technology, so its historical paratypical association becomes an increasingly dated
reference to technology even though the formal (i.e. rectilinear) identity continues to drive
associations with constraints of technology.
This chapter begins with an admonition to take great care with type. The categories and
definitions proposed and explored here are indeed tentative. The term paratype offers a useful way
into a conversation of influence, intention, and constraint in the field of textuality that surrounds
videogames, but its ability to determine or delineate those boundaries is not reliable. Still, the
common feature of some logical or empirical relationship with videogames has united practical
developments in the technology of machine input with the aesthetic ideals of European modernism,
and the result reveals the uniquely situated domain of videogame textuality. While it is not
necessarily the case that the aesthetic viability of typefaces designed for videogames prove (owing
to their resemblance, say, of van Doesburg's alphabet design) that the neo-Plasticist principles of
aesthetics were correct, neither is it the case that Huszar's figure design prophesied the coming of
sprite animation. It is also not the case that typefaces like Moore Computer, Westminster, and Data
Seventy have any historical connection to videogames. Rather, these relationships and associations
demonstrate the powerful and uniquely malleable ability for typographic form to reference its
means of reproduction. The next chapter explores videogames and videogame technology as means
of and context for typographic reproduction.
Figure 2-1. Magnavox Odyssey logo. (Image from Baer)
Figure 2-2. Star Trek arcade cabinet. (Image from "Star Trek (1972)")
Figure 2-3. "Blip," a table-top electronic game by Tomy. (Image from Morgan)
-JL )r '- __ L
.': ; +/$*"&L
Figure 2-4. Standard OCR characters established by USASI X3.17-1966. The font derived from
this standard is commonly referred to as OCR-A. This image is a scan of the character
set at size "B." (Scan from "USASI X3.17-1966" 38)
Figure 2-5. The detailed specification for the OCR numeral 3. (Scan from "USASI X3.17-1966"
ABCDE F GH I JKLMN
cdefgh i jk Lmnop
Figure 2-6. A sample character set for a font of OCR-B, also known as ISO-B, first published in
1967 as a more aesthetically pleasing alternative to OCR-A. (Image from "OCR-B 10
BT : Style Details : MyFonts")
Inves i gaor,
Figure 2-7. Cover of Cyber Crime Investigator 's Field Guide illustrating OCR-A in use as
reference to computer technology.
THE EXPRESSIVE POWER
Figure 2-8. Cover of Persuasive Games by Ian Bogost.
Figure 2-9. Cover of Gamer Theory by McKenzie Wark.
G a m e r
T h e o r y
S author of
As keenly observant of our emergent society
5a it io oufr emrgent tecnnologies. Halting
State is one extremely smart species of fun."
Figure 2-10. Cover of Halting State by Charlie Stross.
gure z- 1. in mis onei snot Irom ine iviarix, Agent mmin s
(L. Wachowski & A. Wachowski)
w A '0 L E
Figure 2-12. This screenshot from the videogame Enter The Matrix depicts the character selection
screen, which is the same interface used in the films for the monitors which provide
visual access to the Matrix. The text "GHOST", "NIOBE," and "PWER FLUX -OK-"
as well as the numerals are all rendered in OCR-A. (Shiny Entertainment)
Figure 2-13. OCR-A within a heads-up display for an android assassin. Image from the pilot
episode of Terminator: The Sarah Connor C h inc,/ /i.' (Nutter).
figure 2-14. UCK-A depicted within a contemporary (late 199Us) surveillance camera. Image trom
the pilot episode of Terminator: The Sarah Connor C('hlin, /le (Nutter).
Figure 2-15. Advertisement for Scan-Data 200, an OCR reading device. (Scan-Data Corporation)
JOHN H. DEPOSITOR No.___
CITY, STATE 56-7890
/C i.) 1234
NAME OF YOUR BANK
i:1231,'"?a11 90I: & 238134657 ii 346 1,"0000 19 S900.1'
Figure 2-16. Sample E-13B characters used in a "Check of the Future" in ABA Document 147
(Bank Management Commission, Technical Subcommittee 2)
Figure 2-17. CMC-7, an alternative to E-13B still in use in some European banking systems. (Scan
from Blackwell 113)
0 P 0 RS T U J XH Y Z flB
CDE F G Hi A L 1 B P
0i S T U U l J X Y Z G L 2 3
Figure 2-18. "Computer" originally sold as "Moore Computer" by VGC. Its current design is
owned by Monotype Imaging.
Figure 2-19. The logotype for the Magnavox Odyssey (1972) systems uses Moore Computer.
Figure 2-20. "Elepong," featuring a variant Moore Computer (the O and N use different slabs).
Detail from flyer image. ("Video Game: Elepong, Taito")
Figure 2-21. Coleco Telstar (1976) featuring a logotype in Moore Computer.
Figure 2-22. Logotype for vintagecomputing.com, combining Moore Computer and a typeface
with echoes of Theo van Doesburg. ("Vintage Computing and Gaming I Archive >
Retro Scan of the Week: "So You Want to Be a Video Games Inventor"")
Figure 2-23. End credits for WarGames. (Badham)
Figure 2-24. Mechanical Itchy heads-up display. (Archer)
Figure 2-25. Moore Computer's M, N, W and 0 (zero) include floating slabs.
Figure 2-26. Sample characters from Data 70. Designed by Bob Newman and published in 1970 as
a Letraset original.
Figure 2-27. A) The Arabic numerals from Data 70, bearing only a general resemblance to B)
I ki4 E
Figure 2-28. A) Comparing numeral 1 for E-13B (left) and Data 70 (right); B) comparing numeral
4; C) comparing numeral 0.
Figure 2-29. 0,0, D, and Q from Data 70.
Figure 2-30. "Star Trek" Arcade Cabinet. ("Star Trek (1972)")
I SPACE BALL
SALL AGES PLAY
Solid State Computer
SAdjustable Game Length
S25 Play .
Figure 2-31. "Computer Space Ball" flyer employing Data 70. ("Video Game: Computer Space
Ball, Nutting Associates")
Figure 2-32. "BiSci Blood Type Challenge," a learning game using Data 70. (Janzen)
Figure 2-33. Cover, Electronic Games: Design, Programming, and Troubleshooting (1978).
(Buchsbaum & Mauro)
Zz i$ O()? \ /
Figure 2-34. Sample of Orbit-B BT.
0 1 2 3 -. 56 7 8 9 A
ure 2-35 A) Orbit-B's numerals B) E-13
Figure 2-35. A) Orbit-B's numerals. B) E-13B.
Figure 2-36. Orbit-B in use in a screen interface in the film Johnny Mnemonic (Longo).
Figure 2-37. Orbit-B on the cover of the 1982 release of Broderbund's Galactic Empire (Falk).
Figure 2-38. Sample of Westminster typeface.
i20 000 pMdletionsd methods
Figure 2-39. Westminster in use on covers of A) Maurice Trask's The Story of Cybernetics (1971)
and B) Charles Jencks's Architecture 2000 (1971). (Owens & Reinfurt 148)
0 J.3 LS 6 J@ 9 A
Figure 2-40. Comparing numerals for A) Westminster B), E-13B and C), Data 70.
Figure 2-41. Westminster in use as simulated screen font for Strongbad's Tandy 400 (Matt
Chapman & Mike Chapman, "Butt IQ")
Figure 2-42. "Thy Dungeonman" cartoon from the Strongbad Email, "Web Comics." (Matt
Chapman & Mike Chapman, "Web Comics")
DOOR I. K. UONSCT.
h6 h6 h6
heb gi 't hIchaamliik ervaren
hebt git 1.chaaml.k ervaren
n hebt gi 't I CHAAM lijk er VA ren
verleden heden toekomst
her doorelkaAr van t niet en de verschinmng
kleine verfrommelde almanak
die men ondersteboven leesc
MIJN KLOK STAAT STILL
uitrekauwd sigarerteeindle op't
S WITTE SERVET
346 VRACHT AU TO MO BIEL 2
illend onvruchtbaar middelpunt
earicatuur der zwaarte
rose en grauw en diep wiinrood
de scherven van de kosmoi vind ik in m'n thee
rAaneekelig: On t leenir trluil"; -- ullle enll tijd, te lecren s in rlrilnle ern lUill tijd.
Figure 2-43. "X-Beelden" ("X-images") by Van Doesburg, 1919 or 1920. (Blotkamp, "Theo van
MAANDBLAD VOOR DE MO-
DERNE BEELDENDE VAKKEN
REDACTIE THEO VAN DOES-
BURG MET MEDEWERKING
VAN VOORNAME BINNEN- EN
Figure 2-44. De Stijl logo, designed by Theo Van Doesburg and Vilmos Huszar.
Figure 2-45. Vilmos Huszar, Ornament XXe eeuwse stijl (1917).
Figure 2-45. Vilmos Husz~ir, Ornament XXe eeuwse stijl (1917).
Figure 2-46. Vilmos Huszar, Composite II (1917).
Figure 2-47. Ice skating figure from Huszar's Composite II compared with similar sprite figure
used in Superman (1978) for Atari VCS. (Images enlarged and enhanced to show
Figure 2-48. Sample of "Architype van Doesburg," a font released by The Foundry after van
Doesburg's original 1919 alphabet design. (Wikipedia contributors, "Architype Van
Figure 2-49. WiredMagazine spine text and section logos.
l directory y Of Wdnderful Things
Figure 2-50. BoingBoing logotype.
Figure 2-51. A) Text "START" from Blue Print [screenshot captured with Stella]. B) Text
"START" rendered in P22 De Stijl, a font based on van Doesburg's 1919 alphabet.
I U U., m
Figure 2-52. Pac-Mondrian.
Figure 2-53. Cover of Wim Crouwel's pamphlet, New Alphabet: An Introductionfor a
Programmed Typography. (Scan from Broos 83)
Roomh -.i .1 -mwE
Figure 2-54. Page describing "Eurostile" from Aldo Novarese's Alfa Beta brochure. This image
appears in Blackwell, page 106.
I 1~rl 1 IL
Figure 2-55. Box art for Coleco Telstar Marksman (1978) featuring a Eurostile font alongside
illustrations of television screens.
Figure 2-56. A) Detail of television screen images on Coleco Telstar Marksman box. B) Detail of
text on Marksman box.
Table 2-1. Implementations of MICResque numerals in Atari VCS games.
0 d 2345B6E189
* Squeeze Box (US Games: 1982)
* Death Star Battle (Parker Bros: 1983)
* Marauder (Tigervision: 1982)
* Star Voyager (Imagic: 1982)
* Star Wars he Arcade Game (Parker
SYar 'sRevenge (Atari: 1981)
* E. T T-he Extra-Terrestrial (Atari:
* Saboteur (Prototype)
SThe A-Team (Prototype)
Object 2-1. A simple animation created by using the skating figures in Huszar's painting as sprites.
Click in the rectangle above to start playback; alternatively, click on this text to
download the file directly. (.avi file 70KB)
HOLOTYPES AND HARDWARE
hol o type (n) any instance of typographic form which is continuous with and
representative of a specified textual medium.
The previous chapter approached the paratextual domain of videogame typography from the
outside in. Focusing on "paratypical" typefaces, chapter 2 draws connections between the
ontological, textual conditions of videogames and the historical, mechanical origins of the
typefaces which make similar or contiguous appeals to technological constraint as an aesthetic
function of mediality. This chapter reverses this approach to work instead from the inside out.
Therefore, if the ultimate conclusion of chapter 2 is that typefaces like Data Seventy tell us
something about videogame artifacts because their origins in mechanical reproduction prefigure
the electronic textuality of videogames, then the central premise of this chapter is that the
typographic structures in videogame artifacts can tell us something about electronic textuality in
general through the specific domain of the videogame as a site for and medium of inscription. The
purpose of this chapter is to describe holotypical videogame typography, where videogame
typography refers here to the design and arrangement of alphanumeric artifacts of expression
within the paratextual domain of videogames and the modifier holotypical identifies a particular
subset ofvideogame typography which defines aesthetic patterns relevant to other subsets. A
videogame holotype, therefore, is a specific instance of videogame typography to which other
instances of type (paratype) may be compared in order to determine an association with videogame
textuality. Accordingly, The central question this chapter seeks to answer is, "What can
typographic forms in videogames tell us about the structures shaping videogame expression?"
Before proceeding to analyze several key forms of holotype, the term holotype and the
significance of the prefix hol- require explication in this context. To return briefly to the domain of
botanical taxonomy from which the terms holotype and paratype derives, the key function worth
noting is the singularity of the holotype as a taxon-generating specimen. Article 9.1 of the
International Code of Botanical Nomenclature defines holotype in the following way: "A holotype
of a name of a species or infraspecific taxon is the one specimen or illustration ... used by the
author, or designated by the author as the nomenclatural type. As long as a holotype is extant, it
fixes the application of the name concerned..." (International Botanical Congress 12). In this
context a type is a nomenclatural type, an individual member of a species that provides, through its
existence, a definitive norm for the larger set of individuals that may be described as part of that
taxon. For videogame typography, the relevance is that any instance of type appearing in a
videogame is in some way definitive for the larger set (including paratypes) of all instances of
videogame typography. The act of naming some typographic artifact as some kind of videogame
type depends (as a nomenclatural set) on the identity and characteristics of videogame holotypes.
This approach is most consistent with the context-based definition offered in the previous chapter,
because any typographic expression in a videogame may be considered definitive. Hol- has
numerous other significations as well, mostly in contexts where it establishes concepts of
wholeness or completion, as in holocaust (literally, "wholly burnt"). This prefix also forms the
basis of two similar, etymologically intertwined words which will be significant for a later chapter.
For the present discussion, the terms holograph and hologram are both relevant to clarifying the
application of holotype in the context of videogame typography and its implications for
understanding videogame textuality.
Holograph and hologram bear an unusually similar etymology in which both are
constructions of holo- (derived from the Greek ooco [holos], relating to "whole, or entire") and -
graphos (yp6(cpEtL [graphon], "to write"). Their meanings are quite different, however, as is the
relationship each posits between a concept of wholeness and a practice of inscription. Holograph
(as a noun) typically refers to a manuscript, sometimes specifically one that is written by the
author's hand. A hologram, however, is an optical phenomenon related to a kind of photographic
recording which inscribes a total image that can be rebuilt from any part of it. This is the sense of
the term which describes a physical model of the Universe; the so-called holographic paradigm,
proposed by David Bohm and Karl Pribram. In popular use, hologram generally refers to the three-
dimensional variety of this technology. In relation to writing, the sense of wholeness captured by
holograph is one of authorial intent; the authority of the document is said to rest on its being
wholly the work of an author. In relation to photographic inscription and related quantum
neurological models, holograph invokes a sense of wholeness as a consequence of a property of
light and refraction. In terms of a system (like a room or a galaxy), the whole is a property of all of
that system's parts. The holo- in my holotype relates to both of these "wholenesses," because
specific typographic forms in videogames emerge from the material substrate of the game text and,
in the case of Atari VCS games, may be said to bear the individual traces of the programmers in a
much more personal or "authorial" manner than otherwise available on later platforms. These
traces reflect the material affordances of the medium as well as the individual "hand" of the
programmer because the constraints of the VCS platform require programmers to craft custom
fonts for each game. As a holotype, therefore, the letter composed in this manner contains the
influence of the programming code and data which it is intermeshed with in the game's ROM data.
In this way, the videogame letter becomes an emblem for the entirety of the game and even
gestures toward the broader culture of videogame when it is reused and adapted in paratypical
As a question of interiority and exteriority, respectively, holotypical and paratypical
instances of type are not simply distinguished by their being "in" a videogame versus being
"around" a videogame. Furthermore, in the sense that both descriptors are qualities ofparatext, the
game text to which the typographic is relatively "para" is not sufficiently clear, as becomes
obvious when considering text within videogames. For example, in the game MagMax a generally
bland shooter title for the NES console, the main menu screen features more text on screen than at
any other time within the game. However, one may reasonably argue that the menu screen is not
the game itself, but rather an entry point to the actual game. The question, therefore, is whether the
text of MagMax consists of the interactive, rule-based experience of playing the game, or whether
MagMax is the mediated experience of the running the software on a specific configuration of
hardware. These two alternatives underlie some profound disagreements about how best to study
videogames, and their dependence on textual differentiation highlights the significance of
typographic analysis for videogame study.
Therefore, rather than defining holotype in a way that depends on a specific medial context
(for example, "on the screen") or a specific textual context (for example, present during
gameplay),' I propose to focus holotype as that which uniquely reveals the internal stratification of
either of either of those alternatives. The point is that alphanumeric forms have close contact with
the compromises and constraints faced by game programmers and graphic designers, and letters
and numerals retain traces of that contact in a way that representational or iconic game pieces do
not. Therefore, holotype is always peritextual (Genette's term) in the sense that its presence is
contiguous with the text itself, but in addition to providing "entry" into the text a holotype also
invites entry into that which makes the existence of the text possible. It is in this sense that the
holo- prefix is appropriate the sense in which holotypical designs constitute a discursive
expression of total videogame architecture and design.
This chapter explores the concept of holotypical videogame textuality by examining a
number of phenomena and technologies which contribute to an understanding of this term. Since
the chief content of a holotypical expression is its form, some of this exploration will involve
1 Even this may not qualify as immanently part of the game experience. For example, the "high score" display that
was a fixture of 1980s arcade games is a record of a prior instance of play intruding on the current one.
uncovering the origins of formal conventions and constraints common to videogame typography,
including the origin of the 7-segment figure and different approaches to storing and retrieving
alphanumeric characters, including the resulting influence on character design. This is offered from
a historical perspective, seeking to orient the discussion around the first appearances of particular
videogame textual artifacts and postures. Another dimension of holotypical textuality is its
implications for considering videogames as a site of and means for inscription. The central premise
of discussing game textuality presumes a significance for writing, but as a means for inscription,
the sense in which games, or any digital artifact, should be considered writing technology is not
entirely clear. The practice of leaving easter eggs (hidden content left in games by their
programmers), however, is one phenomenon which does present itself as an important mode of
writing for videogames. The middle section of this chapter analyzes some important easter eggs,
including Warren Robinett's signature hidden within Adventure. While this may not be the first
videogame easter egg, I argue that it may be the most important partly because of its reputation
as the first easter egg, and partly because it demonstrates so well the unification of the concept
holotype with its etymological relative, holograph. Finally, the chapter concludes with a
consideration of the screen as a metaphor and agent for textuality. Taking seriously Nick
Montfort's critique of screen essentialist approaches to studying New Media,2 this section argues
for a deeper understanding of the literal screen in relation to textuality in order to provide a means
for re-evaluating various metaphors indicative of digital utopianism. This concept of an ontology
driven by an aesthetic metaphor is discussed further in chapter 4 where I propose "fuzzy" and
jaggyy" models for videogame textuality.
2 This term, "screen essentialist," appears in Montfort's 2004 presentation at the MLA Convention, "Continuous
Paper," where Montfort is critical of a tendency toward naturalizing the computer screen as a given of electronic
culture, when in fact works such as ELIZA and "Colossal Cave Adventure" were first experienced on paper
teletype terminals. Matthew G. Kirschenbaum picks up this term inMechanisms as one necessary component in
building a formal materialism of digital texts.
The first section of this chapter is devoted to a survey of key developments in videogame
technology as it relates to the production of text in videogames. Videogame history is closely
intertwined with developments in computing, so a full historical analysis of the technology is
beyond the scope of this chapter (or this study). Instead, by focusing on specific technologies that
had significance regarding the production of alphanumeric characters on videogame screens, this
section provides a technical background for the discussion that follows and sets up the concerns
which the next section addresses such as the advent of score keeping as part of the game text and
the question of the videogame as an inscription technology. In addition to discussing specific
platforms and their typographic affordances, I also analyze, where appropriate, the particulars of
different methods for composing alphanumeric forms, such as the 7-segment system and the
various bitmap grids (e.g. 3 x 5, 5 x 7, 7 x 9, etc.) which are employed by various technologies.
These two lines of inquiry address similar concerns, but they are treated separately because some
character-generation techniques span across several different platforms, and some platforms allow
several to coexist within the same hardware.
It should be noted that the historical perspective I am choosing in the section specifically
avoids the broader question of textual production in modem computing. By choosing instead to
focus on games a medium (or genre) of text for which the importance of alphanumeric or verbal
text is debatable I come at the textual question by avoiding the operative framework of
normativity. The videogames under particular emphasis here are those which operate primarily on
a graphical mode of representation. The alphanumeric signifiers which share a screen with these
predominantly visual signifiers introduce an alternate textual vector, but as such, operate within a
significantly visual paradigm. As the following discussion illustrates, the inclusion of any text or
numeric display is secondary to the production of visuals, and many of the earliest forms of games
lacked either. As systems did begin incorporating score display and simple text, it was often
implemented with the strictest parsimony, and it was not until their third generation that videogame
consoles were capable of generating text from a complete alphabetic character set.
This focus on predominantly visual game systems also necessarily excludes primarily textual
games. Text adventure games like Colossal Cave Adventure, Zork, and the numerous examples of
so-called interactive fiction produced since the mid-90s do clearly have a visual dimension. In fact,
one popular interactive fiction interpreter, Gargoyle, is advertised for its superior typography: "In
this computer age of typographical poverty, where horrible fonts, dazzling colors, and inadequate
white space is God, Gargoyle dares to rebel!" (Tor). Furthermore, texts such as Adam Cadre's
Photopia use typographic characteristics (color, in this case) to communicate shifts in the space of
the story-world. It is also a significant feature of many early games that they were originally
programmed and played on computer terminals which output their responses to printer rather than
a screen. Nick Montfort has noted the difference this makes in terms of gameplay, observing, for
instance, that having a printout of one's entire game thus far made it unnecessary for the game to
repeat descriptions for areas already explored by the player. The player simply has to read back
through the printout to find the previous description (Montfort, "Continuous Paper"). It is
impossible, therefore, to ignore the visual, typographic properties of these texts, especially when
considering the question of videogame grammatology. However, the decision to focus on games
which normalize visual representation predominantly is based in the premise that analyzing
typography in these contexts where alphanumeric representation is secondary provides a clearer
view into the materiality ofvideogames as a medium. This is because the attending hardware for
producing alphanumeric is similarly ancillary to the game programming. Therefore, the
relationships among visual, verbal, and ludic representation can be mapped onto both formal and
physical layers, and the extent to which those two forms of materiality come into contact and resist
one another is fundamentally characteristic of the videogame as a unique form of electronic
As it is used here, the term platform refers to the environment (hardware or software) which
underlies a digital work. A platform is the environment which brings the game text into existence
and which determines its characteristics to a greater or lesser extent, and the platforms which make
videogames possible are not always used solely for ludic purposes. In many cases, the technology
necessary to bring videogames into existence was originally created for a different purpose, and it
is not until the integrated circuit chips of the mid 1970s (for example, the AY-3-8500 or "Pong on a
chip") that hardware dedicated to videogame-specific tasks such as keeping score and generating a
play field were cheaply available. The following section discusses these developments in
videogame technology where they have relevance for the generation of letters and numbers on
A number of different technologies can make claims for priority as the first videogame, with
significant legal and ideological implications for each. Any answer to the question "what was the
first videogame or computer game" necessarily depends on definitions of highly loaded and
contestable terms like "game," "video," and "computer." Temporarily leaving aside the
implications of "video" in the label "videogame" and instead considering the more general term
3 Besides text adventures and interactive fiction, the other predominantly textual genre of computer game which
will have to be omitted in this discussion is the so-called Rogue-like or textmode games. These games were
designed to take advantage of UNIX terminals which could output only ASCII text, so the game elements are all
typographic characters which are being used to represent game objects and characters. The player, for example,
is typically represented with an '(,' walls are build with pieces of '' or '-,' and monsters are typically depicted
with letters which mimic their physical appearance and/or which pun on their names. Bats are represented with
'B,' for example, and kestrels are 'K's. See figure 3-1 for a screenshot of Rogue.
While these games offer a fascinatingly typographic experience, they are technically graphical games since the
representational status of the typographic characters is more hieroglyphic than textual. Mark J.P. Wolf excludes
roguelike games from the "text adventure" genre for this reason (Wolf, "Video Game Genres" 274), and Brett
Camper notably describes enemy characters in Beast (a later ASCII-based game) as "H-shaped," rather than
simply H's (Camper 153).
"computer games,"4 several implementations combining computing input and control with some
form of projected display can stake legitimate claims of"firstness." The earliest recorded claimant
is a "Cathode-Ray Tube Amusement Device" patented in 1947 by Thomas T. Goldsmith, Jr. and
Estle Ray Mann with patent #2455992. The only graphical output of this device seems to be a
single missile trajectory: "a cathode ray tube is used upon the face of which the trace of the ray or
electron beam can be seen." Further graphics are suggested as "pictures of airplanes" which may
be placed on the face of the screen, and even animated explosions: "The game can be made more
spectacular, and the interest therein both from the player's and the observer's standpoint can be
increased, by making a visible explosion of the cathode-ray beam take place when the target is hit"
(Goldsmith, Jr. & Mann). The device lacks any textual display, however, and even the structure for
score keeping or rudimentary game rules seems absent from the inventor's description. The
typographic question, however, is whether any display apparatus was or could have been used for
text. And in the case of this unnamed missile simulator, the answer appears to be no.
OXO, designed in 1952 by Alexander Douglas is another early experiment which some
consider the first computer game (Kirriemuir 22; Rutter & Bryce 7; Carey 60). OXO consists of a
simple game of Tic-Tac-Toe (Noughts and Crosses) implemented on an EDSAC mainframe, and it
ostensibly employs the alphabetic characters "X" and "0" as game pieces. Semantically, these
symbols are not alphabetic in any linguistic or verbal sense, but even as game pieces, the
typographic symbology of X and O extends from alphabetic contexts. In other words, whether the
glyph, X, is a "cross" or the 24th letter of the English alphabet, it can be re-created by typing a
letter X on a keyboard. Thus, the aesthetic qualities exhibited on the output screen of the EDSAC
do express a particular technological constraint that relates to its underlying programming and
4 This is a question I deal with in some detail in Chapter 1.
In the EDSAC simulator shown in figure 3-2, the graphical output appears in the circular
screen image at the top left. Although this is clearly graphical output, it is important to note the
method by which this output was accomplished. Normal input and output on the EDSAC was
accomplished through paper tape, but three CRT monitors indicated the status of data currently in
process on the machine. Martin Campbell-Kelly explains as follows:
One of the most important checking aids on EDSAC was a monitor tube on which the 32
words in one of the 16 main store-delay lines, or "tanks," could be displayed in binary. It was
thus possible to watch the progress of a programme during its execution. This practice was
known as "peeping." Programmers often arranged to store all the interesting numbers in a
programme in the same tank so that peeping would yield as much information as possible.
EDSAC was a very slow machine by later standards, obeying around 600 orders per second,
so it was quite possible to gain a reasonable impression of what was happening in a
programme by observing the monitor tube when the programme ran at full speed. (24 25)
In other words, the output displayed on the monitor was a literal visualization of the machine's
binary code in the moment it was being processed. The purpose of this display was to allow for
debugging programs, so the display generally held no graphical significance at all. During
operations such as loading or calculating, the CRT display tank might look something like the
image in figure 3-3, which depicts a "peep" at tank 0 while processing a simple "Hello, world"
program. In other words, utilizing the peep monitor for graphical output symbolic forms at all was
a significant repurposing of its main use, and as an emblem of the machines inner workings, the
design graphical characters accomplished in this way are a direct expression of the device's
memory storage and display hardware. As perhaps the first instance of videogame holotype, OXO
provides an excellent demonstration of the core concept of uniting visual textuality with physical
materiality that is a crucial function of videogame textuality.
Tennis for Two
William Higginbotham's Tennisfor Two (1958) is another early creation often credited with
being the first computer game. However, like Goldsmith and Man's "Amusement Device," Tennis
for Two lacked text display and did not employ any representational figures other than a point of
light simulating the trajectory of a tennis ball. The game allowed players to engage in a game
tennis (depicted in side-view rather than the top-down perspective later employed by PONG)
rendered on an oscilloscope.
Spacewar!, a space combat game created by MIT students Steve Russell, J.M. Graetz and
Wayne Wiitanen to run on the PDP-1 mainframe computer, was far more influential than either
OXO or Tennisfor Two, but it still lacked text. Although it was fairly complete as a game,
including a setting, representational figures, movement and combat action, the original versions of
the game lacked any on-screen text or even score keeping. The introduction of these typographic
elements came as these early videogame-like texts reached the critical milestone of monetization.
In many ways, PONG, by Atari, can be considered the first commercial arcade game that led
directly to the creation of an industry and culture of gaming, but it was not the first. Computer
Space, a space-based combat game similar to Spacewar!, and Galaxy Game, a multi-player
adaptation of Spacewar! on a PDP-11 (Pitts), both predated PONG and initiated the formal
relationship of mixed graphical and textual display in a videogame environment. The history of
how Nolan Bushnell came to create and market Computer Space is well documented;5 Galaxy
Game is frequently overlooked, perhaps because of its obscurity (only one model was ever
constructed), but it does appear to be the first commercial arcade game, preceding Computer Space
by two months (Pitts). Galaxy Game cost 10 cents per game, or 25 cents for three games, and
players had to keep track of their fuel, and number of games remaining. Players also had access to
a menu of options before the game loaded where they could set variables such as gravity, the
number of players, and hyperspace (Panofsky). The game was installed at Stanford University,
5 See, for example, Burnham, Supercade: A Visual History of the Videogame Age; Baer, Videogames: In the
Beginning, Herman, Phoenix: The Rise and Fall of Home Videogames; and Kent, The Ultimate History of
where it had been built by Bill Pitts, Hugh Tuck, and Ted Panofsky (Pitts). Though its scope was
limited, Galaxy Game 's significance as the first commercial game is further amplified by its also
being the first videogame to combine on-screen textual display with gameplay. The fact that this
innovation is precipitated and made necessary by the breaking up of play segments into monetized
chunks is important because it indicates the connection between videogame text and the cultural
capital of the medium at its earliest inception. As such, this is a significant instance of holotype.
According to Ted Panofsky, who designed the original display circuitry, the text characters were all
emulated in the game software, in much the same way that later devices like the Atari VCS would
store and retrieve graphical bitmaps for each character. However, like Spacewar!, Galaxy Game
employed a vector-based display:
The text was displayed as a vector character set, entirely done in software; there was no
hardware text generator. The display hardware was entirely vector based with the software
loading end-points and intensity. It then gave a go command and the hardware drew the
vector and gave an interrupt when the vector was complete. The software main program
created a vector list and an interrupt routine went down the list. The list was repeated at the
refresh rate. (Panofsky)
This method is significant and worth noting as an important holotype because the character
generation was, in essence, a secondary goal of the game system. The PDP-11 and the CRT
monitors that constituted the physical hardware of the game were first and foremost intended for
the production of graphic images and the management of their control, just as was the case with
Spacewar!. By improving on Spacewar!, the makers of Galaxy Game essentially repurposed a
display system originally intended for the production of symbolic graphics. Like other instances of
holotype, this relationship of text and image, and the sense in which symbolic graphics are
produced through the same material and programmatic means as alphanumeric anticipates the
symbolic function of game-like typography when, as paratype, it creates associations with a
situation of technical congruence with graphical signification.6
6 At the time of this writing, the Galaxy Game machine is stored in the Computer History Museum in Mountain
View, California. At its most previous location on display at Stanford University, the game was still functional as
Computer Space made a similar contribution to the improvement of text on videogame
screens, by including statistical information about the game on screen during gameplay (see figure
3-4). Designed by Nolan Bushnell and Ted Dabney in 1971 for Nutting Associates, Computer
Space was arguably the first commercial arcade game (Wolf, "Arcade Games of the 1970s" 36), its
preference for that title over Galaxy Game owing to the fact that more than one were made. One
can find a few different versions of the story of how Computer Space came to be so similar to
Spacewar!, but the end product was an adaptation of the Spacewar! concept in a much cheaper
package that could be mass-produced. Replacing the mainframe microcomputer with discrete logic
circuitry (no CPU or RAM, in other words), Bushnell and Dabney created a device intended to sit
alongside pinball machines and other electronic, pay-to-play amusements. Available in one and
two-player models, Computer Space, offered gameplay for 25 cents ("History"). and it involved
piloting a rocket or spaceship on a star field, firing missiles at UFO Peloponnese, and avoiding the
UFOs' missiles. Aback lit panel below the game's screen offers the following description: "A
simulated space battle that pits computer-guided saucers against a rocketship that you control"
(Qtd. in "History"). Though it was not a commercial success, Computer Space played an important
role in bringing computer games to a wider audience, and its highly constrained textuality
foreshadowed developments that would come later.
Like Galaxy Game, its immediate but isolated predecessor, Computer Space required some means
for tracking a player's progress so that gameplay could be broken up into monetized time periods,
in this case, 90 seconds per play (Bushnell 4). This is communicated to the player through three
rows of numerical display at the right of the playing field. Figure 3-5 shows the descriptive labels
affixed to the fiberglass case adjacent to their positions on the screen. The fact that the UFOs,
recently as 1997, but it is not presently offered as a "live" exhibit. As such, I have been unable to acquire a
photograph of it in operation and have only been able to infer the actual aesthetic quality of its typography from
first-hand accounts in e-mail correspondence with museum staff and Ted Panofsky..
rockets, missiles and star field all can overlap with the numerals (appearing, therefore, to exist
behind the numerals on a shallow z-axis), this can be seen as a prototypical heads-up display
(HUD) scenario, and the placement of explanatory labels on the game casing position these
numbers literally and figuratively at one edge or layer of the game's textual space. The circuitry
which generates these numerals, however, is contiguous with the backbone circuitry of the entire
game, and as such place the computation and display of the score at the core of Computer Space's
Figure 3-6 shows a selection of a technical schematic for the circuit board labeled "SYNC-
STAR." As its name suggests, this board controlled the horizontal and vertical synchronization of
the output video, as well as generating the star field. It also kept track of variables like the score
and remaining time and in the section highlighted in figure 3-6 included a circuit for converting
binary-coded decimal values (BCD) to 7-segment numeric figures. This conversion will be
explained further in a later section, but it is worth noting here for its flexibility. This circuit is
essentially a funnel through which all numeric values are processed and sent as video output to the
screen. Here, individual numeric glyphs are constructed from data processed as 4-digit binary data
to produce familiar shapes out of 7 segments which lack any signification until combined with one
another to form meaningful shapes. In this way, the circuit shown here in figure 3-6 is a significant
point of contact between human and machine reading. As such, the construction of these number
shapes is fundamentally different from the method which accomplishes other graphics such as the
rocket ship and saucers.
As shown in figure 3-7, the method for generating the rocket ship and saucer images
required hardwiring the outlines into the circuit board. By casting a grid by overlapping pin-outs of
a multiplexer chips, and anchoring specific points of overlap, this circuit was able to create points
of light on the video output. This method, therefore, constitutes a kind analog sprite animation by
providing four depictions of the rocket ship in different positions of rotation. By rotating these four
images 90 or 180 degrees, this display circuit can use these images like frames in an animation
depicting smooth rotation in 360 degrees. This is radically different from the means that produces
the numbers in figure 3-6 because there is no internal representation of"rocketness" and therefore
no interpretation required between human and machine understanding. The shape of the rocket
alone is in this way less emblematic of videogame expression because its hardwired origins are,
from the machine's point of view, arbitrary. However, the essentially unremarkable design of the 7-
segment figures mitigates against their being emblematic or signifying anything beyond the
quantity or ordinal value they stand for. Instead, it is the contiguity of these number images with
the rocket ship and star field, sharing the same screen space though occupying separate signifying
layers,which marks this as an important holotypical landmark in videogame history. This is
however, in contrast with PONG, Computer Space's far more famous successor. Although PONG
utilized a similar method for generating the 7-segment numerals,7 the location of the score display
on the screen placed it above the simulated tennis court. In typographic terms, therefore, PONG
offers a different order of textuality than Computer Space.
At the same time that PONG was kick-starting the arcade game industry, the Magnavox
Odyssey was pioneering the home console or "TV Game" market. The original Odyssey played 28
games, which could be selected by inserting circuit jumper cards. The display capabilities of the
Odyssey were still rather minimal, so most of the games it offered required the use of included
game pieces (cards, chips, etc.), and because the game lacks digital scorekeeping or score display,
it offers a unique branch in the history of text in videogames. "Graphics" for the Odyssey were
7 I have not been able to locate an actual circuit schematic or detailed photograph of the PONG Arccade cabinet's
circuit board, but it is a relatively safe guess that it employed the same BCD to 7-segment conversion as
Computer Space, most likely relying on a 7448 chip. Al Alcron, who designed and built the PONG circuit board,
has described his goal as creating a simpler, less expensive circuit than Computer Space (Deuel).
created by using partially transparent overlays which were attached to the player's television
screen. For example, figure 3-8A illustrates the screen overlay for the game Haunted House. The
game involves "lighting" areas of the haunted house image, as specified by cards the player draws
(McCourt). The mostly opaque overlay acts as a barrier between the game world and the player's
world, but it is also constitutive of the game world in a way that anticipates the later textual
function of robust heads-up display interfaces in more graphically immersive games. As a site for
textual inscription, however, the Odyssey's typographic features are limited only by the receptivity
of the plastic to the ink printed on its surface. Still, few overlays included text, and most games
which involved textual instruction did so through cards or prompted players to record their own
score. Still, even though the Odyssey lacked the ability for generating alphanumeric characters, its
dependence on peripheral objects marks it as a uniquely tactile gaming systems. In a formal sense,
the games played on the Odyssey include printed cards as part of the symbolic structure of the
game, so Odyssey games at least occupy a continuum with computer games placing all symbolic
pieces on their screen. This is not, however, a formal argument. In relation to the typographic
capabilities of its computational hardware, it is worth noting simply that the Odyssey's designers
chose a novel approach to overcoming its limitations.
Pong on a chip
Atari released its home version of PONG in 1975, and an explosion of clones soon followed,
made possible by General Instruments' successfully producing a cheap integrated circuit which
could replicate the functionality of PONG's and Odyssey's discrete logic circuitry. GI's AY-3-8500,
also released in 1975, was the most successful of several variants on the so-called pongg in a chip"
theme, and it was used in dozens possibly hundreds of different home game console devices
(Winter). What made the 8500 so successful, besides its relatively low price, was that it could be
easily combined with other chips to produce apparently different game devices, each focusing on
one of its four PONG variant games. It also kept score and displayed two-digit score values
(counting up to 15) for each player, so in that regard it is a notable improvement on many earlier
non-integrated circuit systems such as the Magnavox Odyssey and the first home PONG. Figure
3-9 is an illustration from the data sheet released with the AY-3-8500, demonstrating the graphical
output of its various components. Interestingly, because the output is generated as a sequence of
timed pulses, the width of graphically unique characters is given as a unit of time. For example, the
illustration in 3-9 is illustrating that the components of the numeral forms are 1 .is (one
microsecond or one millionth of a second). The vertical dimension of letter segments is restricted
to units of width and the repetition of pulses at that width and location along a sequence of scan
lines. As shown in figure 3-10, the individual pixel units which compose each of the letterforms
are at least 1 [is wide, and 4 scan lines tall (for NTSC) for 6 lines tall (for PAL).8 This effectively
creates the possibility of a 3 x 5 pixel grid, which is sufficient for creating each numeral in the
same fashion as with the 7-segment form. This is significant because the numerals on the 8500's
grid are generated with a different internal representation than the 7448 offers. Moreover, the
figural representation of the score numerals depend for their compositions on units (scan-lines)
which are joined in the video signal itself, as opposed to later systems which employ a screen
buffer for composing an entire frame in software before passing the signal to the television. In
visual terms, the 7-segment figure output of Computer Space and PONG have a good deal in
common with one another, but contrasting the two (as in figure 3-11) reveals in important
difference: whereas the 7-segment numeral is constructed out of 7 modular sub-units that can be
combined differently, the 3 x 5 numeral is constructed out of 15 identical sub-units whose
modularity is a function of their location on the spatial plane of the screen. Further developments
8 Televisions utilizing the NTSC format (i.e. all those in North America) generate a television image by passing a
beam across the phosphor screen of the television set 525 times per frame. Each pass is stacked vertically with
regard to its neighbors to form the x-dimension of the screen image's raster or grid. In PAL televisions (used in
Europe and elsewhere), there are 625 lines per frame. Accordingly, GI's pong-in-a-chip came in two varieties:
AY-3-8500 for PAL and AY-3-8500-1 for NTSC (Winter).
in videogame memory made more complex figures possible, but the grid structure or bitmap
continued to be the major path along which videogame typography developed. Figure 3-12 is an
illustration of a later version of the integrated game circuit, which included alphabetic characters
for use in card games. Few of these card-game generating chips were included in gaming systems,
but the composition of letterforms out of 5 x 5 pixel grids are similar, though not identical, to the
letterforms which appear in the Channel F console.
As videogame systems evolved, the next major development was introduced by the little
known Channel F system, first released by Fairchild Semiconductor in 1976. Its main innovation
was that game programming was stored in ROM memory which was burned onto removable
cartridges. Players could then purchase new game cartridges which they could play in their
Channel F. In typographic terms, the Channel F was more flexible than its predecessors, but this
flexibility introduced its own limitations. Whereas the pong-in-a-chip consoles generated the
numerals as a direct representation of an internally stored quantity, leaving no opportunity for an
engineer intervention into the typographic representation of the numerals, the Channel F offered a
similarly standardized set of numerals (Figure 3-13) which could be referenced in displaying score.
The images of these numerals were stored as bitmap data within the system's BIOS memory,9 so
they were in this way similar to the automatically generated numerals employed on the AY-3-8500
chip. However, the flexibility of the method for storying ROM data on a game cartridge the
opportunity to create their own graphics, and several Channel F programmers used this opportunity
to create their own numeral sets. Doing so, however, required sacrificing memory which could
otherwise be used for storing graphics.
9 The BIOS also included images for W, ?, T, M, and X, which were used to create a menu function when a game
loaded on the machine. By toggling to the S setting, for example, players can set the maximum score for the
game at hand. These bitmaps are documented in Sean Riddle's dissassembly of the BIOS which is available,
along with other documentation, on www.veswiki.com (Riddle, "chanfasm").
The default numerals stored in the Channel F BIOS are built out of 5 x 8 bitmap grids where
the characters themselves take up the first 5 bits, leaving 3 bit columns for spacing. Figure 3-13
illustrates how this creates glyphs which effectively consist of 5 x 5 grids. Since the graphical
output of the Channel F builds a uniformly rectilinear grid at a resolution of 128 x 64, the
characters are form a pleasing, symmetrical square. In formal terms, the Channel F separates
display data from a programmatic representation of numeric value in a way that parallels the
modularity of the system's design. Similarly, the uniformly 5 x 5 design of the characters echoes
the solid shape of the ROM cartridges that contain the game programming. As such, the
relationship between the game programming and the Channel F core BIOS depends on the same
kind of modularity and ability to be exchanged which characterizes movable type's departure from
In a further improvement on flexibility, the Atari VCS or Atari 2600, released a year after
Channel F in 1977, left the design of alphanumeric characters entirely up to the programmers and
designers of particular games. In other words, unlike the Channel F which stores selected numeral
and letter shapes in its central memory, the Atari VCS, which lacks a BIOS, requires programmers
to design their own letter and number shapes and store them within a game's graphics.10 As Ian
Bogost notes, the VCS was not a platform built for text, and the purposes it was built for introduce
specific, affective constraints.
In fact, the entire hardware architecture of the Atari [VCS] was crafted to accommodate
Pong- and Tank-like games. The device's memory architecture and hardware register settings
provide access to a play field backdrop, two player sprites, two missiles, and one ball. ...
10 This was only after a method had been devised for printing characters on the screen at all. As Warren Robinett
recalls, "Doing text on the Atari 2600 was quite hard, even to get a 12-character line, which was what Basic
used. It was thought to be impossible at first, but sometimes some clever programming of the 2600 display
routine (which was called the "kernel") could surprise you. The 2600 display hardware, although very limited,
was quite flexible. A 2600 programmer, Bob Whitehead, came up with a way of doing a chess display, which had
8 independent "chess characters" per line. I think the techniques he used suggested that it might be possible to
even get 12 characters. Another 2600 programmer/designer, Dave Crane, succeeded in doing this" (Robinett,
"Re: Question about Basic Programming").
These constraints are not only physical ... but conceptual: the hardware was designed for
games like Pong and Combat, artifacts based on tennis-like attributes. While ROM size 2600
cartridges eventually increased, new game concepts required VCS programmers to
manipulate the hardware's affordances to create new play experiences. The VCS offers a
striking example of how the structure of a technology platform exerts expressive pressure on
the software created to run on it. (Bogost, Unit Operations 59)
Alphanumeric characters are, therefore, simply one kind of visual data stored within the ROM
image burned into the game cartridge. With every game programmer designing his or her own
unique game font, the Atari VCS experienced a tremendous typographic expansion and innovation
in terms of uniquely expressive letter design, making it one of the most interesting consoles for
typographic analysis. Also, the sense in which type design is not built in to the programming
affordances of the device mean that game design on the Atari VCS has a uniquely textual
dimension. Designers either created their own font or consciously (and likely tediously)
implemented a pre-existing character set, in some cases conforming to company standards. In
either case, the fact that the construction of a font takes on an intriguingly autographic dimension.
In historical terms, this expansion of alphanumeric forms parallels the rapid growth of the
game industry and the development of major new game genres. For both of these reasons, the Atari
VCS is an important console to study, as are the hundreds of games published for it, but this
method of bitmap storage for typographic characters, coupled with the large number of games
presents a challenge to any qualitative analysis. By using a piece of software developed especially
for this purpose, I have identified a number of significant patterns that indicate aesthetic trends in
game and graphic design for Atari 2600 games coinciding with advancements in programming
11 This software, which I call "ROMscrape," is described in detail in Appendix A. ROMscrape consists primarily of
a web-based search engine interface that allows users to input bitmap search patterns. This is similar to other
software such as ROMsearcher (Covell, "ROMSearcher"), which identifies probable sequences of ASCII
references in binary data, and DiStella (Colbert), which separates assembly language instructions from bitmap
data but ROMscrape offers a specifically visual interface to the code and (to deal with the potential
individuality of programmers' character sets) is useful for finding close matches of visual patterns.
Like the Channel F, the Atari VCS is built around an 8-bit processor in this case an MOS
6507 but the Atari lacks a BIOS or other core software for running games. Instead, the Atari VCS
is built around a custom Television Interface Adapter (TIA) circuit, originally codenamed "Stella."
As a result, the earliest Atari games were subject to the limitations of the CPU and TIA chip, such
that the 4 KB of addressable memory in the 6507 was originally thought to be its limit. Later, bank
switching technology would expand on this capacity, but the games programmed for the VCS are
driven by an aesthetic of simplicity that has its origin in the cost-cutting measures used to keep the
console affordable. Accordingly, the earliest games, such as Combat (1977), Breakout (1978), and
Go/f(1978) contain only 2KB of data, including all programming and graphics. In these tightly
constrained circumstances, there is little room available for complex typography. Those 2KB
games which do employ scorekeeping typically display numerals using 3x5 grids, with some minor
variation. Table 3-1 compares some of these numeric character sets, illustrating similar visual
created through different memory storage patterns.12 The variations in the numerals 1, 4, and 7
demonstrate designer's individual preferences, and the identical characters which occur across
several games demonstrate the constraints of parsimony (utilizing the absolute minimum detail to
consistently convey the numeral) or possibly a corporate specification. In any case, even with this
coarse granularity, the VCS's propensity toward experimentation and individualization is evident,
but each character set created for an Atari game is a textual trace of its programmer, even if that
12 One noteworthy feature of graphics in Atari games, in terms of the relationship between storage and display, is
that graphics are generally stored "upside-down" in the program listing to take advantage of a programming
technique for efficiently processing the video signal. As Kirk Isreal explains, "One somewhat confusing thing is
that (usually) Atari graphics are stored upsidedown in the program listing. This is because usually you have a
positive number keeping track of how many lines are left to go as you're drawing the player, and this number is
decreasing as you go through the scanlines. Combine that with the fact that the memory offset operation adds a
number to the base memory location for the graphics, and it usually ends up making more sense to store the
things bottom to top (Israel "Happy Face"). In other words, the graphic data is stored as a sequence of bytes,
where each byte is represented as a sequence of Is and Os. Is correspond to positive space; Os to negative space.
When the game program draws the screen one scan line at a time, it also proceeds through the sprite graphic one
byte at a time. Since the TIA chip is capable of addressing sprites within prescribed limits of 8-pixel lines, it is
convenient to decrement the number of pixels remaining, and since the code within the game which references
the player sprite simply points to the address (offset) where the sprite data is stored, it makes sense to simply add
the remaining line count to the offset location instead of performing a separate calculation to determine the
trace is identical to other games' fonts.
Later, games with more ROM data would utilize more complex figures, as bank switching
technology left more memory available to letters and numbers. Whereas a set of numerals at the
minimal 3 x 5 dimension occupies only 50 bytes of memory (or 60 bytes if the figures include a
blank byte for line spacing), a common 6 x 7 pattern with one byte of line spacing for each
character consumes 80 bytes. 6 x 7 numeric patterns exhibit a range of variation similar to the 3 x 5
characters, but the 6 x 7 pattern illustrated in figure 3-14 is unusually consistent across a number of
games, particularly those published Parker Brothers. Several Atari games from 1982 and following
employ a 7 x 7 pixel grid, illustrated in figure 3-15, and many third party publishers used the 6 x 8
patterns in figure 3-16, which appears in dozens of game cartridges.
These character sets share many features, despite their being composed of differently
dimensioned bitmap grids, and their designs are worth noting because they appear to invoke a
common referent. In the case of arcade games adapted to the Atari console, the referent is clearly
the font used in those games, the so-called "Namco" font which will be discussed in a later section
of this chapter. What is significant in terms of the character sets used in Atari games is that the
flexibility allows sufficient complexity that distinct patterns and styles begin to emerge. Whereas
the constraint of a 7-segment figure dominates its expressive discourse, a 7 x 7 grid allows enough
freedom to create distinct styles. As the numeral designs in figures 3-14 3-16 show, a distinct
style can also represent a company or publisher identity. A non-similar design puts this into
Figure 3-17 illustrates 6 x 6 pixel bitmaps of the numbers 0 9 as the appear in Atari VCS
game cartridges published by Mattel through their subsidiary M Network. These designs are nearly
identical to the numerals used in the system font built into Mattel's Intellivision console. The only
slight difference occurs with the numeral 0. In the Intellivision system font, and most of the M
Network games produced for Atari VCS, the 0 is widened to 7 pixels so that it can include a dot in
its center. The specific numeral set in figure 3-17 is extracted from Burger Time, and its lack of a
dot expresses the flexibility of the VCS as a typographic platform at the same time that the
rectangular shape of the letters emblematizes the constraint imposed by a system font.
Furthermore, the fact that this Burger Time for the VCS is based not on the original arcade version
by Data East (which makes use of the "Namco Font"), but on the Intellivision version of Burger
Time which necessarily uses the Intellivision system font. In this way, the design of alphanumeric
characters in Burger Time provides a means for uncovering the textual history of the game, a
history that additionally traces a route through the ecology of licenses in the early 1980s.
Typography, in this case, becomes a tool for unpacking the formal materiality of the game text and
through it gaining insight into game culture.
As has already been mentioned, the Intellivision console, which was released in 1979 by
Mattel as a competitor to the VCS, was the first game console to include a full character set as part
of its hardware. The character set, which may also be correctly referred to as a font since it is a
material implementation of a design used in other contexts, includes Arabic numerals, upper and
lowercase letters, several punctuation marks and a few non-alphabetic symbols such as arrows.13
The distinctiveness of this design suggests it was part of an intentional marketing identity strategy,
and its visual characteristics at first glance seem to belie the greater processing power of the
Intellivision console compared to the VCS. Its rectangular forms and restriction to a 6 x 7 grid
recall the much tighter constraint of the Channel F platform. On the other hand, the Intellivision
font does include interesting typographic characters such as serifs on the lowercase i and a, and
consistent spurs on y, g, d, p and r (see figure 3-18). These serifs and spurs, along with the
13 The complete bitmap listing for this font is included in Appendix B. Also, an Intellivision enthusiast going by the
name "jaysun" has created a TrueType font based on this design, and released for free download at
imbalance reflected in two-story glyphs such as 8 and 2, also echo some of the De Stijl-inspired
lettering H.Th. Wijdeveld created for Wendingen.14 As a unique character set which can be
immediately recognized and associated with the console, the Intellivision font serves as a specific
holotype, suggesting not only videogames, but also a specific videogame publisher, as the M
Network games published for VCS consoles demonstrate.
This retention of a particular typographic form across multiple versions of games like
Burger Time is important because it speaks to the constitution of the Burger Time text in the sense
that it is a single experience, unified by character, setting, and basic gameplay, manifested
differently across platforms. Where those differences are a concession to limitations of a given
platform, the fact that the Intellivision's platform-specificity demonstrates the kind of movement
that can occur across material chains of signification such that the presence of the Intellivision font
in the VCS version of Burger Time complicates the sense in which the VCS game is an adaptation
of the coin-operated original, which uses a version of the Namco font. Whereas the VCS Burger
Time could plausibly stand in for the coin-operated original if its programmer, Ron Surratt, had
used the 7 x 7 design common in Atari-published adaptations, the fact that Surrat used the
Intellivision font means that the VCS game becomes a signifier for the Intellivision version. The
fact that the Intellivision Burger Time is far superior graphically to the Atari port (in terms of
fidelity to the coin operated original) suggests a trajectory of degradation along the signifying
chain that is consistent with Mattel's aggressive advertising campaign contrasting the
Intellivision's superior graphics with those of the VCS. Additionally, the relationship expressed
among these three Burger Times creates a context in which Matthew Kirschenbaum's concept of
formal materiality may be said to apply across multiple instantiations of the same text. The
presence of Intellivision font in the VCS Burger Time is an artifact of its formal materiality. While
14See, for example, the font "Wendingen," sold by Acmefonts:
Kirschenbaum's definition of the term as "the imposition of multiple relational computational
states on a data set or digital object" (Mechanisms 12) is referencing system-dependent
multiplicity, I will argue in chapter 5 that broadening the definition to treat the social text of Burger
Time as a "data object" and thus including separately platformed Burger Times as constituting
computational states is in keeping with the spirit of the idea. Furthermore, the specific kind of
materiality to which videogame textuality is subject moves across and among platforms in a
manner that is uniquely related to technological and legal affordances (that is, in terms of
intellectual property licensing). Type design plays an important role in this sequence because the
graphical fidelity of the successive implementations of the Burger Time text is progressively
worse; each new iteration of Peter Pepper (the game's protagonist) is, therefore, in an analog
relationship with its predecessors) on other platforms. Significantly, the numbers in both
Intellivision and VCS Burger Times are digitally identical. What differences are evident between
the two (their physical, on-screen dimensions, for example) include hardware specific constraints
beyond the platform and include factors specific to each individual instance of playing the game.
The GCE Vectrex console is unique in many ways. First released in 1982, the Vectrex is a
self-contained game system built around a CRT monitor. The game programming hardware, built
around a MOS 65A02 processor, is contained within the monitor, and a combination joystick and
button pad controller fits into a panel on the front of the device. As its name suggests, the Vectrex
employs a vector-style display, rather than the common raster display of televisions and computer
monitors. Whereas a raster constructs images by piecing together a mosaic of pixels, lighting up
only those that are necessary to outline a shape, a vector display draws lines (vectors) between
calculated points. The effect is to create crisp graphics that move and scale much more smoothly
than their grid-based competitors. Vectrex images are still subject to the pixelization of the
monitor's phosphor screen, but this effect is barely perceptible and is mostly offset by the natural
diffusion of light across neighboring phosphors. Despite the advantages in terms of crispness, the
main limitation of a vector system is its inability to depict surfaces as having textures, so most
objects are rendered with the skeleton-like effect of creating vectors that describe only the objects
edges. Color is another challenge since the Vectrex could only output monochrome lines. To offset
this limitation, and to create the playing field other context-setting graphics, Vectrex games ship
with a semi-transparent plastic overlay that attaches to the monitor about .3" above the surface of
the screen in other words, between the player and the game.15
Letters and numbers on the Vectrex present two interesting properties relevant to their
textuality. First, the characters are generated from ROM data stored as bitmaps, the consummate
raster method, that are then painted onto the screen as a stack of horizontal bars which complete
the letter shape. Figure 3-19 pairs the bitmaps several characters from the system font16 with their
appearance on a Vectrex screen. The second important property of text on Vectrex screens is the
sense in which the overlays provide a contiguous typographic surface, upon which alphanumeric
figures are diegetically parallel to in-game text. Even the descriptive phrase "on-screen" is literally
true both of text generated by the vector display system and of text printed on the overlay. The
juxtaposition this creates is significant because it, like the bitmap to vector conversion method,
demonstrates its holotypical quality through the difficulty it poses to emulation.
Figure 3-20 contrasts Vectrex numbering rendered within an emulator with similar
numbering on a Vectrex. The emulator image is a photograph of a laptop screen with the Vectrex
game Mine Storm running in the emulator software MESS (Multiple Emulator Super System). The
laptops is running Windows XP with a resolution at 1024 x 786. MESS excels at emulating a
platform's computational environment (its formal material conditions), but it has no means for
15 These overlays constitute a special, physically reified heads-up display interface, a subject I turn to in more
detail in chapter 5.
16 The complete character set for the Vectrex system font is included in Appendix B.
emulating features of games that incorporate physical hardware in a haptic interface with the user.
Arguably, no emulation ever achieves the full experience of playing the original, since every game
console or coin-operated machine relies on some physical apparatus as part of what constitutes its
medial existence,7 but the raster grid of a standard LCD laptop screen presents a specific obstacle
to the painted-in figure style. Because the position of vectors and points can be calculated
proportionally, the position of a horizontal line within the figure must be rounded to the nearest
available pixel line. Because the image loses some brightness at the spaces between screen pixels,
the lines appear to be distorted and some are brighter than others. Also, the figures in the Vectrex
image are tilted on a slight oblique angle. According to a repair manual published by GCE, this
symptom may indicate a worn out chip (specifically, IC301), but like the Vectrex's distinctive hum
(a consequence of an improperly shield power supply), this tilt is an endearing expression of the
console's unique character and important place in videogame history. In other words, this "defect"
- which MESS ignores, thereby effectively emulating an idealized Vectrex behaves as a signifier
or signature of the console's materiality.
The method by which the Vectrex renders typographic characters is also interesting because
of how it differs from other vector-based games. This method is based in a system for converting
bitmap information to a vector-friendly mode in which a single bit of a bitmap creates a short
horizontal bar instead of a rectangular pixel. A continuous row of bars creates an unbroken line,
mimicking the sweep of the scan line on raster systems. Vector display has been part of
videogaming since the medium's earliest forms; Spacewar! and Galaxy Game ran on PDP
microcomputers which displayed output on a vector display. Spacewar! lacks text, and Galaxy
Game's text design is unclear, but several coin-operated games released in the late 1970s employed
17 Most obviously, game consoles include unique handheld controllers, and there is currently no means for
emulating a handheld controller through any haptic feedback means. Games running in MESS are interfaced
with the player's keyboard and mouse, which provides a functioning if ludically impoverished experience of
gameplay, but even if one were to construct a USB interface for a vintage controller, other more subtle details
always elude perfect emulation.
vector graphics. Asteroids, designed by Ed Logg and Lyle in 1979, utilizes a vector display, as do
Tempest and Battlezone (both released in 1980). However, the figures designed for these games
were composed of vectors which outline the shapes of individual characters (see figure 3-21). The
difference is that outlined letters are more sparse, and occupy less of the screen surface than their
bitmap-approximated alternatives on the Vectrex. As such, Asteroids-style lettering is arguably less
legible, but it is also ontologically more stable because the internal cohesion of a glyph is
accomplished through vectors which literally connect with one another. Vectrex-style letters, on the
other hand, require that the viewer's optical faculties construct the letters out of less visible
material. Vertical contiguity is drastically undercut by the space between the horizontal vectors.
Even this potential shortcoming is, however, ameliorated by the diffusion of light across the
phosphor screen. This diffusion is subsequently spread further by the colored overlay, reinforcing
the overlay's significance relative to the specific textuality of the Vectrex.
The problem with overlays, from a perspective of outlining videogame textuality, is that they
are physical artifacts whose relationship to the game itself are something more than paratextual.
Whereas it is certainly the case that some overlays, such as those employed on the original
Breakout coin-operated game, merely provide color to otherwise monochrome delays, discursive
overlays such as those used in Vectrex games serve a much more concrete world-building function.
As part of a game's heads-up display, the Vectrex overlay presents itself diegetically (in the
Aristotelian sense of being narrated). It is also, literally and figuratively, the lens through which the
rest of the game space is relayed to the player. Furthermore, it is not simply the case that the
overlay is a frame for relaying the space of the game and suturing its diegesis (in the sense of
"story-world") to the reader's experience of it. In many cases, the overlay provides information
that is perspectively behind the action of the action of the game. For example, figure 3-22
juxtaposes images of the game Spike viewed both with and without its overlay. As these images
demonstrate the overlay supplies the background of a city skyline and combines with the generated
vector image to depict the events of the game as taking place in that city Literally, the skyline is in
front of the game characters (that is, between the generated image and the player), but figuratively
it is behind them.
Within this complex interplay of layers, the presence of textual and numeric signifiers
provides an additional complication; some are literally in front of the screen image, and others are
literally "on" the screen, but what is the figurative, phenomenological status of these characters in
terms of the composite screen image? In the Spike example, the numbers 1 and 2 at the top right
and left comers of the screen exist are "on" the screen because they occupy the same visual field
that would otherwise be visible in the absence of the overlay. The numbers themselves and the
attending graphics of Spike (the protagonist) and his kidnapped girlfriend Molly are opaque, but
they merge visually with the transparent "background" image of the skyline. The effect is that
Spike and Molly are in the foreground of the game but are interacting with the setting by standing
on something in the background, creating a complete circuit around the game image itself, which
uses an oblique vanishing point perspective that points to a separate "distance" off to the right of
the enclosure. Other text on the overlay provides simple instructions to the player; "Ladder /
Cage," "Kick Left," "Kick Right," and "Jump" assign actions to each of the four buttons on the
Vectrexjoypad.18 Like any heads-up display, this textual disposition acknowledges (in this case,
grammatically) the agency of the player within the game world as well as some sense of her
responsibility to this world. Unlike other HUDs, however, the overlay creates a visually
interferential textuality that intercedes within the discourse space of the game console. As such, it
destabilizes common metaphors about videogame form, such as the use of the screen (within game
18 The text for button one, "Ladder / Cage," is interesting because it describes the objects upon which actions can
be taken, rather than a more standard "Use" button that engages non-movement actions like opening in-game
doors. The presence of this text is intended to help the player understand her relationship to Spike, but its
grammatic tense leaves its message somewhat vague. One might reasonably expect a ladder or cage to appear
upon pressing this button.
studies and new media studies more generally) as a figurative stand-in for the boundaries of a
videogame's discourse.19 As the example of the Vectrex overlay demonstrates, the videogame
screen is a complex space, and using the term as a figure for game space carries a lot of
unacknowledged baggage, some of which will be examined more closely in a later section.
Famicom and others
The year 1983 is a typical landmark in historical discussions ofvideogames. This is the year
of the great videogame industry crash, when the glut of cheap consoles on the market and the drop
in consumer demand led to dozens of game companies shutting down production. The industry
would limp along and later see new life with Nintendo's Famicom or Nintendo Entertainment
System, but the first years of the 1980s are also a transition in terms of computational power,
memory, and game design. As such the means for producing text on videogame screens becomes
more standardized and, while still interesting, progressively less expressive of material
affordances. Most consoles, from the Intellivision onward, included complete system fonts, and
many provided subroutines by which programmers could load their own custom fonts along with
game data. This streamlining was also enhanced by implementations of ASCII or similar standards
such as ATASCII.20
Other systems in the videogame console generations following the crash contain peculiar
typographic artifacts and textual dispositions, which are worth mentioning. For example, the
ColecoVision, first on the market in 1982, offered greater fidelity to the arcade originals it ported
to its system than either the VCS or Intellivision (Forster 51). It did include a system font very
similar to many coin-operated games (not the Namco font, however), but an alternate BIOS
19 James Newman's use is typical: "In games like Tomb Raider or Super Mario, just as in Friedman's Civilization,
the primary-player may not see themselves as any one particular character on the screen, but rather as the sum of
every force and influence that comprises the game" (Ni ~\ nun, "The myth of the ergodic videogame").
20 The Atari 400/800 line of personal computers, for example, included a custom character set and a built-in table
for addressing text. Taken together, this font and table of letters (shown in figure 3-23), make up ATASCII. As a
font, it has some features in common with the Namco font, which it may have indirectly inspired, as discussed
includes a rather different font that is wider and dramatically stylized.21 The origins of the alternate
font are not clear, but because it is integrated at level of the system ROM, games can be emulated
using either the original or the modified BIOS, yielding otherwise identical games with very
different typography (see figure 3-24).
Also, Atari's 8-bit family of personal computers, which introduced the ATASCII character
set, have the ability to make use of its character set handling to create graphics. The system's
character set is defined as a table of numbers which reference bitmaps stored in memory, and a
subroutine makes it possible for programmers to design their own font to replace the original. This
has obvious aesthetic or typographic appeal, but Chris Crawford, in his classic handbook, De Re
Atari, takes it further to describe the many advantages of this technique, noting that its ability to
change character sets while a program is running allows programmers to create simple animations
out of redesigned characters. In terms of memory use, this method consumes less RAM than would
be the case with straightforward bitmaps. As a result it is conceivable that an entire game could be
programmed for an Atari 400/800 (or, possibly, comparable 8-bit computers like the Commodore
64) that generated graphics entirely through the character set. This is similar, in a formal material
sense, to the nature of graphics in "text mode" games like Rogue, but in the context of videogame
textuality, it is also worth noting the relationship this establishes between text and image in the
videogame environment. The fact that any given visual object within a game rendered by these
techniques could be (in an invisible modality) text, undercuts the argument that image and text are
separate paradigms of representation within the videogame. At the very least, this calls attention to
the visual nature of typographic characters that is similar to the diegetic lever supplied by the
Vectrex's overlays. While the question of representational mode does depend on form and access to
specific orders of symbology through the senses, the fact that the digital ontology of images and
21 The origins of this alternate BIOS are unclear, but it is readily available from hobbyist websites. It is possible
that the font was introduced in one of the licensed ColecoVision derivatives such as the DINA or Telegames
Personal Arcade. Both BIOS fonts are included in Appendix B.
text are indeterminate in these environments is an especially appropriate disposition for the already
imagetextual modality of videogameplay.
Videogame console generations nearly always emphasized the system's graphical rendering
power or processing speed, so even though most systems resemble contemporaneous personal
computers in many respects, text handling is generally an afterthought, if it is mentioned at all.
One interesting analysis of text rendering as a comparison point for consoles come in a review of
various versions of Super Mario Brothers. Comparing an original NES, the Generation NEX and
FC Twin NES simulators, and the Virtual Console included within Nintendo's Wii, Ben Kuchera of
Ars Technica writes,
The text test! The NES looks okay, nothing great or terrible going on there. The Generation
NEX holds up well, although you can see an issue or two with the question-mark block.
More about that in a second. The FC Twin does very poorly with text. It looks terrible in
pictures and doesn't get better since the text never moves in the game. Ick. The Virtual
Console makes everything pretty though. (Kuchera)
What is interesting here is that, in terms of text legibility, the Virtual Console is found to be a
superior rendering of Super Mario Brothers than the original console for which it was
programmed. From the images he provides, the difference appears to be largely the result of the
author's HD TV compressing the image in different ways, but the criticism of the NES here
demonstrates that there is more impacting the appreciation of videogame lettering than fidelity to
some original, and legibility is an important concern. Still, the dimension of holotypical
referentiality through typeface design cannot be ignored, especially in the case of Super Mario
Brothers. The system font for the NES console shares many distinct features with the "Namco
font" then ubiquitous in arcades.22 This in turn was based on a character set produced by Atari in
the 1970s, so the presence of certain letter shapes in Kuchera's example references an idealized
typeface which is not imagined but implemented on a broad scale (with slight variation) on dozens
if not hundreds of game machines. The comparison in which the NES falls short is not, therefore, a
22 The complete character set for this font is included in Appendix B.
case of a simulation preceding its simulacrum, but a signification system in which the referent of
the type design and rendering is the textuality of the the videogame industry.
In the previous sections, I have organized my discussion of videogame textuality around
specific platforms and their typographic affordances. In the next section, I turn toward broader,
cross-platform patterns in type design for videogames. Because videogame systems tend toward
greater flexibility in terms of type design, and therefore move away from the machine-specific
constraints which characterize holotypical typographic expression, the letterforms which are
adapted across platforms sometimes retaining evidence of prior constraints warrant their own
analyses. In this section, I consider the ontological distinction between the 7-segment figure and
the similar 3 x 5 or 3 x 6 figures which appear on numerous platforms. I then proceed to discuss
dedicated character generator ROM chips that appeared in several gaming and computing systems,
and I conclude with a discussion of the so-called "Namco Font."
The 7-segment form
The first style of numeric character rendering to appear in a consistent way on videogame
screens was the 7-segment figure. These figures could be generated relatively easily with the
discrete logic circuitry employed in most video and arcade games before cheaper programmable
CPUs such as the MOS 6502 were widely available. For example, Computer Space employs this
kind of character generation by a special circuit built specifically for this purpose. As shown in
figure 3-4, this display reports the player's score (the label "Rocket" is printed on the cabinet
adjacent to this display field), the computer opponent's score ("Saucer"), and the amount of time or
fuel remaining in the current game ("Time"). The 7-segment form also commonly appears in
vector-based games, like Asteroids, that utilize the outline method for drawing alphanumeric
characters (as opposed to the Vectrex's quasi-bitmaps). Considered as a general form, therefore, the
7-segment form is appropriate in many contexts where constraints mandate parsimony, and in the
sense that it is composed of modular segments that can be arranged in different formats to produce
different figures, the disposition of the form is aesthetically digital. In other words, there is no
necessary relationship between any given segment and a number form it is part of, other than the
one-bit property of whether that segment should be "on" or "off' within the requested figure. This
digital logic, however, is not necessarily computational or even electronic in origin.
The 7-segment form is today most commonly seen on digital display devices like wrist
watches, and it is also common in non-electronic displays such as the marquees used in billboards
to update the price of gasoline. In those non-illuminated displays, states of "on" or "off' managed
merely through the presence or absence of colored bars. Still, the method for displaying the form
do originate with illumination, at least as early as 1908 with a patent for an "Illuminated
Announcement and Display Signal." This device, invented by Frank W. Wood, selectively
completed or opened electronic circuits connected to specially placed electric lamps. Since the
patent includes the method for arranging these lamps as part of its original claims, Wood's is likely
the original implementation of this method, and the description of the need for the digital nature of
In the numerous attempts which have heretofore been made to produce a signal display
system of this character, one of the principal difficulties encountered has been the necessity
for providing a very large number of electric lamps, and hence a corresponding number of
independent circuits, for each letter, figure or character produced. The primary object of this
invention is therefore to reduce to a minimum the number of lamps employed within a given
field to produce the various characters required, and to this end I form such characters by
means of certain elementary blocks of light so constructed and arranged that the characters
will be clearly and distinctly outlined. (Wood 3)
In other words, whereas prior devices created figures through unique arrangements of lamps for
each number or letter, Wood's invention used a single arrangement that could emulate others in a
manner convincing enough to be legible at distances. Thus, whether the base units of a 7-segment
form are lamps, vectors, or raster beams, their innovation is their ability to be arranged into
something else, and their unit operational structure is a function of the sub-units formal materiality.
For example, in a later invention for illuminated display, the figures (in this case, both letters and
numbers) are composed from illuminated tubes. This device, invented in 1937 by Thomas Ross
Welch, utilized a much larger set of segments, but it expressed the modular logic of Wood's device
to an even greater degree:
It is an object of the invention to provide a sign comprising a desired number of
letterformers, each of which letterformers consists of an arrangement of glow tubes, for
example, neon tubes, so placed and connected with a simple control means that selected
sections of these glow tubes may be caused to illuminate, thereby presenting to the eye of an
observer a desired character or symbol. (Welch 1)
In this way, although the controls of the device are technically analog, its operating principle is, in
essence, digital, and it relies on the digital property of alphabetic writing in which letters can be
arranged into words independent of individual signification. Welch's sign composes letters and
numeric digits out of discrete and modular segments (any combination of 26 "letterformer"
segments could be selected) and displays them in a sequential manner controlled from electrical
input. As a principle for organizing character-generation, the flexible, modular nature of these
"letter-formers" illustrates the same principle of parsimony and modularity appropriate for game
devices. It also demonstrates one approach to the problem of designing alphanumeric glyphs from
uniform, discrete components that are geometrically generic. As a theoretical font, therefore,
Welch's electric sign argues for treating the square and the circle as the fundamental unit of letters
and numerals (see figure 3-26).
In early videogames discrete circuitry stores information and generates imagery by
manipulating the pathways and waveforms of electrical current through series of logic gates. David
L. Heiserman's 1978 textbook, How to Design and Build Your Own Custom TV Games, describes
the importance of numeric information and the basic method for generating the digit display, which
relies on two essential circuits:
Virtually all fast-action video games call for automatic scoring, and of course it is nice if
timed games have some provisions for displaying the elapsed time or time remaining of the
play. The circuitry is practically identical in either case, a control circuit that generates binary
numbers for scoring or time and a display circuit that generates the appropriate numeric
figures on the screen. (Heiserman 381)
Figure 3-27 is Heiserman's illustration of a 7-segment display circuit and figure 3-28 is its
accompanying BCD (binary-coded decimal) to 7-segment conversion table. This illustrates the
standard usage whereby the lowercase letters a, b, c, d, e, f, and g refer to the seven segments in
sequence. The segment a, for example, is at the top of the figure. In practice, the circuit works by
assigning 4 digit binary input (measured in this case by electrical current through 4 input pins
labeled A, B, C and D) to the proper combination of seven output pins, passing current (or none) as
indicated by the logic in the table. This table refers specifically to the table employed by the
SN7448 chip, manufactured by Texas Instruments, which would work in combination with other
chips on a game circuit board. Computer Space, for example, stores each of the numeric values
related to gameplay (score, time, etc.) in individual chips, which then pass the correct set of signals
- 4 separate current paths to create a 4-digit BCD value to the display circuit.
The logical states which produce these images do so as a condition of a logical state for the
machine as a whole, which is stored and maintained throughout play as the specific path of
electrical current through the sequence of chips. Like the lamp-based segmented displays, the 7448
chip converts discrete and non-signifying units into a cohesive whole, such that there is an
arbitrary relationship between any individual unit and any specific figure including that unit. With
regard to ontology, the 7-segment display generated by the 7448 chip has more in common with
Wood's illuminated display device than the vector-based systems, which create segments by
connecting points located geometrically and tracked in software, because the 7448 relies on
physical wiring and a particular state of energy distributed through that wiring. The logical
interpolation which occurs between BCD and 7-segment has a physical substance that upholds its
formal properties. Software-based systems, such as bitmaps, support these formal characteristics
through potentially several layers of abstraction which convert ROM data into the visual form of
numbers. The method by which stored information (a player's score stored in binary data) becomes
visual information data (score displayed on screen) is a shift in which the arbitrary relationship of
signifier (for example, a 3 displayed on screen) to signified (the quantitative record of 3 prior
scoring events) is realized in a sense that is materially different from bitmap storage and retrieval,
where the relationship is ironically more analogous in nature.
Character generator ROM chips
As integrated circuit technology condensed many routine computing tasks into cheaper, self-
contained units, several chip manufactures produced chips with the dedicated purpose of
generating text. Like the integrated circuits which were capable of generating complete PONG-like
games, these character-generating ROM (Read-Only Memory) chips would be included in systems
solely for that dedicated purpose of drawing text characters on the monitor or television screen.
These so-called character generator ROMs generally contain a 128 character set that could be
accessed via standard ASCII codes or some variation or subset. For example, in the early 1970s,
Signetics produced a chip, designated 2513, which is capable of generating 64 characters capital
letters, numerals, and a few punctuation and mathematical symbols. The characters themselves are
generated out of a 5 x 7 pixel grid, so the resulting forms are of a similar density to the ones
appearing in Atari VCS games (see figure 3-29). Mitchell Waite, in his Computer Graphics Primer,
describes the 2513 as the "most coarse" and "cheapest" character-generating ROM, suggesting that
glyphs of the 3 x 5 and 5 x 5 density are not worth installing a dedicated chip. Whether grids of
this density are considered "coarse" or just highly stylized, more expensive (and expansive)
character-generator chips continued a trend toward mimicking more curves and making more
gestures toward emulating print typefaces.
The MCM6570 chip, produced by Motorola, provided the full 128 characters of the ASCII
standard, providing full upper and lower-case, numerals, punctuation, mathematical symbols, and
several Greek characters. Furthermore, one advantage of the 6570 is that it allowed users to
program their own fonts into the chip, after creating the font information and coding into IBM
punch cards or ASCII Paper Tape Punch (Motorola). To avoid this time-consuming step, Motorola
provided a series of chips which came pre-programmed with a font of characters, including
standard 128 character ASCII as well as some interesting variations. These characters are
generated out of a 7 x 9 pixel matrix that allows for a wider variety of character designs, and the
datasheet for the chip includes 9 such variants. Some of the variations change the function of the
chip entirely MCM6573, for example, includes Roman capital letters and a set of Kiragana but
other variations are more subtle (Motorola). In their 1978 book on building "TV games," Walter
Buchsbaum and Robert Mauro make use of the MCM6576, which comes programmed with a
typical serifed design. Mitchell Waite, on the hand, uses the MCM6571 as his example, which
contains a sans-serif font and Greek letters. Figure 3-30 illustrates some of the differences between
the two chips.
What these variations within the constraint of a 7 x 9 grid demonstrate is the degree to which
a distinct style and expressive pattern can be achieved even with this rather coarse environment.
In terms of the resulting textual ontology for devices that used these chips, the fact that character
data exists in read-only memory in physically separate chips implies that the device in question is
not fundamentally textual in the same sense that a system with integrated fonts. The ROM data is
logically and programmatically the same as character ROM stored within a game or a system's
BIOS, but because the resulting character designs themselves are not even system-specific, the
device or game text as a whole is less autographically textual. Unlike systems with BIOS-
embedded fonts or which required game programmers to come up with their techniques for
creating text at all, the computer and gaming systems which made use of 2513 and 6570 chips do
not reveal the same interrelatedness of visual and verbal textuality, nor do they encourage the
interpretation that the constraints and affordances exhibited in typeface design can be emblematic
of a particular device's general aesthetics.
The "Namco" Font
One final example of videogame holotype addresses the diffusion and influence of type
design across multiple platforms. The so-called Namco Font, as shown in figure 3-31 on the attract
mode screen for Ms. Pac-Man, has already been referred to as a possible source for the common 7
x 7 number style of Atari VCS games, and (less so) the system font of the Nintendo NES, but the
font now widely associated with arcade gaming saw its widest dissemination in Namco arcade
games produced during the 1980s. Figure As a distinct character style, versions of this font often
appear in contexts which reference videogame culture, and one popular TrueType font based on
this design (Joystix, by Ray Larabie) is distributed on websites like MyFonts.com with keywords
such as "arcade," "computer," and "videogame," as well as the names of specific games where the
typeface design it emulates appeared Frogger, Galaga, Galaxian, and Pac-Man (Larabie).
Information about this design has been difficult to locate because it is so prevalent on arcade
systems particularly those produced in Japan in the early 1980s that its origins and evolution
are difficult to trace. One massive resource for studying this font has been assembled by a Japanese
hobbiest who signs his or her name only as "qtchicks." He or she has assembled a massive web
resource containing images of all fonts included in Namco games, which qtchicks refers to as the
Namco Font Museum (qtchicks).23 What is remarkable is how little the font changes over its many
iterations; the major improvements are in offering multiple colors and alternate embossing or
23 The full title is "NAMCO '70-'80's ARCADE VUDEOGAMES [sic] FONT MUSEUM\," and it is available at
http://qtchicks.hp.infoseek.co.jp/fonts.html. The text is all in Japanese, but automatic translation software makes
it navigable, although some web pages contain an encoding error. Setting the brower's coding manually to
"Unicode (UTF-8)", thereby overriding the assigned "Japanese (Shift JIS)" encoding, will ensure that the text
can be interpreted properly. Throughout the Museum, qtchicks refers to the font as "Namco Font," so I have
adopted that usage here. Whether it ever had an official designation is presently a matter of speculation.
shadowing effects. This relative uniformity suggests that the font was simply copied from one
game to the next. Whether this was simply a relatively easy solution to an otherwise tedious task,
or whether it was required as a company policy at Namco (or the other arcade game manufacturers
who used it, including Bally / Midway and Taito), this exchangeability exerts an intriguingly
allographic propensity on arcade game textuality: within the paratextual domain of videogames,
the font is invisible, but in any other contexts, it immediately suggests videogames. With regard to
expression, therefore, Namco Font's relationship to the formal materiality of arcade game
hardware extends the holotypical referentiality of videogame textuality.
According to qtchicks, the Namco Font was first created by Atari. In 1974, Namco
purchased the rights to distribute Atari games in Japan, and in 1978, Namco entered the arcade
game market itself with their Breakout-like game Gee-Bee (Kent 76). Gee-Bee, gameplay of which
involves removing bricks from walls by bouncing a ball with a paddle, has much in common with
Breakout, which may be explained by the fact that Namco had released a port of Atari's Super
Breakout earlier that year. As qtchicks explains, Namco engineers simply borrowed the character
set from Super Breakout and applied it to Gee-Bee, adding several colors and inverted bitmaps for
each character. From there, it quickly saw use in games by other Japanese game manufacturers,
including Taito and Sega, but its existence before Super Breakout is unclear.
The story of the origins of the first Breakout game is one of the most well-known pieces of
videogame lore,24 but Super Breakout was one of a large number of sequels and derivative titles
Atari Games cranked out in the late 1970s. According to James Hague's "Giant List of Classic
Game Programmers," Super Breakout was programmed by the prolific Ed Logg, who would later
produce the classics Asteroids and Centipede (Hague). Where Logg acquired the design is
24 Steve Jobs, who would later go on to found Apple Computers, worked as an engineer at Atari. Offered a chance
to receive a bonus for completing a game within 4 days, with an added incentive for creating it with as few TTL
chips as possible, Jobs farmed most of the work to his friend Steve Wozniak, who completed it in the allowed
time. Jobs shared half of the bonus with Wozniak (in the amount of $350), but did not tell Wozniak about the
extra bonus earned for reducing the machine's cost (on the order of $4000).
uncertain, but the font in Super Breakout does have some features in common with some lettering
designs in Atari VCS games of 1978. Only a few games include full alphabets, mainly owing to the
large memory cost required to craft an entire alphabet, and those which did were likely to be
educational in nature. One such cartridge, designed by Warren Robinett, was BASIC
Programming, an instructional cart meant to introduce players to computer languages. BASIC is
written in human readable language, and one of the cartridge's advertised features was that with
the aid of this cartridge, ... you'll have the VCS game printing your messages..." (Atari 5), a full
alphabetic character set was necessary.
Warren Robinett, who would later create the easter egg in Adventure, recalls that he first had
to address the problem of putting text on the screen. In a personal e-mail to me, Robinett relates the
story that fellow programmer Bob Whitehead laid the groundwork by coming up with a way to put
8 "characters" per line on screen to create a chess game. (In this case, characters were chess
pieces). Dave Crane adapted this method to create a character-generating kernel that could output
12 characters per line, and Robinett simply copied Crane's code, including the character set
(Robinett, "Re: Question about Basic Programming"). 25 There are some differences between
Robinett's BASIC character set and Namco Font, which are compared in figure 3-32, which
suggests the possibility of a third source. However, some key features are present, such as the
subtly humanist axes in two-story figures like 2, 5, and S. Other identifying features are absent,
however; BASIC lacks the humanist 0 and 8, for example.
Whatever its true source, Namco Font's popularity owes to more than simply utility or
legibility. It exudes a clear style that, though inflected by the rigid 6 x 8 grid that encloses it, still
manages to exhibit the grace and balance of a typeface defined for print. In its TrueType
25 The only Atari VCS game from this era credited to Dave Crane that includes a full alphabet is an unreleased
prototype for a Boggle game. However, the characters in this game do not match Robinett's in BASIC
Programming, so it is possible that Crane used a different version of his kernel, or that Robinett used a different
source for his characters.
incarnation as Joystix, it retains the bitmapped jagginess because this is crucial to the harmony of
the forms. As a videogame holotype, therefore, the font remains distinct from similarly constrained
forms which have no historical association with videogames.
This chapter has so far discussed the nature of type and textuality within videogames, but has
so far only implicitly addressed the question of what text in videogames does. This study is based
largely in the premise that videogame textuality consists of a unique type of expression, depending
on medially situated and discrete layers of representation specific to technological arrangements
and autonomous, rule-structured environments. In this case, textuality is the broad sense through
which videogames compose themselves as texts, and videogame typography is the specifically
alphanumeric dimension of textuality manifested in letters, numbers, and their positions on the
screen. What remains assumed and unaddressed, however, is the degree to which videogames may
be considered inscriptive media artifacts: how and in what way are videogames subject to the
institution of literacy and inflected by the history of writing technology? Addressing these question
are three phenomena endemic videogameplay: displaying score on the game screen, Easterr eggs"
messages hidden within games, and the figural space of the screen itself. The remainder of this
chapter briefly addresses each of these.
The Keeping of the Score
In examining the materiality of digital texts, Matthew Kirschenbaum offers a provocative
grammatology of the hard drive as an inscriptable technology and site for writing. In addition to
considering prevalent metaphors, such as the idea of "writing to a drive" to reference saving data,
Kirschenbaum is also interested in the physical properties of drive technology which allow
information to be stored and retrieved by appropriately named read/write heads within the hard
drive enclosure (Kirschenbaum, Mechanisms 70). Ultimately, Kirschenbaum proposes a series of
"grammatological primitives" on which the hard drive lies. With regard to the material trace of
writing, therefore, a hard drive is random access, a signal processor, differential, volumetric,
motion-dependent, planographic and non-volatile (Kirschenbaum, Mechanisms 89). Each of these
principles addresses formal and forensically material properties of a specific technology, but since
videogames depend only on technological conditions in the broad sense (that is, there are many
different technologies which can create the conditions for considering a text or interactive
experience a videogame), a different approach must instead address the construct of the videogame
as a medial disposition general to computational environments, while still incorporating the
inflections of those technologies specifically created for playing videogames.
As discussed earlier, the first uses of mixed text and image on screen during gameplay
occurred in the form of displaying a player's score. Significantly, games like Galaxy Game and
Computer Space included scorekeeping and display, whereas their formal (and in the case of
Galaxy Game, programmatic) predecessor Spacewar! lacked such a display. Similarly, the first
generation version of the Magnavox Odyssey lacked the ability to display score on screen, relying
on the players to track the score themselves. This externalization of scoring is in keeping with
other games on the console that required the use of playing pieces such as cards or poker chips,
because the formal conditions which maintain the state of the game are upheld by the players in a
sense which marks gameplay on the Odyssey as something fundamentally different from gameplay
on other devices. Spacewar! and Tennis on the Odyssey share the common element that an instance
of play on the devices was initiated by social conditions specific to the play event. Spacewar! was
originally conceived as a hack to demonstrate the capability of the PDP-1 computer, and Odyssey
Tennis was marketed as a TV Game an extension of the television around which the family could
gather for a game night. Both imply conditions of congeniality which are not assumed by Galaxy
Game and PONG, both of which were played in public and, significantly, required money to
initiate an instance of gameplay. Play is, therefore, placed in a monetized framework.
More importantly, the equity of the now-monetized framework is signified by the
intervention of numerals displayed on the screen that provide a textual intervention into the
diegesis of the game world, thus maintaining the temporal heterogeneity of an instance of
gameplay. In PONG, for example, the play field is bound by the edges of the screen (a player
scores when her opponent fails to heed the advice printed on the cabinet, "Avoid missing ball for
high score") and a scoring event occurs when the ball passes beyond the edge of the screen behind
either player. Horizontal lines at the upper and lower edges of the play field describe the
boundaries of play, but the score displayed at the upper edge of the screen exists within the world
of the game as part of its simulation. Diegetically, it must exist at one remove from the field of
play, but it is part of the mediated experience of the text and underscores the practice common of
early systems to describe what is now commonly labeled a game a "game simulator." In relation to
the player's experience of the game world, therefore, the significance of the displayed score is that
it visually and logically separates instances of play from past and future instances of play, inserting
a textual displacement of temporality that diachronically isolates a play event that is otherwise
synchronically and diegetically identical to every other instance of play. In other words, when the
ball fires to begin a volley in Odyssey Tennis, that play field and the rule-conditions which define
the player's agency within that magic circle are identical to any previous volley. There are, of
course, differences at a phenomenological and microscopic level (degradation in the device's
circuitry or increasing burn-out on the screen's phosphors), but in formal terms, the diegetic
comportment of the game world is unchanged. In PONG, however, each volley is marked with the
traces of prior volleys. In figure 3-33 a score of "11 7" says, "there have been 18 prior volleys; in
11 of these, player 2 failed to prevent the ball from exiting the screen on her side; in 7 prior
volleys, player 1 failed to prevent the ball from exiting the screen on his side." These statements
issue from the the game world and address the formal, ludic conditions of play based on a rule set
that is enforced by the circuit logic of the game machine and a historical record maintained by the
path of electrical current through a sequence of transistors. The signifiers are addressing the
numeracy of the game within a syntagmatic ontology of a game of PONG by producing
typographic interventions at the boundaries of play both the visible boundaries of the screen and
the formal boundaries of the game space.
The score display in PONG, Galaxy Game, and Computer Space are important because they
initiate this textual structure, but games continue to exhibit similar textual structures that report on
the status of the game. This gesture toward the outer world serves as a discursive act that, by
taking the form of alphanumeric text, writes the game's present status into the world. The game
itself is internally coherent, so long as the text display reliably records and displays play
sequences, so its gesture to the outer world serves the additional function of reinforcing its
boundary. Jesper Juul addresses the question of the boundary between game worlds and real worlds
by framing it as a question of coherence, arguing, "It is a hallmark of a coherent world game that
the bounds of the game space are reasonably motivated by the fictional world" (Juul, Half-Real
166). Additionally, although Juul is not specifically focusing his argument on textual dispositions
in games, he seems to at least tacitly acknowledge the border-making function text can provided -
even if that is a concession to a failure in the game's diegetically presenting its boundaries:
The relationship between game space and world space becomes more interesting in games
with more elaborate fictional worlds, where the end of the game space has to be marked in
more subtle ways than by using a white line or a wall. In Battlefield 1942, the player
approaching the edge of the game space informed by a textual message, "Warning! You are
leaving combat area. Deserters will be shot." This is known as invisible walls: The fiction
gives no clue that the world ends, but for no apparent reason, the game space ends. (Juul,
Juul's comment is addressing two kinds of boundaries: the fictional boundary of the battlefield,
and the material boundary of the battlefield's programmed geography. Though, for Juul, the fact
that this boundary is erected textually is incidental, this presentation of the relationship between
the player-character and the game world through alphanumeric signifiers performs the same world-
building function as the score and PONG, though with the addition of a spatial dimension. In both
cases, the act of inscription is performed by the game world, and it sustains the persistence of the
game to the world around it.
The practice, first appearing in arcade games meant for public places, of recording and
displaying high scores further displaces the textual locus of the game into the world of the player.
A high score occupies an interesting position with regard to the game text; depending on the game
in question and how one defines the textual domain of a videogame, the high score may be
considered epitextual (in the case of games which display a high score table while in attract mode)
or peritextual (in the case of games which include a high score from a prior game on screen during
the current gameplay). As a form of inscription, the high score negotiates presence and absence in
a more traditional manner, signifying not only the existence of a prior instance of play (thus
extending the syntagmatic dimension of play), but also the fact that some now absent individual
played the game and may have recorded her initials in the high score table. In the case of high
score, the written record exists beyond the boundaries of a specific instance of play, and in the case
of a high score table, it may even be used as an enticement to other players offering the challenge
of placing one's own name in the hall of fame. But if the concept of what constitutes a videogame
is expanded to include the machine and programming that bring it into existence (its medial
substrate), then high score functions similar to in-game scoring by broadcasting the present state of
the game world, in the form of the current best performance, to the world around it. Where players
have the option of entering their initials, both game and player participate in acts of inscription that
extend the text of a specific game session by creating a record of it.
This practice continues in contemporary games, but it is enacted in different forms and by
different means. In one interesting case of the written word standing in for displaced presence,
online multiplayer games (in which players participate online by connecting to a central server)
collect and record statistics on player performance, which may be displayed on dedicated tracking
websites. In first-person shooter games like Call ofDuty, for example, the server tracks
information about each player's performance, including that player's number of frags (kills) per
game and more skill-specific details such as which weapons they have been fragged by the most
often. Third party software then collates this information into profile pages that can be displayed
on a web page or a so-called banner image that the player can insert into his or her signature on
messageboards. These banners display basic information about the status of the server, the player's
recent performance, and whether the player is presently playing a game. Figure 3-34 illustrates
statistics banners for two players, inhumanplumber and molecular. These images are generated
dynamically from the third party service, Game Tracker, so the information on these images
reflects the status of the server and both players at the time I saved the images to my computer,
April 27, 2008, at 4:39PM ET and 4:42PMET, respectively. Inhumanplumber is one of the top
ranked players on the server, and this banner indicates that he or she was playing Call ofDuty at
4:39PM on a Sunday and that he or she was winning. Molecularr, on the other hand, is a less
experienced player whose rank on the server indicates that he is only an above average player and
that at 4:42PM on a Sunday, molecular was not playing Call ofDuty26 In both cases, up to the
minute information about the game world is made visible for others (potential players, most likely)
who are not presently participating. Like the score displayed at the top of a PONG screen, these
Game Tracker banners report the moment by moment state of the game, and like the high score
26 Molecularr is, in fact, the screenname of the author.
table displayed on a Ms. Pac-Man cabinet, these banners provide evidence of prior states of play
with reference to the presence or absence of specific players.
The act of entering one's name (or screen name) in connection to an instance of play creates
an autographic record of play and presence that connects the formal materiality of the game with
the forensic materiality of a specific session of play. Formal materiality is invoked because the
graphic of one's score becomes part of the formal context of the next game, especially if one has
achieved the highest score on a game like Space Invaders (Figure 3-35) where the high score
occupies part of the screen during gameplay. In terms of forensic materiality, the high score record
creates a unique marker of a specific person's presence. This inscription can be considered forensic
(after Kirschenbaum's use) because it references the individual uniqueness of a specific media
artifact as opposed to digital information's symbolic ability to be copied to other media. In another
sense of the term forensic, the high score record provides evidentiary data about the activities of
individuals with regard to the game. In two infamous cases of player's who died while playing the
videogame Berzerk, their last recorded high scores have become part of their stories. In 1981, 19
year-old Jeff Dailey suffered a heart-attack after posting a score of 16,660 (Vasvari & Kirmse), and
Peter Burkowski similarly died from a heart attack following an intense session at Berzerk. As a
contemporary newspaper report puts it, "in fifteen minutes of play, he wrote his initials at least
twice in the 'Top Ten' on the Berzerk screen" (Kiesling 14). The use of the word "wrote" in this
account is worth noting because the autographic significance of Burkowski's having been present
to create the record overrides the technical detail that no literal act of writing occurred. Burkowski
instead manipulated the joystick and buttons on the screen in order to select his initials, but the act
of writing here refers to the broader sense in which Burkowski created a specific state of the game
world that was manifested in a special pattern of electricity passing through transistors and
integrated circuits and distinguished formally from other games played on the same machine by
attaching his name to that unique disposition of game state and electrical current. As a motivation
and means for inserting textual information into videogames, score display and high score
reporting form a typographic conduit into the logic of a videogame's core textuality and, therefore,
constitute a crucial example of holotypical text.
The practice known as Easterr eggs" is another form ofvideogame textuality which has an
important signatory valence. In its most common use, the term easter egg refers to instances where
some information is hidden with a game in such a way that players can only access it using special
knowledge or skills. Typically, these are humorous or self-congratulatory in nature, which is
consistent with the fact they exist somewhere between the formal world of the game and the
medial, software artifact of the game as a set of code or instructions. Conceptually, easter eggs are
related to hacks, mods and fossils, but one important difference is that easter eggs reflect some
sense of intention on the part of the programmer and as such represents a more or less direct
communication from the programmer to the player, employing the formal space of the videogame's
fictional construct as a medium. Hacks and mods, on the other hand, typically involve a player
directly altering game code, and fossils are typically left over pieces of code which were not meant
to be found.27
Warren Robinett's easter egg, hidden in the Atari VCS game, Adventure, is one example of
videogame holotype that captures the sense of a platform-specific constraint as well as the
autographic nature of a digital record. Robinett's game was based on the text adventure game
Colossal Cave Adventure, which included a the "magic word XYZZY" written on the wall of a
cave. Like Colossal Cave, Robinett's Adventure included graffiti on its cave walls in this case,
the phrase "Created by Warren Robinett." Intrepid players can access this room by retrieving an
27 Ruffin Bailey analyzes these interrelated phenomena in his essay, "Hacks, Mods, Easter Eggs, and Fossils," in
which he argues that the digital substrate of videogames reveals clues about their design which in turn provides
access to authorial intention in a manner and degree unique to the affordances of digital information storage.
invisible dot whose presence in a specific room causes one of its walls to become permeable. This
difficult-to-access image, shown in figure 3-36, is often reported (possibly inaccurately) as the first
instance of a game designer including hidden content within a video game. The fact that he chose
to leave his name, and his reasons for doing, so invoke the sense of an author's manuscript
suggested by the term holograph, which is discussed earlier in this chapter as one valence of the
The story of how Warren Robinnett came to leave his signature on a wall in his
groundbreaking Atari VCS game Adventure is a legend of early videogame history, and it
illustrates the inscriptive nature of the easter egg concept. With this game, Robinnett achieved
several important and influential milestones,28 but programmers working for Atari at this time
(1978) did not receive any public recognition for their work, which was one of the factors later
leading several disgruntled former Atari programmers to found Activision. Robinnett also took
matters into his own hands, altering his game design to serve this purpose of providing recognition.
In his words, "I created the secret room in order to hide my signature in the game" (Robinett,
"Foreword" xviii). Considering this signature image as an autograph within the formal boundaries
of the game diegesis, the applicability of the term holograph here refers to the fact that Robinett
worked alone to create the design, programming code, and graphics of the game, so his signature
as an autograph completes the game's totality and argues for its status as a videogame holograph
or single author manuscript. As an example of diegetic inscription, the signature itself becomes a
videogame holotype both for its recognizable aesthetics and for the way it operates within the
game as the ultimate final goal for the player to achieve.
Significantly, the image of the signature itself is not static, but rather it pulses with the same
animation effect (rapidly rotating its color through the full pallet) that also highlights the game's
28 These innovations include navigable space organized in a room-to-room mode and the ability to carry an
inventory of objects.
ostensible objective, a chalice guarded by three dragons. Object 3-1 is a short video clip of the
animated easter egg; object 3-2 shows the same animation in effect on the chalice. The reason for
using this animation is in one sense, to accomplish an aesthetic aim: in Robinett's words, "Once
into the secret room, well, hey, why hold back at that point? My name filled the screen like a
throbbing, multicolored movie marquee" ("Foreword" xviii). But it also links the signature to the
chalice in an important way that distinguishes Robinett's signature from other, possibly earlier,
examples of in-game credits.
Notwithstanding the historical and cultural significance of Robinett's easter egg, there is
some evidence that his may not have been the first appearance of a digital signature within a
console videogame. The Fairfield Channel F was a cartridge-based device first released in 1976,
predating the Atari VCS by at least one year. Like the Atari, the Channel F relies on an 8-bit CPU
(in this case, a Fairchild F8) and plays games through programmable ROM data loaded by
cartridges. The Channel F never achieved the same popularity as the Atari console, but it achieved
several firsts, including what may be the first appearance of videogame easter eggs in console
games, which include three instances of a programmer leaving his name somewhere in the game.
Due in part to the relative obscurity of the console and the somewhat arbitrary means for accessing
the hidden content, the Channel F easter eggs have apparently gone unnoticed until relatively
recently. The first, discovered by Channel F enthusiast and hacker Sean Riddle, can be found in the
game's demonstration cartridge (Riddle, "Channel F info"). This cartridge shipped with the
console, and it walked players through a demonstration of its complex controller and setup menus.
At the conclusion of the demonstration, if the player simply holds down buttons 1, 3, and 4 part of
the text for the final screen of the demo is replaced with the text, "MICHAEL K. GLASS" as
shown in figure 3-37. The other two, also uncovered by vintage game hobbiests, are more difficult
to access. In the game Video-Whizball, one must play through an entire game on any setting, and
then start a new game, specifying game type "43" and setting the maximum score to "67."29 Doing
so reveals the text, REID-SELTH, visible in figure 3-38, the "signature" of programmer Bradley
Reid-Selth. Finally, the game Alien Invasion (a Space Invaders clone) includes a similar credit,
also revealing REID-SELTH after the proper setup sequence is executed (see figure 3-25).
The question of whether these Channel F Easter Eggs came into being before Warren
Robinnett's is largely semantic (depending on one's definition of the term), and making an
argument either way requires relying on some vague chronology. Bradley Reid-Selth has even been
quoted that he learned of the easter egg concept by hearing that Atari and Activision programmers
were creating them. Whatever the case, the main difference between Robinett's signature and Reid-
Selth's and Glass's is that the means for accessing the hidden content in the Channel F games bears
an arbitrary relationship to gameplay. The only way a player might encounter any of the three
easter eggs mentioned above would be by accident, which explains why they were not documented
until nearly 30 years after their publication. Furthermore, there is no diegetic justification for the
intrusion of Reid-Selth's name into the play field of Video Whizball. Robinett's signature, on the
other hand, exists as a stable object within a narrativized game world. Like any other object in the
game, the signature has the property of solidity such that the player's avatar dot bounces off it like
a wall. More importantly, the game provides hints at its existence. Ruffin Bailey explains:
The 2600 will only easily display a maximum of two complex objects called "sprites"
(usually called "player graphics" on the 2600) on the screen with each frame. When more
needed to be present, Robinett circumvented the 2600's limitation by making Adventure's
frames flash quickly enough (with two different objects displayed per frame) to let the gamer
understand that more objects were there, though with the side effect that the items would
seem to strobe constantly. Robinett put an extra object into the room that contained the secret
dot to ensure that the room would flash when the player entered. (R. Bailey)
In this way, the signature exists within the game world as an inscription, but it also exists within
the ludic framework of the game's quest narrative. Furthermore, the means by which the easter
29 "43" in hexadecimal notation equals "67" in decimal notation. For more detailed instructions on unlocking these
Easter Eggs, see http://members.cox.net/seanriddle/chanf.html.
egg's existence are revealed are intimately connected to the affordances of the platform exploited
here toward a subversive meta-level communication that speaks to the specific corporate culture in
which the game was created. In other words, the easter signature of Warren Robinett provides
access to the social text of Adventure because it extends across the material, ludic, and discursive
properties of the game as text. Furthermore, the fact that the image of the signature is clearly
inflected by its constraints raises it to holotypical status for the textuality of Adventure and the
VCS more generally.
Conclusion: Phosphor Burn
Throughout this chapter, the concept of videogame holotype has been dealt with largely as a
question of code, taking for granted (or simply ignoring) the presence of the television or monitor
screen as a crucial component of any videogame's materiality. For example, most of the character
sets and fonts discussed here have been illustrated by printing their bitmap code as opposed to
capturing a screenshot with an emulator or photographing a videogame during play. In part, this
was done to bypass for now the problematic figure of the screen as a site for videogame discourse,
but a true concept of videogame holotype should also include the aesthetic influences of screen
technology. The next chapter explores this in some detail, with reference to both paratypical and
holotypical videogame typography, but for the present grammatological discussion, the screen
demands attention as another site for videogame inscription.
CRT television sets create an image on their screens by passing electron beam across a grid
of phosphorescent dots, which luminesce when struck by electrons. Monochrome display devices
have one phosphor per screen pixel, and color displays pass beams across red, green, and blue
phosphors within each screen pixel. The contact between electron and phosphor is for all practical
purposes infinitessimally brief, but it leaves a lasting trace. Each contact degrades the phosphor
slightly until it no longer luminesces as it originally did, and the result is a ghost image burned into
the screen by prolonged exposure to an unchanging image. Since many coin-operated videogames
remain running constantly, screen bum-in is a common problem on arcade machines. Figure 3-40
shows a monitor exhibiting bum in from Pac-Man. The clearest elements burned into the screen
are the pieces of text, in Namco Font, at the top and bottom of the screen, so it is reasonable to
consider this property of phosphor screen display a form of textual inscription. The fact that CRT
technology forms the basis of photocompositor (typesetting) technology first available in the 1960s
and 1970s further connects the CRT and phosphor screen to printing, and it also underscores the
effect of compositing technology on the aesthetics of type.
Although the burned text or images is generally unnoticeable during gameplay, its mark on
the screen is indelible. So as a mode of inscription, CRT bum-in serves as a different kind of
record. Like the high score display, bum-in utilizes the screen to supply a representation of past
instances of play (in this case, all past instances), but the reference it accomplishes is specific to the
physical hardware of the videogame as technology. In other words, bum-in does not occur in a
necessary relationship with videogames, and it need not be a record of videogameplay at all.
However, the prevelance of bum-in on arcade games from the 1970s and 80s indicates the
importance of the screen in determining the aesthetics of type designed for display within
videogames. Besides bum-in, phosphor based screens also exhibit light bleeding when neighboring
phosphors pick up stray electrons, and the passing of, say, a white object across an otherwise black
screen can leave an apparent trail as pixels continue to luminesce for a second or two after the
beam passes. These effects form an important dimension of videogame expression, so much so that
the VCS emulator Stella includes an option for simulating phosphor effects within its display.
More importantly for type design, the distortion or fuzzying effect of the CRT screen is a factor
which must be accounted for in designing legible type for screen display, and where this has been
the case in videogame typography, the character design reflects this influence. The next chapter
discusses competing paradigms for representing videogame typography "fuzzy" and jaggyy" in
order to make the claim that each alternative addresses a different critical ontology for game
analysis as an extension metaphors common among videogame and new media scholarship that
treat the screen as a figure for media discourse.
Figure 3-1. Screenshot of Rogue, the original "textmode" game, which employs ASCII characters
for its graphics.
-- -- --- -- -
1 1, SCR Order Tank LngTank
LongTank 0o |
Multiplicand Short Tank.s
Figure 3-2. Screenshot showing "OXO" running in an EDSAC simulator created by Martin
Output From: OXO
9 8 7 NOUGHTS AND CROSSES r
6 5 4 BY
3 2 1 A 3 DCUGLAS, C.1552
LEADING LEASE WAIT...
EDSACUSER FIRST -DIAL 0,1.:1
DIAL MOVE : 4
DIAL MOV'E :6
M C:\WINDOWSsystem 32kcmd.exe rogue.exe -nZac h
Figure 3-3. Display output of EDSAC processing a "Hello, World" program.
ii':iii~m : ....... i il" i
Figure 3-4. Screen image of Computer Space (1972) in action. Photograph by Kevin Armstrong.
Figure 3-5. Detail of information display utilized in Computer Space. Photograph by Kevin
I l Hi I :j
S .. ... . .. ... j.
Figure 3-6. Detail of schematics for Computer Space 's "SYNC-STAR" circuit board, display
circuit. This section is the display circuit, centered around a TI 7448 BCD to 7-segment
*i rz, *t4
r ` '
P w r
Figure 3-7. Rocket ship image generation as analog sprites. A) Detail of circuit board diagram for
"MEMORY BOARD." B) Photograph of Computer Space machine interior with
Memory Board visible. Note the Rocket and Saucer outlines on the left. C) The rocket
ship image on screen during gameplay. Photographs by Kevin Armstrong.
Figure 3-8. Magnavox Odyssey overlay for HauntedHouse. (McCourt)
- ,,| | -il t--* Mi I|
-=', 4.. Y. ,.. .. .,_ .
-ri? r t M U.. ** ^ *
li f liFi
-' ttfc ::: | 1 -,
.! '.'.___L" ,; i. ^ ^
.. .-. ,, __-- .. .. .
-- -H ,-:1[5 ',, :
iir i SS 1- -~
-- II I;
_': D,L .._ .,, ..........R~I* ~. :..7 ...
.Lt "-----" ....... -"
^l-^" : C.._. ** .... :,*.* .........
0.uri 4 1nr ,sfrM tW>flI*llCOiO.IEU4 lt iv aC 4$ <~i^i
9f. AwcAUOw Pi?wTovmrfl xuWM
Figure 3-9. Datasheet for General Instruments' AY-3-8500 chip. The so-called "PONG in a chip"
that led to so many PONG clones in the mid-1970s.
625 U55 ________________
LINE LINE I -- I
STO, STD. 0 13,5 22.5 29.0
14.S 24.0 31.5
"--_ "-- ---P-
Figure 3-10. Detail of figure 3-9, highlighting the measurements in timing (horizontal) and number
of scan lines (vertical) for generating the pixel grid which forms the score.
Figure 3-11. Comparing 7-segment numeral 5 from Computer Space with 3 x 5 form in a PONG
Figure 3-12. Screen illustration of GI AY-3-8810 chip, playing Draw Poker. Image from
XXXXX ... X .... XXXXX XXXXX" X" X" XXXXX" .. XXXXX XXXX XXXXXX XXXXX" .
X X ..... X .... XXXXX. XXXXX. XXXXX" XXXXX. XXXXX. .. X ... XXXXX. XXXXX"
X***Xx*** **X ..... X** **** .X.**X X****X ** *X x*** X**X *** *X **** XX. **X xxxxx..
XXXXX ... X .... XXXXX.. XXXXX ... X X XXXXX" XXXXX .... .. XXXXX" XXXXX* *
Figure 3-13. Channel F 5 x 5 numerals, extracted from ROM image of BIOS (SL31254.ROM).
.XXXX"* *. XX ...* *.. XXXX *XXXX *...XX* *XXXXXX* XXXX** XXXXXX* XXXX X* *.XXXX"
.XX"*XX" **XXX ... X. .XX. "X.**XX. .XXX" XX*.... XX"**X" "X*. ..X" XX"*XX" "XX"*XX"
XX "XX" XX ... X..... X .... XX" X'XX" XX..... XX ..... ..... XX" XX" XX" "XX"*XX"
SXX" *XX" XX .. *XXXX* .. .XX"* X"XX"* XXXXX"* XXXXX** .. .XX"* *XXXX* .XXXXX"
XX""XX" ."XX .XX .... .... XX" XXXXXX ...... XX" XX"*XX .XX" XX XX X..... X
XX""XX" "XX.. .XX*.... X"XX ....XX"* X"XX" "XX"*XX ...XX" XX"*XX" "X. XX"
*XXXX"* *XXXX" XXXXXX" *XXXX* .. ..XX"* XXXXX** .. .XXXX* ..XX ... .XXXX* .. .XXXX"*
Figure 3-14. A common 6 x 7 numeric character set employed in several games produced for Atari
VCS, including the Parker Brothers games James Bond 007, Popeye, Super Cobra, and
Garfield, as well as the Activision titles Ice Hockey, Realsports Tennis, and Realsports
Basketball. The adult line of games from Mystique / Playaround also employed this 6 x
7 set. I have not included memory locations for these bitmaps because they appear in
different places in different games, but this specific set was extracted from a ROM
image of an Ice Hockey cartridge (Icehockey.bin).
SXXX...... XX...* *XXXXX XXXXXX XX XX ** XXXXXX** XXXXX ** XXXXXXX XXXXX XXXXX
.XXXX ... XXX"** XX" XX* ....XX" XX"*XX" XX ... X XX"*** **X X XX"**XX" XX XX.
XX XX .. XX .. .XX .. ..XX" XX" XX. XX ...... XX*..... ..XX"* XX.. .XX" XX.. .XX.
XX" .XX ... XX* .XXXX" XXXXX"* XXXXXXX" XXXXXX.. XXXXXX .....XX ... XXXXX. XXXXXX.
XX" XX. ..XX"** XXX. ..... X..... X X ... .. X..... X XX" XX ...XX" XX.. XX X.....X
SXX'XX ...XX"** XX. ...... X X..... X X ... .. X.....X XX" XX" XX .... XX" XXK .....XX
XXX....XXXXXX" XXXXXXX" XXXXXX *.....XX"* XXXXXX. XXXXX* .. .XX .....XXXXX" XXXXX"
Figure 3-15. A common 7 x 7 numeric character set used in games manufactured by Atari for their
VCS console. Notably, the games using this set were adaptations from arcade originals.
This specific set was extracted from a ROM image of Pole Position (Polepsn.bin).
XXXX XX" XXX .... X XX' X .XX .. .. XXX XX ...... XX''X'" X X .. XX''XX'" XX''XX"
XX XX'X "'XX. .... .... XX .. .... X "XXX ...... XX...... .... .XX XX''XX '" XX''XX "
XX XX'X "'XX .... .... XX .. ...XX '" X''XX '" XXXXX.. XXXXX. ... ...XX ... XXXX' X X
XXXX" "XX XXXX. ... XX.. XXXXXX .. .... XX XX'XX ... .XX ..... XXXX XXXXX"
XX' XX" "'XX ... XX. ...... .... .. ... XX .. ... XX' XX XX. .. XX ... XX .XX .... XX"
XXXX' XX" "XX .. XX. ..... X. X X ... .. XX' X '' XX' XX' XX XXX .... XX'XX'" X XX"
XXXX'". "XXXX'' XXXXXX'" "XXXX ... ... XX ''" XXXXX ... -XXXX ... .. XX .... XXXX ... XXXX'"
Figure 3-16. A common 6 x 8 numeric character set used in dozens of games produced for Atari
VCS. Notably, third party developers such as Activision tended to use this character set
while in-house Atari games are more likely to use the 7 x 7 designs in figure 3-12. This
specific character set was extracted from a ROM image of Barn Storming
Figure 3-17. The numeric character set used in a series of games produced by Mattel in 1983 for
the Atari VCS console. These are identical to the numerals used in the system font built
into Mattel's Intellivision console. This specific set was extracted from a ROM image
of Burger Time (Burgtime.bin).
Figure 3-18. Select characters from Intellivision system font.
XX.XXXXX" XX''XX" "XXXXXX" "XXXXXX- ....XX X .. .XXXX'X
XX' X ...XX ... .. ..XXXXXX .... X "XXXXXX XX ". .... K XX'XX
XX XXXXXX XXXXXX X ..... XXXXXX
Figure 3-17. The numeric character set used in a series of games produced by Mattel in 1983 for
the Atari VCS console. These are identical to the numerals used in the system font built
into Mattel's Intellivision console. This specific set was extracted from a ROM image
of Burger 7Tme (Burgtime.bin).
'XX ... XX ... ..X ..... X .X .... XX ..... ..... X .XX''XX" "
XXX ........ .XX "'XXXX'" "XX''XX" XXXXXX" "XXXXXX ..... XX. .. XXXX' "X
XX XX... .XXXXXX ...... XX" "XXXXXX ...... XX" "XX'XX .XX. XX
XX'''XX.. ... XX ... .XX ..... ..... .. .... XX" "XX''XX" "XX'' .XX .... XX''XX ..... XX "
XXXXX "XXXXXX" "XXXXXX" "XXXXXX. XX" "XXXXXX" "XXXXXX" XX..... XXXXXX" "XXXXXX"
Figure 3-18. Select characters from Intellivision system font.
Figure 3-19. Select characters generated by Vectrex, pairing each bitmap with its on-screen
rendering. Photograph from Mine Storm.
A I B
Figure 3-20. A demonstration of one difficulty in emulating Vectrex gameplay. A) Numerals
displayed in a Vectrex emulator (screenshot captured from MESS emulator, running
Vectrex in DirectDraw graphics mode at 1024 x 728 resolution). B) Similar numerals
displayed on Vectrex screen (photograph).
Figure 3-21. Screenshot from the vector-based coin-operated game Battlezone. Note that
Battlezone, like most other vector-based games composes alphanumeric glyphs by
outlining their shape.
Figure 3-22. Screenshots of Vectrex game Spike A) with overlay, B) with no overlay. Each image
was captured from a Vectrex emulator running in MESS. However, since the emulator
software applies the overlay as a transparent PNG that is placed in a layer above the
running emulation (a combination formally quite analogous to the physical layer
created by the transparent overlay), I created the image in B by using a graphics editing
program to combine the screenshot in A with the transparent overlay image used by
Figure 3-23. ATASCII character set. (Image from "ATASCII").
Figure 3-24. Screenshots of the same game (Zaxxon) emulated with A) the original ColecoVision
BIOS and B) the alternate system font BIOS.
Figure 3-25. The 7-segment figure generator patented by Frank W Wood in 1908 (Wood).
Figure 3-26. Thomas Ross Welch's 1937 design for a text-displaying Electric Sign. Note the
importance of uniform geometric shapes in making up the individual characters.
BCD IN SEGMENT OUT
a a DCBA abcdefg
0 0000 1111110
f b 1 0001 0110000
2 0010 1101101
e c ,3 0011 1111001
d 4 0100 0110011
5 0101 1011011
A 6 0110 0011111
7 0111 1110000
8 1000 1111111
9 1001 1110011
G=1 XXXX 0000000
Figure 3-27. Illustration of the 7-segment truth table. (Scanned from Heiserman 236)
Figure 3-28. Illustration of display circuit for 7-segment generator.
Figure 3-29. Selected characters from 2513 character-generator ROM (Signetics).
:t-^=03Z *00-* .: -'-'-'^s 3a0^ ^2 ^ *^^^
character-generator ROM chips. f
gasj 3 A1i
blftH!=-5 555. SJ 3-- me5s5 ? |emec
Figure 3-30. Comparing serif and sans-serif characters on A) MCM6576 and B) MCM6571
character-generator ROM chips.
Figure 3-31. The "opening credits" for Namco's Pac-Man, featuring "Namco Font" for all text.
Figure 3-32. Comparing sample characters from a) BASIC Programming and B) Namco Font.
Figure 3-33. PONG screenshot. Score is 11 to 7. (Screenshot from "8-Bit-Nirvana: Atari Pong")
Figure 3-34. Game statistics generated by Gametracker, monitoring an active server at IP address
18.104.22.168. A) One of the top players on this particular server, inhumanplumber,
who was online at the time this image was captured. B) A less committed player,
molecular, whose current status indicates that he is offline.
Figure 3-35. Screenshot of Space Invaders, showing position of high score (in this case, 0000).
Figure 3-36. Warren Robinett's "autograph" in Adventure for the Atari VCS console. Screenshot
captured from the VCS emulator Stella.
'S C- P H C CIR E C 0P
C1 I C1 C1 0 C1 C1-~~-R1
Figure 3-37. The first Channel F Easter Egg? A) Concluding text in demonstration cartridge. B)
Revealing the programmer's name, MICHAEL K. GLASS. Both screenshots captured
from Channel F emulator running in MESS.
Figure 3-38. Easter Egg in Channel F game Video-Whizball. A) Normal game playing field. B)
Playing field with revealed text. Both screenshots captured from Channel F emulator
running in MESS.
H3 H3 H3 H3 HE3 E HH
Figure 3-39. Easter Egg in Channel F game Alien Invasion. A) Standard gameplay field. B) Playing
field with revealed text.
Figure 3-40. An example of extreme screen bum-in, suffered at the hands of a Pac-Man game.
Table 3-1. Sample numeric character sets employing 3 x 5 pixel grids for composing numerals.
Note the variation, especially with 1 and 4. Memory addresses of these bitmaps have
been omitted to conserve space. Most of the examples below double the numerals in
order to cover units and tens places simultaneously. Similarly, some also transpose the
character in the tens position across a bilateral axis. This is in order to anticipate and
take advantage of the TIA chip's built-in ability to mirror sprites across a scan line.
Combat ... XXX*
Indy 500 ... XXX-
Space .. **X*X
Space XXX *XXX
Dodge XXX *XXX
* *X***X* XXX*XXX *XXX*XXX *X*X*X*X *XXX*XXX *X** *X** XXX*XXX *XXX*XXX *XXX*XXX
** X**X *. X X ** X**X *XXXX XX X "X. ..X. XX...X. X..X *X*X*X XX "X *X*X'X
* *X***X* XXX*XXX **XX *XX *XXX*XXX *XXX*XXX *XXX*XXX **X* X *XXX*XXX *XXX*XXX
* *X' X" X. X *X. X X ** *X X *.**X' X *X'X'X'X ** *X X *X'X'X'X ** *X X
X* *X* XXX XXX XXXXX*XXX X X XXX XXX *XXX XXX X X *XXX XXX *X X
**X***X* XXX*XXX* XXX*XXX* X*X*X*X* XXX*XXX* XXX*XXX* XXX*XXX* XXX*XXX* XXX*XXX*
**X'''X" **X'''X" **X' 'X" X'X'X'X" X.X' X XX X *X .. -X X'X'X'X" X'X'X'X"
* *X* *X XXX*XXX* *XX* XX* XXX*XXX* XXX*XXX* XXX*XXX* *X***X XXX*XXX* XXX*XXX*
**X. X X **X' X" *X' -' X *' *X X X'X'X'X" *X' X X'X'X'X" *X X
* *X* *X XXX*XXX* XXX*XXX* *X***X XXX*XXX* XXX*XXX* *X***X XXX*XXX* XXX*XXX*
**X***X* XXX*XXX* XXX*XXX* X*X*X*X* XXX*XXX* XXX*XXX* XXX*XXX* XXX*XXX* XXX*XXX*
* *X' 'X" *'*X' 'X" *'*X' 'X" X'X'X'X" XXX XX X' 'X **X'''X" X'X'X'X" X'X'X'X"
**X*. *X XXX*XXX* *XX* XX* XXX*XXX* XXX*XXX* XXX*XXX* **X***X* XXX*XXX* XXX*XXX*
**X'''X" X'''X .. **X X" *X 'X" *' *X'''X X'X'X'X" *' *X X X'X'X'X" *X. X
* *X* *X XXX*XXX* XXX*XXX* *X***X XXX*XXX* XXX*XXX* *X**X XXX*XXX* XXX*XXX*
***X***X *XXX*XXX *XXX*XXX *X*X*X*X *XXX*XXX XXXX*XXX *XXX*XXX *XXX*XXX *XXX*XXX
***X'''X *'**X'' X *'**X'' X "X'X'X'X "X' 'X'' "X' 'X .. *. *X'' X *X'X'X'X "X'X'X'X
** *X X *X X *X. X **X X ** *X X *X'X'X'X ***X 'X X *X'X'X'X **X X
S*X* X XXX*XXX XXX *X XXX **X* *X *XXXXXX *XXX*XXX X XXX XXX *X XXXX XXX XXX
*X* ***X* XXX''XXX XXX''XXX X'X''X'X XXX''XXX ''X''X'' XXX''XXX XXX**XXX XXX**XXX
SXX..XX" X ... X X .. X X'X' X'X *X'X .. ... .X' X X .... X X'X' X'X X'X' X'X
*X .... *X XXX -XXX XXX' XXX XXX' XXX XXX' XXX XXX' XXX X .... X XXX XXX XXX XXX
*X ....X X X' X'' X X X *..X X *..X XX XX XX X X X'X''X'X X X X...
XXX *XXX XXX* XXX XXX* XXX X .... X XXX *XXX XXX* XXX X ..... X XXX* XXX X X*
X X.... X XXX *XXX XXX**XXX X*X**X*X XXX**XXX XXX**XXX XXX**XXX XXX**XXX XXX *XXX
XX .... XX X' X ... .X' X X'X''X'X X X X .. _X .X 'X. X'X' X'X X'X. X'X
*X *... X XXX -XXX "XX' XX- XXX''XXX XXX -XXX XXX -XXX X X-**-X XXX--XXX XXX- XXX
*X .... X X ... X 'XX' X''X X''X'' X'X''X'X X. X X.X X 'XXX ''X''X'
XXX -XXX XXX- XXX XXX- XXX X..X.. XXX- XXX XXX XXX X ..... X XXX XXX XXX XXX
Stella 2.3.5: "Adventure (1978) (Atarly'
Object 3-1. Video capture of Warren Robinett's Easter Egg in Adventure (emulated in Stella).
Robinett's "marquee" graffiti is highlighted by making use of the same animation
technique that identifies the chalice as the player's objective. Click the image to start
playback; alternatively, click on this text to download the file directly. (.avi file 6MB)
Object 3-2. Video capture of the shimmering chalice, the player's ostensible objective in Adventure
(emulated in Stella). In this clip, the player returns the chalice to the gold castle, which
rewards the player by shimmering along with the chalice. Click the image above to start
playback; alternatively, click on this text to download the file directly. (.avi file 4.9MB)
FUZZY AND JAGGY: AESTHETIC AND ONTOLOGICAL DISPOSITIONS OF VIDEOGAME
Text and typography in and around videogames whether played on arcade cabinets,
consoles, or emulators exhibit aesthetic properties that emphasize their programmatic origins (as
bitmaps, for example) as well as the influence or interference of the display hardware itself. In this
chapter, I hope to demonstrate that by understanding the different appearances of type in
videogames and, to an important extent, the hardware that generates these effects, we can arrive at
a better comprehension of videogame expression, textuality1 and material culture. In other words,
if we consider videogames to be cultural artifacts that can communicate complex, subtle or
persuasive ideas, then even the smallest elements of the game, including the size, dimension, and
individual clarity of pixels can contribute to that cumulative articulation. And since expressive
typography is a practice whereby designers modify letter shapes, sometimes subtly, in order to
communicate emotions, associations, and ideas, then the shapes of letters in videogames must also
be examined for their expressivity, both within videogames and in the materials that surround and
Of particular concern in this chapter is the sense in which specific material conditions (such
as rendering software and display hardware) influence the appearance of alphanumeric shapes to
express ideas or a set of assumptions about the game artifact. As evidence of this practice in
videogames and gaming culture more generally, I offer that when graphic designers have borrowed
or imitated typographic forms from videogames and used them in other media such as print or
higher-resolution web graphics, they typically choose to mimic one of two categories of effects
that I am going to be comparing -jaggy or fuzzy. These two qualities, realized through distinct
1 In this chapter, I use the term textuality in reference to the idea of the videogame as text, not simply the
manifestation of text within the game. The term videogame text, on the other hand, will usually refer to actual,
alphanumeric characters in or related to videogames. In order to avoid confusion, I will also use the term
videogame object to refer to the game-as-text, and it is hoped that the differences will be clear from the context.
visual properties, can in turn mobilize textual associations across different genres and time periods.
By recognizing the technological, material origins of these differences, we can begin to see
competing patterns of expectations about videogame text that emerge from different points of view
regarding the game object and outline a critical approach to videogame textuality that takes this
It is my argument that the so-calledjaggy appearance of most videogame-based text
foregrounds programmatic constraint as a type of revisionary nostalgic aesthetic, whereas the so-
calledfiuzzy property anticipates a different layer of material constraint, the display surface or
screen, foregrounding instead a version of the text in which the traces of the programmatic
constraints are less evident. I will be showing that videogame text in its original forms often
demonstrates latent fuzziness, but the main distinction I am drawing here is not simply historical.
Neither in the case of fuzzy nor ofjaggy type should the textual form be considered an ideal one in
the sense that it could be called more historically accurate than the other, so it is important to note
that both fuzzy and jaggy videogame type are inherently ephemeral and present only within or in
reference to an instance of playing a game present or absent to a degree which depends on
variable constraints of form including the available screen resolution, amount of addressable
memory in the processor and the efficiency of the machine language. This is the primary reason
why the reification of these patterns in graphic design offers a useful body of evidence for analysis,
even though that reification necessarily introduces distortions of its own which may themselves be
fuzzy orjaggy. Still, it is the relative differences among these representations that I am interested in
here because the analysis that each extreme end of the fuzzy/jaggy continuum generates is most
useful when compared to its opposite. Similarly, the question of intentionality with regard to type
design and rendering is a topic that I hope to avoid except as a way of anchoring observations of
difference. In other words, the purpose intended for a typeface may have little to do with its
received interpretation or its use by designers, much less what the design signifies with regard to a
particular audience, but intent is at least one of the discourses embedded in type. In fact,
conflicting or confused intention can be a useful tool for unpacking the textuality of type design, as
in the case of fonts exhibiting the influence of E13B that I discuss in chapter 2.
In terms of how it contributes to videogame studies, the question of difference as it pertains
to typography opens a broader approach to the production of meaning or semiosis in games and the
relationship of such meaning-making to a game's rhetorical expression. In the context of semiotics,
fuzziness is an appropriate descriptor for a property of lettering because it takes on additional
valence as a logical term describing a category of ontology in which entities can possess degrees of
membership to a set.2 Therefore, as a response to prior approaches to videogame analysis (much of
which has a structuralist basis in semiotics), and in the context of differences among typographic
signifiers, fuzziness is an ontological category (both in the sense of a type of ontology and as a
type of category in a larger ontology) that points a way toward a fuzzy critical approach resonating
with contemporary post-structural theories of cultural production.
To advance this argument, I am specifically focusing on examples of type that originate in or
refer to the videogame industry's nascent period of the late 1970s and early 1980s. This era is
useful for a number of reasons. First, the limitations on games effected by the hardware and
software then available for designing and playing them result in more distinct and constrained
forms. Though I will be arguing that similar constraints remain present even in modem games, the
distortions and the designers' attempts to mitigate distortion are much more apparent when, for
2 XML (eXtensible Markup Language) is an example of an information structure (ontology) that can employ fuzzy
logic as a principle of its organization. Like HTML, XML communicates relationships among entities in a set by
nesting elements within other elements. The containing element is, therefore, said to be the "parent" of each
"child" element that it encloses between its opening and closing tags. Elements can also be modified by defining
attributes within the opening tag of that element that modify or further define that element without modifying its
children or parent. In a fuzzy XML framework, child elements would be modified with attributes specifying the
degree to which that child belongs to its parent set. To extend the family metaphor, the effect could be that an
element is a member of multiple families or a "half sibling" of other elements at its same hierarchical position. I
am mentioning this application of fuzziness because it is often used for managing the retrieval of semantic
textual information and because "ontology" (as in a philosophical model of being) is important for my discussion
of videogame expression. For more on fuzzy ontologies, see Sanchez, Elie, Fuzzy Logic and the Semantic Web.
example, the pixels are easily visible as individual units, rendered at a width of several millimeters
Second, the so-called "retro gaming" aesthetic is prevalent in gaming culture and elsewhere
in graphic design associated with the seventies and eighties. In these contemporary works, the
adjustments programmers made to accommodate the constraints in original gaming platforms
survive today as vestigial aesthetic properties that invoke the memory of the historical console.
A third reason why the late 70s and early 80s is an appropriate period for typographic
analysis is the fact that many game consoles from this era (the Atari VCS, for example) lacked a
native system for rendering text, which meant that designers had to compose each required letter as
a bitmap and program a call to that bitmap or sprite in order to display the letter or numeral. This
cumbersome approach may explain technically why the earliest games for the Atari rarely contain
text any more complicated than a title screen and numbers for reporting score or levels. For the
purpose of critical analysis, however, this method of storing and retrieving textual information also
means that the text is fundamentally programmaticallyy) part of the game's graphical environment
and, therefore, part of its diegesis. In this way, fuzziness and j agginess are relevant to the entire
content of the game, but their presence as features of paratextual typographic materials is an
important way to approach analyzing videogame text.
On the subject of jaggy effects in graphic design, Matthew G. Kirschenbaum, whose use of
the term jaggy I have adopted here, notes that "jaggies remain emblematic of the radical new
ontologies of the medium [of computing]" (Kirschenbaum, "Word as Image in an Age of Digital
Reproduction" 142), and further connects that emblematic status to an assumption related to
material technology. Discussing Zuzana Licko's approach to type design for early Macintoshes,
Kirschenbaum writes, "what began as a material limitation in hardware and display technologies
was quickly accepted, adopted, and adapted as an integral aspect of the medium's aesthetic
identity, an identity that has remained iconic and intact to this day, long since the technological
base has shifted beyond the crude conditions Licko describes" ("Word as Image in an Age of
Digital Reproduction" 142). Licko acknowledges this elsewhere, noting that the rise in popularity
of fonts like those in her "Lo-Res" font package (Figure 4-1) owes a direct debt to videogame type:
For these designers, and their audiences, who grew up playing videogames and now surf the
Internet, low resolution type is no longer an alien, difficult-to-read, crude computer
phenomenon. ... Through our everyday encounters with computers, the idiosyncrasies of
bitmaps are disappearing visible pixels are becoming accepted as the natural mark of the
computer, like brush strokes on an oil painting. (Licko)
Though Kirschenbaum and Licko refer mainly to j aggy type in relation to its figuring of the
computer medium, I argue that the same emblematic status exists for videogame type itself, and
that as an emblematic property, the jaggier a type sample (that is, the lower its implied resolution),
the more likely it is that the jaggy type is meant to specifically suggest videogaming rather than
computing more generally. Moreover, when taken together, the dual qualities of fuzziness and
jagginess as they are manifested in games and in artifacts of gaming culture reveal the richness of
the aesthetic identity Kirschenbaum discusses and its close involvement with the material
dimension of videogame interaction. Understanding the implications of these properties is an
important component of a critical approach to videogame materiality and mediality.3
In practice, fuzzy and jaggy properties can both be more or less present in any given sample.
Also, as I will elaborate, both properties can be extended and modified in different ways,
conveying various inflections on the associations they express, and it is easiest to see these
differences between the two in extreme or exaggerated cases, even more so in print or high-
resolution graphic design where fuzziness or jagginess must be an intentional part of the design. To
3 As I am using it here, the term materiality refers to the sense in which a game is made up of some material,
p1h Sica.l" substance that influences its expression and reception. Mediality is a related term that refers to the
content of the game as it expresses and is influenced by its medium; in this case, the medium of the videogame is
a conceptual category defined by what makes videogaming unique. In other words, materiality addresses a game
as a specific, historical object, and mediality addresses a game as a mode of expression. Both concepts are
aspects of videogame textuality.
facilitate this discussion of text associated with videogames, I adopt the term videogame paratype
to refer to this category of typography where a contextual association with videogames operates
through the referentiality of the type design in question.4 Paratype is, therefore, important for this
discussion not only because it demonstrates the cultural significance of fuzzy and j aggy styles, but
also because it can be seen as a material reification of visual properties that are otherwise
ephemeral and technically unique to each instance of gameplay. In other words, each native
instance of video game type will be influenced by factors like the age and focus of the television
monitor or the level of RF interference.5 When a designer chooses to imitate videogame type in
some other context, she chooses a particular degree of fuzziness or jagginess that imitates the
ephemeral properties of a hypothetical game experience and modifies it according to the aesthetic
goals of the new context. Of course, that new context may introduce its own set of constraints or
distortions,6 so the process of transferring relevant visual features from one medium (videogames)
to another (print, for example), also demonstrates the recursive status of signification for game
text. In other words, videogame paratypography generally works by attempting to mimic the
production of videogame text by creating print-based approximations of screen-based effects like
scan lines and halation. However, what actually occurs in the creation of paratype is an analogical
demonstration of the reception of videogame text in which the properties of the receiving medium
(the amount or density of ink) perform a function analogous to the subjective receiving apparatus
of videogame text both phenomenologically (where the image printed on paper stands in for the
4 The term paratype, used in this context, takes on some different meanings and associations which are developed
in Chapter 2. Tthe term is already in use within taxonomic nomenclature to designate individual elements of a set
that are of the same order as, but distinct from that set's holotype (the originary member or first specimen of the
5 RF (Radio Frequency) interference, also known as EMI (ElectroMagnetic Interference), occurs when an
electronic receiver device like a radio or television intercepts unintended signals from an external source. The
result is that the primary signal is decayed or distorted by the presence of signal noise (Wikipedia contributors,
6 Some of the examples below are illustrations of screen images from advertisements for videogames published in
comic books. The relatively cheap paper and rapid color printing processes in the time period under
consideration (early 1980s) introduced distortions which mimic, exaggerate, or lessen effects ofjagginess or
fuzziness inherited from the original game image.
flattened image on the player's retina) as well as culturally (where the factors influencing the
selection and arrangement of videogame paratype stands alongside the discourse influencing the
design and display of the original videogame typeface). This recursion reveals the immanently
discursive value of videogame type as a basis for destabilizing and disrupting formal analyses of
videogames. If one considers videogame typography to be an emblem of game ontology, it is a
category with an uncertain lineage, comprising artifacts that flicker between first and second-order
signification and between text and paratext. In other words, videogame type is always already
fuzzy. Before exploring the implications of this fuzziness as an interpretive model, I will first
examine the visual manifestations and details of both jaggy and fuzzy videogame type.
I am using the term jaggy to refer to text that features jagged, pixelized edges like the first
several examples which follow. While both jagginess and fuzziness are relative terms which in
most samples are not exclusive of one another, each can manifest in different ways that will signify
different material associations. The examples in figures 4-2, 4-3 and 4-4 demonstrate the basic
features of jaggy type: stair-stepped angles and curves instead of smooth arcs, a sharp distinction
between foreground and background colors, (on-screen) pixels aligned flush with the actual
screen's pixels, and rectilinear units which build each letter shape out of uniform bits or pixels and
imply a containing grid. Each of these examples also demonstrates a stylized pixelization in the
sense that their designers almost certainly intended to create a jaggy effect.
Figure 4-2, the logotype for the journal, Game Studies, exaggerates its jaggy property by
placing a visible separation between the simulated pixels. The uniform letter-spacing is consistent
with the width of the characters' strokes, so the total image implies a strict grid framework in
which individual units have been darkened while others have been left transparent, mimicking how
an LCD monitor displays images. By contrast, the Destructoid logotype (Figure 4-3) retains and
further exaggerates the stair-stepped j agginess, but spaces the letters closer than their implied pixel
widths should allow. The result is more typographically effective than the Game Studies logotype,
but Destructoid has sacrificed the building-block or grid constraint in order to achieve this balance.
In that sense, it features less j agginess than Game Studies.
Figure 4-4, an image from the web comic Penny Arcade's advertisement for their 2007
convention, demonstrates a jaggy effect on a different scale. In this case, the designer has chosen a
font specifically intended for use as a bitmap that retains its hard edges rather than incorporating
anti-aliasing. That is, the stair-stepped upper edges of the capital A character are not a consequence
of the operating system's native font rendering that normally approximates a curve with the
smallest incrementation possible. Instead it is a pre-defined saw tooth which emphasizes jagginess
in order to reference videogaming. Normally, the default font-rendering schemes on Windows and
Macintosh computers apply anti-aliasing to textual glyphs by slightly blurring the pixel edges in
order to lessen the saw-tooth effect. The PAXbanner overrides the anti-aliasing as an intentional
effect that mimics that kind of lower-resolution effect within the higher-resolution display on
which the image was captured. Though its "jags" are less pronounced than Game Studies' or
Destructoid's, the PAXbanner still operates within the j aggy aesthetic.
Besides their appearance, what all of these examples have in common is an intentional
resemblance to classic videogame text specifically a stylized version of videogame text that
adopts ajaggy aesthetic as its basic style. Figure 4-5 shows a screenshot from the Atari VCS
version of Dig Dug (1982) that demonstrates jagginess unconsciously or in its natural state. Unlike
this screenshot, the examples from the three paratypes above demonstrate jagginess self-
consciously as an explicit reference to the naturally jaggy type supposedly native to lower-
resolution displays. In other words, the shapes of the letters in videogame paratype can be
considered typographically expressive in the sense that their appearance invokes a videogame
antecedent that reinforces the context of the image itself (a game studies journal, a game blog, and
a gamer convention, respectively), and they derive this association by simulating the low
resolution technology that constrained the original forms ofvideogame typefaces. The screenshot
from Dig Dug is un-self-conscious in its jagginess because its appearance actually is a
consequence of the technology used to display it in this case, the open source Atari VCS
emulator, Stella, created by Bradford W. Mott.7 This is significant because the emulation
naturalizes jaggy text as a default, bypassing the sometimes fuzzying effects of historical display
hardware (aging color televisions, for example). As later examples will show, the fuzzing or
blurring that does occur in some display environments actually enhances the appearances of shapes
such that, for example, stair-stepped arcs appear to have greater fidelity to a curved line when the
stair-stepped pixels bleed into one another.
Though it is not my argument that either the fuzzy or jaggy effect is more faithful to its
original form, it is important to note the resemblance between figures 4-2, 4-3 and 4-4 and the
screenshot captured from Stella. Like most emulators, Stella attempts to recreate a software
environment or platform but does not claim to recapture any actual situation of playing the games
in their original forms. Features such as the tactile response of Atari's joysticks or the heavy
mechanical clicks of toggling the console's switches are simply beyond the pale of software
emulation. In one sense, it is tempting to view the Stella image as more pure or faithful to the
original than an image derived from plugging an actual Atari device into a modern television
because the screenshot captures Stella's output directly from the computer's video card and thereby
avoids any interference or distortion from the monitor. Therefore, it seems that Stella actually
improves on the original gaming experience because it optimizes the output for the crisper displays
of modem computer monitors, rather than the comparatively more primitive displays of 1970s and
7 Because Stella is open source, many individual contributors have added to its features and ported it to various
other platforms. Noted contributors are listed as members of the Stella Team. See
1980s TV sets. By contrast, MAME (Multi-Arcade Machine Emulator), another open source
emulator, provides a means for simulating the blurring effects of display devices common to older
arcade machines.8 It is not necessarily the case that these simulated effects are actually more
accurate, but the existence of this feature acknowledges the difference between fuzzy and j aggy
graphics in actual gameplay and the similarity between the un-filtered image in figure 4-1 and the
logotypes in figures 4-2, 4-3 and 4-4 betray a design choice based on an assumption about the
natural state of videogame type.
Whether or not any of the jaggy designs above are actually based on someone's experience
with an emulator, what I am arguing is that this jagginess is simply one way of portraying the
constraint of display hardware and that even this version bears the marks of influence from its
digital origin. The alternative text that is apparently or intentionally fuzzy either as a result of its
native display condition or as an intentional design choice also betrays its electronic origins, but
it does so by arresting or calling attention to the production of the game image at a different stage
of its formation, reception, or transmission. Accordingly, text that is jaggy stakes out a position
closer to the bitmap sprite9 that is stored in the assembly code for the game, whereas text that is
fuzzy positions itself after several layers of interference and degradation.
To summarize the properties of the jaggy style, Table 4-1 illustrates each of the basic features
identified in the examples given above. These examples are meant as somewhat exaggerated cases,
but even among these, it is clear thatjagginess is an important feature of videogame type, both as
paratype and in native examples. Its use is widespread in logotype and graphic design meant for
use in a videogame context, and its exaggerated pixelization is a standard marker for technological
nostalgia. Fuzzy type accomplishes these same associations, even though it is somewhat less
8 The options in a standard Windows distribution of MAME include "scan lines" and differently sized apertures,
all of which are accomplished by overlaying semi-transparent PNG images over the video output of the emulator.
The expressed purpose of these overlay effects is to improve the authenticity of the experience, and users can
create their own images in order to finetune the artifactual fidelity of their experience.
9 In the context ofvideogames, a "sprite" is a small unit of graphics code which is called whenever a given object
or state of an object is needed.
common, so its connotative difference from jaggy type is one way to expose discursive functions
of videogame typography.
Fuzziness is a somewhat less well-defined visual trait, so its examples are accordingly more
difficult to characterize. Nevertheless, their existence as a distinct category and type of expression
demonstrates that there are important expressive differences between fuzzy and jaggy type which
bear upon our understanding of videogame aesthetics and expression. Most importantly, fuzzy type
distinguishes itself by blurring the boundaries between the shape of the letter and the background.
Whereas jaggy type (in screen-based media) is designed in such a way that its edges align closely
with the display device's pixels, fuzzy type in the same media blends more or less gradually (as
allowed by resolution) with its background. The essential "blockiness" of the form might still be
visible, but the shapes of the blocks are less uniform and their boundaries less discrete. In its
different forms, fuzziness can demonstrate different valences or essential qualities that express
different ideas about the media it references as well as its actual medium. Like jagginess, the
different examples and uses of fuzziness define a broad category of type, so the examples below
illustrate some prominent and even exaggerated examples.
Though the edges of this first image are relatively crisp, figure 4-6 demonstrates one kind of
fuzziness that exaggerates the specific effects of anti-aliasing on the text. Anti-aliasing is a
transformation of images or text in screen-based media that introduces an algorithmic blurring to
simulate that shape at a higher resolution. The blurring that is foregrounded in Brucker-Cohen's
banner image actually creates an impression of a more continuous line when the text is reduced to
a 12pt size. Figure 4-7 shows the difference the blur makes by reducing the text in the image to
what may have been its original size. The image on the left preserves the blurring before scaling
the image, while the one on the right trims out the exaggerated blur before scaling. The effect is
subtle, but the main difference is that the weight of the lines in 4-7A appears greater because the
single pixel wide lines "borrow" weight from the lightly colored surrounding pixels. Exaggerating
and enlarging this effect, as Brucker-Cohen has done, emphasizes the tension between software
and hardware constraints. Anti-aliasing technology exists in order to overcome distortions which
would otherwise appear as a result of the screen's pixel grid, so grotesquely exaggerated anti-
aliasing points out the proprietary discourse involved in minimizing the presence and influence of
Figure 4-8 is a different kind of fuzzy effect in a videogame paratype that specifically
invokes a videogame textual sensibility. The full context (Figure 4-9) depicts the point of view of
the interior of an X-wing fighter and suggests putting the player in the pilot's seat, defending the
Rebel Alliance by defeating the Death Star. The text's referentiality here is automatically twofold.
On the one hand, the text adopts the information display (HUD) visible in the cockpit, but more
importantly, it mimics a low resolution videogame display, such as the one produced by the Atari
VCS. In fact, the textuality expressed in the HUD this text references already owes more to
videogame representations of heads-up display than to any referent in the real world. Like jaggy
type, the individual units that make up each letter shape in figure 4-8 are each visibly distinct from
their neighbors, but the makeup of each dot is subject to the slight distortions and indeterminacies
of the printing process, resulting in a slightly rounded shape. Looking even closer at each dot
(Figure 4-10) reveals the sub-units, halftone dots, that form the color of the lettered dots. In this
case, fuzziness manifests in the shape of the units which form the letter shapes, as well as the
optical illusion which creates a slight halation at the junctures of the lines.
Blip magazine was a short-lived publication appearing in the heyday of the arcade and home
console boom (1982) and disappearing in the subsequent industry crash that occurred in 1983 and
following.10 Published by Marvel Comics, Blip apparently did little to stand out from the crowd of
other gaming magazines, but the design of the logo (Figure 4-11) reveals an interesting allegiance
to the appearance of videogame typography. The lines are relatively crisp, but the fuzziness is
apparent in the outlines of the characters and the horizontal gaps which simulate scan lines on CRT
monitor, the same kind of lines that can be simulated in MAME when running it from a command
line with the suffix "-effect scan line." In this particular design, the scan line effect is further
exaggerated by the way the visible portions of the letter "bulge" outward between the lines. This
logotype may be considered fuzzy because, like the Death Star Battle paratype, the individual units
are not uniformly rectilinear.
Figures 4-12 and 4-13 show detailed views of an ad that appeared in Batman #365 for the
never-released title James Bond as Seen in Octopussy. The type in the screen image is apparently
designed as a faithful representation of this title's gameplay. Though we can not be sure of this, the
design and use of the text in this example appears consistent with other games from this era and for
this platform, so it is relatively safe to assume that this image is faithfully representative. At any
rate, it is positioned rhetorically as an accurate account of play. However, the typographic detail
apparent in figure 4-13 works against the claim of authenticity, since the visual features of the
numerals 1045 appear to have smooth angles and curves. If this is a faithful representation, it is
faithful to how the text would have appeared on a slightly unfocused CRT monitor where the
halation and phosphorescence of the monitor might have accomplished a smoothing effect similar
to the effects of anti-aliasing. Furthermore, the fine detail of this example has exceeded the
capabilities of the printing mechanism so that the printed characters themselves appear blurry on
the page. This is fuzziness of two orders that takes on significance as a discursive property because
the second instance of fuzziness (distortions resulting from the printing process) obscure and
10 The industry blog GameSetWatch offers an interesting note on Blip's place in history: "it launched February 1983
and published its final issue in August, thus becoming the first magazine 'victim' of the Atari crash" (Gifford).
prevent access to the intentionality of the original instance (a designer's attempt to faithfully mimic
the text on a CRT screen).
Half-Life 2 features a gracefully minimal HUD which calls the player's attention to
particular elements in an unusual and subtle way. In figure 4-14, the player has just activated a
wall-mounted power unit to recharge his avatar's HEV (Hazardous EnVironment) suit. In the logic
of the game's diegesis, the suit is what projects the HUD to the player-character, so the suit
indicates that it is receiving energy by increasing the brightness of the HUD's power indicator.
That it does so by revealing halation and scan lines raises an interesting question about the display
technology. If the player-character is indeed wearing a helmet," then the game-world explanation
for the appearance of fuzzy effects must be that the HUD must be projected onto the surface
helmet's face plate using a kind of raster display. In this case, the sudden manifestation of
fuzziness reinforces the connection between the player and the player-character by drawing
attention to the second screen within the fictional helmet. Thus, fuzziness performs a diegetic
function in terms of how the diegesis of Half-Life 2 is constructed.
Finally, as a counterpoint to the Dig Dug logotype in figure 4-5, figure 4-15 is an image from
the same Atari port of Dig Dug as played on an actual TV with an Atari VCS. The
phosphorescence of the screen and other factors like the unavoidable RF on the connection all
contribute to the fuzziness of this image. This is a TV from the late-1990s, so its focus is likely
crisper than many TVs may have been when the game was originally played in the early 1980s.
Still, one can easily recognize some effects similar to that of anti-aliasing; the curves on the upper
edges of letters are smoother and more consistent with smoothly curved lines. Unlike the previous
examples of fuzzy type, this photograph of Dig Dug's logotype contains the features identified
above but in a way that is not self-conscious. The apparent distortions are all natural to the current
11 There is some debate about this. Gordon Freeman is usually depicted without a helmet, but since he is rarely (if
ever) visible on screen in Half-Life 2, and the informatic display appears only when Gordon is wearing the suit, it
seems logical to conclude that he must be wearing a helmet during gameplay.
display situation of my TV's 13-inch screen. Taken together, all of these examples indicate some
common features for fuzzy videogame typography: non-rectilinear sub-units, smooth or feathered
edges, screen based distortion (i.e., raster lines and anti-aliasing), greater contiguity among sub-
units, and an overall formal indeterminacy.
Plotting the Differences
The previous two sections offered a broad survey of typographic qualities associated with
videogame type. Since type that is predominantly jaggy or fuzzy may contain a combination of
several different features, in this section I formulate an arrangement of typographic properties that
distinguish fuzziness from jagginess. Though what follows may resemble a formal ontology, it is
not my intent to form an exhaustive account of videogame type or to essentialize either fuzzy or
jaggy type with reference to discrete and necessary qualities. All of the opposition discussed
below should be considered provisional observations for the sake of discussion, and their resulting
employment is meant to reveal the conceptual implications of fuzzy and j aggy text for
understanding the materiality of video games.
The first typographic feature related to concepts of fuzzy and jaggy is the sense in which text
can be either sharp or smooth in the way it is presented. Figure 4-16 illustrates these alternates as a
continuum. In screen-based media, sharpness is manifested by aligning the pixel edges of the letter
figure flush with the edges of the screen. In other words, there is a clear boundary between two
fields of color that embraces the grid of the actual display device. In print media, sharpness appears
as fields of solid, uniformly shaded color with clear and precise boundaries. Softness, on the other
hand, manifests in screen media as a gradation of color value from one field into the next. This
either requires a resolution high enough that individual pixels are not obvious (i.e., so that altering
the color pixel-by-pixel appears smooth) or it can appear as a result of bleeding or halation on
some monitors. In print media, softness is manifested as any of several blending, shading, or
feathering techniques or by imprecise printing (e.g., when an excess of ink causes the figure to
bleed into its background). Sharpness may be generally associated with jaggy type, and smooth
with fuzzy, but this is not necessarily the case. Figure 6 above is predominantly fuzzy, but its
features are definitely sharp.
Videogame type can also be categorized by the degree to which its forms are granular or
fluid. Granularity here refers to the separation of the pixels, dots, or other sub-units that compose
the letters. By contrast, contiguity refers to the connection of the pixels, dots, or other sub-units,
particularly as they bleed into or overlap one another. Figure 4-17 opposes these two attributes.
Type that is more granular emphasizes the influence of the grid on the letterform, and type that is
more contiguous emphasizes the ability of the letterform to overcome the constraints of the grid.
Granularity is more likely to be associated with j aggy type, and fluidity is more likely to be
associated with fuzzy type. But this is even less consistently true than in the case of the
sharp/smooth distinction. Figure 4-8 is predominantly fuzzy, for example, but it exhibits a good
deal of granularity because of the way the pixel units are separated. Furthermore, the printing dots
visible within the pixels manifest fuzziness by working against the sharpness of the forms. In
another sense, the fact that granularity is distributed through two distinct surfaces (the printed page
itself and the fictional screen which displays the characters) also contributes to its fuzziness. Figure
4-4 exhibits a fair amount of fluidity because contiguous pixels merge with no visible boundary
between them, but the jagged edge of the letterforms and the prevailing sharpness of the form
associate it more closely with jagginess.
To illustrate how these two opposition (sharp/smooth and granular/fluid) contribute to
defining fuzziness and jagginess, figure 4-18 shows each opposition pair as an axis on a Cartesian
plane. In this case, the x-axis corresponds to the sharp/smooth continuum, and the y-axis
corresponds to granular/fluid continuum. In each of these, the values express a range of possible
quality assignment (for example, more or less fluidity), with the region around the 0,0 coordinates
remaining neutral. The diagonal lines correspond to the jaggy vector (extending into the top-left
quadrant) and the fuzzy vector (extending into the lower-right quadrant). These vectors essentially
divide the territory into two halves, indicated in the graph by the bisecting dashed line. Following
the vectors' arrows, samples of type which more clearly feature sharpness and granularity are more
likely to be associated with j agginess, and samples which feature softness and fluidity are more
likely to be fuzzy. In this way, samples of videogame type can be plotted according to their visual
characteristics and associated with either category. The graph may work in reverse as well. That is,
it may be the case that isolated type samples which lack any contextual association with
videogames, may gain the association of that context if their relative employment on the chart
places them at the extremity of either side of the continuum.
Other qualities help define fuzzy and j aggy type, but these two opposition, sharp/smooth
and granular/fluid, help classify the majority of the samples. Other qualities like rectilinear bowls
and counters, an implied resolution with visual raster grids, and various versions of decay can also
contribute, but all of these can be wrapped up in one final means of comparison, medial layering.
In nearly all of the examples of either fuzzy or jaggy type, the difference is important because it
reveals some history of medial transformation. In most, there is some sense in which the form
mimics shapes, texture, or other details that are based in another medium. Even the Lo-Res font
collection, which Licko designed specifically as an expression of screen-based aesthetics, owes
formal characteristics to print-based letterforms.12 The other examples all contain some kind of
medial discourse that implies a narrative of their adaptation. In most cases, the designs imply that
they have been transferred from a lower resolution display to a higher one or (in the case of the
12 Licko has stated that she designed fonts like Oakland specifically for the screen because many contemporary
fonts (in the 1980s) attempted to transfer popular typefaces into the unwieldy grid of the computer. The success
of Licko's creations, as well as the ubiquitous Chicago (designed by Susan Kare for the Apple Macintosh),
depends on their using the grid effectively as a nascent creative environment with very different constraints on
Death Star Battle and 007 ads) to print. The typical result in these cases is that the new medium in
some way exaggerates the constraints of the original medium, and it does so by using the tools of
fuzziness and j agginess. This discussion of referentiality can be summarized as a vector which
accounts for the mediality of a videogame type sample in terms of its discursivity. Whether in
reference to specific game or to a particular display technology, mediality is depicted as a kind of
layering in which the videogame text (in-game, logotype, or paratype) refers to some display
device other than the one on which the user is currently accessing it. Because this is accomplished
by invoking some kind of constraint, these instances of type also refer and call attention to the
constraints of their own display medium.
In this way, any instance of videogame type is composed of three medial layers, at least one
of which is a videogame. Figure 4-19 illustrates these layers with an advertisement for The Empire
Strikes Back (Parker Brothers, 1982; Atari 2600). The first layer is an image of the game itself, a
sample from the actual, historical game, which is placed above the advertisement in the diagram.
This relationship illustrates the idea that the game image's influence on the print image is
interferential. That is, the printed image is inflected by the implied presence of the game image by
manifesting or stylizing its properties. In other words, the printed image adopts the aesthetic
qualities of the game image using the tools available to the printed image and subsuming it under
the visual rhetorical patterns of the print ad. The final layer is the projected, imaginary image of the
game screen as the printed image depicts it. In the diagram, this appears behind the print image
because it is ultimately inaccessible and has no necessary relationship to the game itself. This final
layer is necessary because of the indeterminacy implied in the relationship between the first two.
Given a printed sample, we have no way of knowing whether the original referent was itself fuzzy
or jaggy, so while the first layer is the actual antecedent, this projected layer is the imagined
antecedent. In this way, the James Bond example cited earlier becomes more interesting since no
known production copies exist. In other words, there is no way of assessing the fidelity of the
printed image to the original, and the imaginary layer is, therefore, the most faithfully real artifact
of the nonexistent game.
Of course, there are some significant problems with this model, the most obvious being that
each layer in the triad above is subject to cultural and technological influences in its own right that
impact the fidelity of each in different ways. Specifically, the domains of fuzziness and j agginess
manifest across and among the three layers. That is, fuzziness orjagginess can be apparent within
each layer, but each can also be the means by which one layer relates to the other. Ultimately, the
advantage of this model lies in the fact that when it comes to analyzing the visual appearance of
typographic forms, one need not invoke a representative quality of the text or numeric object,
except in the sense that it refers to its corollary in other medial contexts. In other words, there is no
such thing as a real 0, so the relationship illustrated in figure 4-19 demonstrates how similarity and
difference among examples of videogame type do not deal only or primarily with the fidelity of the
representation but, rather, express a discourse of mediality. That discourse can be enhanced and
better clarified by combining it with the graph in figure 4-18. In this combination, the mediality
vector becomes a z-axis along which the fuzzy/jaggy graph is extended at each of the three
This final graph, figure 4-20, attempts to combine the previous two graphs in a broad theory
of videogame materiality. The result, however, reveals a number of problems with this emerging
model. To begin with, the text is anchored paratextually. Even if the printed image is largely
faithful to its screen antecedent, the fact that its discursive power resides in reference to a non-
local, ephemeral manifestation of game makes it a dubious anchor for any kind of system because
it is subject to its own constraints, which are completely independent of any game. The game
image itself, in reference to its materiality, projects fuzziness orjagginess as a consequence of
subjective and alterable material condition, so its respective relationship to the print image (in
terms of fuzziness and j agginess) depends on at least two indeterminable interference the
infelicities of print technology, and the artist's personal experience of actual gameplay. This game
image must also be further qualified by the media used to record and transmit the image, and
similarly, the means by which I have captured and recorded the image here have an impact on its
ability to contribute to a persuasive argument about difference. Most importantly, the idea that
different versions of the game image exist in relation to each other runs the risk of essentializing
each state as a discrete or unitary existence or implying that each is a variously inflected
instantiation of a primary or ideal image. This latter implication would be especially tempting if
the images in question referred to real-world objects, but since these game images including
constantly changing elements like the player's score suggest at the very least that any approach to
their textuality must account for their constantly-shifting referent if it is to encompass the full
range of videogame expression Moreover, comparing the printed image to an actual screenshot
hints at technological determinism by fixing each of their visual rhetoric in terms dictated by an
arbitrary other. In short, the approach outlined in the last several figures is itself inherently and
excessively jaggy because it employs sharply granular constituents to develop its model, much like
many of the articles in the journal Game Studies which rely on similarly structuralist strategies. It
is ironic, therefore, that among the examples ofjaggy type, the Game Studies logotype (Figure 4-2)
is the most obviously jaggy. As an alternative, what is needed is a fuzzy approach that begins with
the technological and cultural affordances of the medium and embraces the complexities and
subtleties of its materiality.
Type on the Television Screen
Videogame typography is a relatively recent entry in the history of type, but its fuzzy and
jaggy qualities and the relationship of those properties to medial discourse have an important
predecessor in type design for television, especially as they relate to continuity and fluidity.
Furthermore, an understanding of the differences between type for television and type for
videogames helps clarify the relationships between the code and the interface levels of Montfort's
model. The history of typography is closely entwined with the technology used to print and display
type, and the CRT raster screen is one case where typography has had to adapt to the felicities of
the new display medium. Hermann Zapf notes in a 1968 article that "technical developments have
changed our alphabet since the invention of typecasting...today there may be the special problems
of reading machines; tomorrow, perhaps, electrostatic printing methods or developments in laser-
beam techniques"(Zapf 351). Or, to put the question in terms of an even wider range of evolution,
"just as the monk's quill produced the alternating thin-and-thick strokes of his characters and the
hot metal type of the first line-casting machines determined the present standards for spacing, the
typography of tomorrow is being shaped by today's tools of graphic communication" (Spangler 38
- 39). The Journal of Typographic Research (now Visible Language) is a valuable resource for
studying this phenomenon of type evolution, and several articles in its first volumes (beginning in
1967) report on research dealing with the typographic considerations of raster and CRT
technology13 as it determines typography.14 In one such study Rudi Bass, then a graphic designer at
CBS, discusses the research that went into developing their CBS News 36 typeface. The challenge
was to optimize type for an unpredictable set of factors that could degrade its legibility:
The cathode ray tube (CRT) face introduces new problems into the aesthetic-technological
relations that determine legibility. ... Final quality control rests in the hands of the viewer.
Widely varying reception conditions, and more often than not, an aging and badly-tuned
13 In addition to its common use in television monitors, cathode ray tubes (CRT) are the core composing medium
for phototypesetting machines like the Linotron 505 (produced by Monotype in 1967) which are also notable for
storing and retrieving font information digitally (Wallis). The Linotron 505 was capable of resolving characters
at 650 vertical lines-per-inch or the higher quality 1300 lines-per-inch (Frutiger, "Letterforms in
14 The fact that these research documents appear alongside analysis of book design and contemporary trends in
concrete poetry indicates the scope and depth of this excellent publication. For other articles in this journal on
CRT printing and display technology, see Frutiger, "Letterforms in Phototypography," Crouwel, "Type Design
for the Computer Age," Mergler and Vargo, "One Approach to Computer Assisted Letter Design," and Shurtleff,
"Relative Legibility of Leroy and Lincoln/MITRE Fonts on Television."
home screen affect the quality of reproduction. To overcome what seems to be bad reception,
many viewers exaggerate brightness and contrast which only adds to the deterioration of the
letterforms. (Bass 257 358)
Successful design, they discovered, involved balancing the stroke width of characters (so as
to avoid their disappearing under too-harsh contrast) with the amount of negative space within and
between characters, as illustrated in figure 4-21. One specific problem was the tendency with
certain fonts for counters and interior angles to become filled in with excess light, completely
fusing some counters and causing adjacent characters to bleed into one another.
Their solution was to punch out lacunae at the inner covers of letterforms which had the
effect of trapping excess light. The resulting letterforms (are more legible and more open because
of a different order of distortion imposed upon the letterform prior to its being transferred to a
screen and broadcast. This technique is similar to the solution Matthew Carter found in 1978 for
preparing Bell Centennial (Figure 4-22). This commissioned typeface was to be used in phone
books, so it had to sustain legibility at very small point sizes and on cheap, thin paper (Sherman).
Like CBS News 36, Carter's design anticipates that the letterforms (in this case, composed of ink)
will tend to overflow and fill in narrow counters, so the solution is to extend negative space to
absorb that excess.
Both Bell Centennial and CBS News 36 are adapted for situations with obvious and
significant differences from videogames, but the sense in which they have been adapted for
specific use means that when they are abstracted from that use, they still bear the marks of their
adaptation. This is how typography can be discursive. What each of these typefaces demonstrates,
moreover, is a logic behind composing letterforms that takes into account at least two levels of
translation which will occur: transmission and display. Transmission here refers to the means by
which visual information is encoded or encapsulated for transportation to a remote audience. The
act of writing is always about addressing an absent audience, so designing typefaces to account for
the hazards of transmission is a basic act of any instance of writing. In the case of television fonts,
transmission involves an original signal being encoded, broadcast, and translated by appropriately
tuned receivers. In terms of the phone book, transmission is the process of photocompositing and
printing the book. The other level, display, refers to the television reception (in the case of CBS
News 36) and the printed page (in the case of Bell Centennial). In other words, while transmission
manifests its discourse in generality, display manifests through singularity specific instances
including aleatory effects which, though technically a subset of the transmissive discourse, gain
significance by being non-normative with regard to the transmitted set.
Returning to Berzerk, the discourse embedded in the Countdown-like numeric characters is
analogous to the discourse of transmission and display proceeding from CBS News 36 and Bell
Centennial. In other words, if Countdown is a design that foregrounds the effects of halation on
unadapted letterforms, then the use of that form in such a way that the display medium
reintroduces the characteristic distortion expresses the idea that the screen is an important part of
the aesthetic composition of the game image. Brignall's commentary with Countdown is originally
ironic in the sense that it mimics (in print) a variety of accidental screen-based distortion,
implicitly mocking the failures of the screen as a typographic medium.
The simplified, jaggy version of Countdown that appears in the Berzerk emulation is ironic
in a different sense because it reverses the logic of the original, fuzzy version that was already a
demonstration of that which Countdown was meant to comment on. In terms of the levels in
Montfort's model, typographic form is a valuable carrier of the discursive relationships among
each level because the primary signification of typographic shapes proceeds without reference to
an intrinsic ideal or objective correlative: there is no such thing as a natural 3 in the real world. The
versions of the Countdown/Berzerk 3 which convey style, connotation, and commentary reflect,
therefore, on the context where they appear and the means by which they are displayed.
Additionally, none of these 3s in the various incarnations of Berzerk raise a question of fidelity to
an original 3 or prime example because each can be expressed in terms of the others. The fact that
these interrelated expressions can in turn relate to the material constraints of raster or vector
display as well as the discrete logic of digital encoding affirms the close relationship among the
five levels in the platform studies model and the importance of unpacking the discursive nature of
their configuration. In this analysis, typographic expression is one answer to Montfort's suggestion
that the difficulty in demarcating the interface level (for example, whether or not to include
paratextual material such as cabinet art) might be addressed by a "similar multi-level model of
material analysis" (Montfort, "Combat in Context" fn 4). I have already introduced the concepts of
transmission and display as two possible levels of materiality. The final section of this chapter
explores a multi-level, fuzzy-ontological model including these levels.
Conclusion: Toward a Fuzzy Critical Approach
The implied challenge in Aarseth's remark is echoed with reference to typography by John
Cayley a few pages later: "After all, do constraints that are imposed on the manipulation of pixels
in order that they produce the outlines of letters tell us anything about those letters or the words
which they, in turn, compose?" (Cayley 208). Cayley's answer to this rhetorical question seems to
be "no,""5 and he is insisting instead that the letter has always been digital in the sense that its
powers for abstraction and description are unmatched by any other human technology. Aarseth's
logic is similar, and the way he separates his three "aspects" could be phrased as a rhetorical
question similar to Cayley's: "Does the material/semiotic aspect of a videogame tell us anything
about its rules or how it is played?" In order to answer both questions in the affirmative, one must
consider the visual status of fuzzy and jaggy videogame type. Kirschenbaum states that jaggy type
15 See the First Person discussion thread on this essay, including responses by Nick Montfort and Johanna Drucker,
at http://www.electronicbookreview.com/thread/firstperson/programmatology. In this discussion, Cayley affirms
the importance of the pixel and its material discourse but remains suspicious of its predominance as a figure for
digitality in both digital theory and practice.
is "emblematic" of computing, so if both j aggy and fuzzy type can be emblematic of videogaming,
then the presence and delineation of pixels within text-as-image is an emblem of videogaming that
is both icon and analogy.
Aarseth's aspects insist on separating two distinct layers of discourse within the videogame
object: rules and signifiers. The first aspect works through the second to produce the third,
gameplay. This model relies on a clean break with other media because Aarseth is insisting on the
novelty of gaming and its difference from received modes of cultural production such as literature
and film. Under this model, in other words, gaming is jaggy. Like jaggy type, Aarseth's and other
similar formal models proceed by identifying and accounting for each constituent element and
placing it in a determined relationship with other elements. This method is "sharp" (following the
definitions outlined in the first section) because it isolates games from other media, and it is
"granular" because it separates the components of gameplay into discrete functions. It is fitting,
therefore, that among the examples of jaggy type, the Game Studies logotype (Figure 4-2) is the
clearest and most exaggerated demonstration ofjagginess. The individual pixels of the letterforms
are identical in size and shape and do not overlap or otherwise come in contact with each other;
this is an appropriate emblem for a journal (founded by Aarseth) where many of the articles adopt
structural approaches to dissecting games in order to pin down meaning within specific ludological
Still, the actual makeup of videogame text presents a problem for models such as Aarseth's
or Jesper Juul's more complex rendering of"rules" and "fictions" in his book, Half-Real. In
expressive typography, for example, letterforms hover between word and image, occasionally but
never fully resolving to either mode of signification at the exclusion of the other. In the same way,
text in videogames (particularly numeric characters) is a visual function of the rules of the game
which can only be expressed in terms of the "materiality/semiotics" of the game but which in turn
signify the relationship between the game's rules and its fictions. In other words, videogame text
(for example, in a heads-up display) is both part of some fictional world that the rules generate and
part of the rules themselves. The factors which influence and constrain the forms of the numerals
pervade the game logic, so the numeric characters are self-reflexive emblems of videogame
textuality. In this way (to answer Cayley), the constraints signified by the pixels do tell us
something about the game and its meaning.
In contrast to jaggy, structurally-inclined models, Bogost's discussion of unit operations
seems an attractive, fuzzy alternative. Because the approach can operate at potentially any depth or
scope (that is, units can be cultural, psychological, computational, material, etc.), unit analysis
demonstrates a degree of "softness" that distinguishes it from structuralist models. The analytical
grain can be as fine or coarse as the material dictates, so the delineation of the specific constituents
which compose an expressive unit is necessarily imprecise and adaptable. In other words, unit
operations can be considered fuzzy for their uncertain boundaries and fluid interchange of
constituents. Furthermore, like fuzzy typography, unit operations are no less emblematic or
representative of the games they refer to. In fact, because fuzzy type invokes the specific, material
artifact of the screen, and because unit analysis can include personal context,16 the two are well-
suited for one another. To put it generally, the ludological school of thought (of which the allegedly
narratological school is a logical contradistinction) is more concerned with the idea of games and
the formal ideals which link all instances of gameplay. By contrast, Bogost's unit analysis and its
intellectual compatriot, platform studies, approach videogames as texts that include the often
messy and imprecise infelicities of material culture that help define videogame expression.
Materiality is fuzzy. This is the meaning that fuzzy type ultimately expresses. In relating the
ontology of game objects to fuzzy ontology, one might be tempted to state that the core
16 See, for example, Bogost's sample unit analysis of the Tom Hanks film, The Terminal. Bogost's reading of it in
terms of unit operations includes the irony of his viewing the film in-flight.
characteristic of digital materiality is uncertainty leveraged against the finite determinism of true
and false, 1 and 0, that underlies each digital artifact and ensures its faithful reproduction across
multiple storage formats. The problem with the statement in the previous sentence, besides the fact
that much of it is not exactly true, is that the lesson of materiality is that there is no core, no intent
or act of encoding or decoding that is not always already subject to the discourses of mediality -
that is the cultural, economic, and technical contexts which give shape and form to media.
Furthermore, the adjective "uncertain" covers another falsehood because it implies that the
phenomenon of material uncertainty deviates from a normative certainty of some kind, when in
fact the lesson of materiality is that its precession is imprecise and external to the phenomena of
material culture. In other words, in the examples above, it is not necessarily the case that the
examples from the emulator Stella are more faithful to the original game's intent, or that my
photographs from the actual Atari VCS are more faithful to how the game was played in its
original form. Nor is it even the case that the fuzzy images from the photographed screen are closer
to the designer's intent which may have anticipated the distorting effects of the television. What
matters is that these differences leverage the discourse of materiality across different media and
that typography is a useful vector for expressing and transmitting that discourse. In order to
traverse that vector and examine the cross-platform textuality of a single game, the next chapter is
devoted to an analysis of the textuality of the game Berzerk in different versions.
Figure 4-1. Selection from "Lo-Res 9 Wide Bold," by Zuzana Licko. Part Emigre's Lo-Res font
package. Image and font design 1995 2007, Emigre Inc.
*SEM: .. ***.. : : : : ... *...
*.: *... r r : *.. .:...* *. *.... *... .:: :: .*
Figure 4-3. Banner logotype (trimmed) from the gaming news and weblog site, Destructoid,
ill Ir,,ni = I -i i
Figure 4-4. Cropped banner image from the website for PAX 07, the 2007 convention hosted by
the webcomic Penny Arcade, http://www.pennyarcadeexpo.com. Image 2007 Penny
Figure 4-5. Enlarged screenshot captured from Dig Dug (1982) played on the Stella emulator.
17 A logotype here refers to a specific use of lettering, possibly through a custom typeface or hand-drawn
characters, to convey a specific brand identity or trademark.
Figure 4-6. Banner image (original size) from Coin-Operated.com, the blog and personal website
of digital artist Jonah Brucker-Cohen. Image 2007 Jonah Brucker-Cohen.
Figure 4-7. Image from figure 6 shown at what may have been its original size. A) With anti-
aliasing blurring intact. B) With anti-aliasing removed.
Figure 4-8. Text detail (slightly enlarged) from advertisement for the Atari 2600 game, Star Wars:
Death Star Battle.
ZERO HOUR APPRIOkCHING!
SKILLED REBEL PILOT HEEDED
TO BATTLE DEATH l STPR.
>' Jr I t ii N -HN ir Wi
Figure 4-9. Full ad for Star Wars: Death Star Battle. Image 1983 Parker Bros.
Figure 4-10. A single subunit (dot) from the text in figure 4-8 reveals that it is made up of smaller
Figure 4-11. Title and logo for Blip magazine. Image from Gifford. Logo 1982 Marvel Comics,
Figure 4-12. Image detail (enlarged) from advertisement for the Parker Brothers game for the Atari
2600, James Bond as Seen in Octopussy. These advertisements appeared prominently
in several DC comics' titles in late 1983, but the game was never actually released to
Figure 4-13. Detail (enlarged) from same advertisement in figure 4-12. Advertisements appearing
in comics originally referenced screen images through a stylized, often cartoony
drawing of gameplay. Gradually, these became more realistic and more likely to be
actual photographs of gameplay. Since this game was never released and no known
copies exist, it is impossible to say if this is a photographic or cartoonic representation.
Figure 4-14. Screenshot from Half-Life 2.
Figure 4-15. Photograph of actual TV displaying Dig Dug for Atari VCS.
Figure 4-16. Continuum between visual features, sharp and soft.
Figure 4-17. Granularity and contiguity, two other features of videogame type.
Figure 4-18. Graph of the visual properties sharpness, softness, granularity, and fluidity illustrating
how they calculate a given text's fuzziness or jagginess.
Figure 4-19. An illustration of the primary layers of mediality embedded in the printed image of
the game, Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back.
- - - -
Figure 4-20. Combining the graphs from figures 4-18 and 4-19 projects the medial discursivity of
video game type in terms of the sample's visual properties.
Figure 4-21. A) Bass's example of degradation, halation, and flux distorting News Gothic Bold. B)
Selection of CBS News 36 (negative), C) CBS News 36 displaying same text as 4-21A
with improved form and legibility. Images from Bass, p. 366 369.
Figure 4-22. Matthew Carter's design for Bell Centennial, a typeface commissioned by AT&T for
use in telephone directories. (Image from Sherman)
Table 4-1. Summary and examples of characteristics of jaggy type.
Stair-stepped angles and curves
Sharp distinction between foreground and background colors
Uniform, rectilinear subunits: actual or simulated pixels
Simulated pixel edges flush with actual monitor pixels
(Photograph of same image on
LCD monitor; contrast enhanced
to show detail)
* The images in this example use the font, ATASCII, based on Atari's implementation of ASCII
text for their line of home computers.
A TYPOGRAPHIC ARCHEOLOGY OF BERZERK
Studying videogames requires an archaeological approach digging down through layers of
culture, context, and platform to learn more about the artifacts. In order to fully understand these
objects, we must begin by understanding the technological affordances which their expression
relies on the intertwining materiality of the technical strata which work together in producing a
single game image, experience or text. In this final chapter, I offer a stratigraphic reading of
multiple versions of the videogame Berzerk (Stem Electronics, 1980). Specifically, I argue that an
analysis of the typography of each version reveals unique expressive properties of that respective
platform. For example, the typeface emulated in one instance of Berzerk (for the Atari 2600
console) models the form of a popular typeface used in the 1960s and 70s, Countdown, which is
often associated (parodically) with computer interfaces, but the extent that it does so depends on
the interference of screen artifacts at the level of image generation. Significantly, the degree to
which Berzerk's text successfully matches this face depends on the artifacts of a particular,
phenomenal game "layer" that often goes ignored, the phosphor screen of common CRT
For some writers such as Lars Konzack, for whom the narrative and linguistic signifiers of
videogames are "ornamental," the possibility of including the material artifacts of the display
screen must seem even more superfluous. Ever the ludologist, Konzack states,
All the semantic meanings of the game are secondary to the gameplay's primary lodologic
structure. The signs conveying meaning are indeed superficial, but still help in putting the
game into perspective. Two games may have exactly the same gameplay, but by having
different ornamental signs and narratives (such as pictures, sounds and/or text) they convey
different meanings of what is happening within the game. (95)
But as King and Krzywinska response, "the term 'ornamental' implies a more dismissive attitude
towards contextual material than seems to be suggested by the conclusion that different meanings
are being conveyed" (74). In other words, if a so-called "ornament" has a profound enough
influence on the game that it fundamentally changes the meaning-production of the game text, then
it deserves a more privileged place within the conceptual structure of the game. King and
Krzywinska later make the following claim about the relationship between gameplay and context,
which highlights the similarity of their concept context with Genette's paratext:
Gameplay has its own intrinsic appeals. It might be said that these can be heightened by the
location of gameplay within recognizable contexts, but this presumes that more than a very
rudimentary gameplay can ever exist outside some kind of legible contextual framework. If
gameplay is often to the fore, it might be argued that this is only possible as a result of the
contexts broad and more specific, crude or subtle within which it makes any sense. (King
& Krzywinska 75)
Comparing this summation with Genette's "paratext is what enables a text to become a book and to
be offered as such to its readers" (1) and noting particularly the mention of legibility and sense-
making, the contiguity of this approach to game studies with textual analysis is clear. I argue that
the scope of this meaning-making, paratextual field should include both the peritextual
accidentall" of videogame content (including typeface design and numeric arrangement) and the
epitextual artifacts surrounding the game (from the arcade cabinet art to instruction manuals), but
the lesson in recognizing the concepts, holotype and paratype, as well as fuzzy and j aggy, should
that there is a territory between epitext and peritext worth exploration. Genette offers the equation,
"paratext = peritext + epitext" (5), and I am arguing that the plus sign marks the spot at which to
begin excavating the discourse plane of typographic textuality in videogames.
The material surface of the screen is an important figure in the analysis of videogames, but
as Montfort and others have noted, the figure of the screen as a transparent emblem of New Media
ontology is conflates its actual position in the history of computational media.' In fact, the opacity
of the screen provides a significant vector of the material culture around videogames, and as such,
support using an archaeological metaphor for approaching the game text in a way that includes
factors such as the screen. First, the interference of the screen, radio frequency noise, and any
1 Montfrot criticizes the "screen essentialist" view in his essay, "Continuous Paper."
other intrusions are typically referred to as artifacts because they impede image transmission or
image quality. In computing, an artifact is "[a] phenomenon or feature that is not originally present
or intended in a system and is a by-product of some aspect of processing. For example, the
intended smooth gradation of color generally appears on a computer monitor as an artifact
consisting of very narrow bands of even color, with each band slightly different from the adjacent
bands" (High Definition 15). One common example of this sort of artifact manifests clearly in
JPEG images (a so-called "lossy" format) that have been greatly compressed, as illustrated in
figure 5-1. In this sense, an artifact is a mark on the image which indicates the presence of the
technology supporting the image. The distinctive appearance of JPEG artifacts distinguishes these
images from, for example, PNG (Portable Network Graphics) images which are in turn labeled
"lossless." Therefore, an inference based upon marks on the object allows one to conjecture, like
an archaeologist, a historical setting for that object, the sequence of transformations situating it in a
technologically specific context.
The second sense in which the term artifact is important to the archaeological metaphor is
that it emphasizes the historical situation of the game itself. In criticizing prevailing views of
textual criticism, particularly those dependent on the ideology of authorship as the sole locus of
critical interpretation, Jerome McGann, among others, has proposed an alternative program for
textual studies, one which recovers the diachronic and social aspects of literature through "the
operation of a complex structure of analysis which considers the history of the text in relation to
the related histories of its production, reproduction, and reception" (McGann, Radiant Textuality
123). Similarly, Johanna Drucker has written extensively on the importance of the material and
visual domains of meaning in literature, and specifically with regard to typography, Drucker argues
that it is uniquely suited for studying critical practices. "Because of its interdisciplinary character,
the treatment of typography within critical interpretation can be used to trace the transformations in
the premises on which both literary and visual arts criticism conceive of their object" (Drucker,
The Visible Word 1). This chapter seeks to conceive the game object by way of an analysis of its
typography and in so doing, to outline a program of study which uncovers the diachronic,
culturally material aspects of videogames by way of the circumstances of their production and
One way of indexing those circumstances, as shown in the previous chapter, is through the
alternate regimes of representation which I refer to as "j aggy" or "fuzzy." These are two broad
descriptors for different means of rendering type in and around videogames; type in videogames
may be rendered in a manner which is jaggy or fuzzy, depending on the technology, and type
which exists in reference to videogames (for example, on arcade cabinets) may also employ
fuzziness or jagginess as a reference to the display rendering which creates either condition. One
common instance of jaggy type occurs in most videogame emulators software which reproduces
a game platform on modern personal computers. Because the monitor's display will generally be
far crisper than those available to game players in the early 1980s, the experience of playing the
game today is slightly altered. Compare, for example, the two versions of the title screen for
Atari's adaptation of DigDug (Figure 5-2). In the first image, the stair-stepped edges of the letters'
diagonal lines create a jaggy line which is only as smooth as the resolution allows. In the second
image, the jagginess is minimized and the line appears smoother and more continuous because it
benefits from the slight distortion it experiences when deployed on a CRT monitor screen.
Though this type of modulation might still be classed an "accidental" in the terminology of
traditional bibliography, these effects are far from unintentional. For example, Compute! 's Second
Book ofAtari Graphics includes a chapter that explains how to take advantage of screen artifacts
for improving visual effects.2 The point is not that either fuzzy or jaggy type is a better or more
2 This text is advising how to program for the Atari 400/800 line of home computers, but the principle is the same
for any console system. In addition to coloring effects, the chapter also includes a program for using moire
effects for aesthetic purposes (Pewther 193).
faithful rendition of an ideal design of a character or the designer's intended appearance. Such a
position would place the bitmap-encoded version of a character in a position of primacy. Rather,
both fuzzy and j aggy afford different mediations of constraint that allow them to reference a
specific set of technology (i.e., either an emulator or a physical console) even when a different
artifactual layer such as print intervenes. In this way, arcade flyers, t-shirts and website designs can
accomplish a specific association which operates conceptually at the layer of the screen. This
referential ability of fuzziness and j agginess suggests that understanding the effects of the screen
should be part of an approach to videogame study, but in fact, in much of the existing literature on
new media, the screen is taken for granted or essentialized as a metaphor.
Levels and Layers
Among the many attempts to formulate a critical concept of videogame structure
ontologicall or otherwise), one recurring theme is an organizational heuristic based in levels or
layers. Nick Montfort's article, "Combat in Context," proposes a five-level model for videogame
analysis that he repeats when describing the book series he is co-editing with Ian Bogost (Bogost
& Montfort). Interestingly, Bogost and Montfort chose to use a different graphic for portraying the
levels. The difference is interesting, even though it may have originated in purely aesthetic
considerations, because it places a different emphasis on relationships among the levels. In both
the article and the discussion on the Platform Studies website, Montfort arranges game content into
the following five levels: 1) platform; 2) game code; 3) game form; 4) game interface; 5) reception
& operation (Montfort, "Combat in Context"). The two illustrations appear side-by-side in figure
5-3. The first (5-3A) is from Montfort's Game Studies article where the table retains the ordinal
markers from their initial listing. The second (5-3B) is from the website introducing the Platform
Studies book series. Note that in the example from the website, Montfort and Bogost have
removed the ordinals and instead illustrate degrees of separation as a gradation of color such that
the platform level is the darkest or most dense a fitting characterization for a foundational
substratum. This symbology has significance because 5-3B implies a degree of co-involvement and
dependency that is missing from the discrete, padded cells and strict ordinals of 5-3A. In other
words, figure 5-3A presents the five levels as beingjaggy, whereas figure 5-3A illustrates the
relationship in a way that is more fizzy.
Besides responding specifically to Lars Konzack's seven-layer model for game analysis,3
Montfort also implicitly addresses other approaches which stratify videogame content for the
purposes of study, including Juul, Aarseth, and Eskelinen. Essentialist stratigraphies are not
confined to ludologists, however. Julian Kicklich deals with one such approach in his article,
"Perspectives of Computer Game Philology," where he caricatures the much-maligned, so-called
"narratological" approach4 to computer game study that "blindly equat[es] a computer game's
technical levels of its code and its interface with the narratological levels of story and discourse"
(Kicklich, "Perspectives of Computer Game Philology"). Kicklich sees this equation as a problem
and provides a different (also dually-layered), constructivist model where games are treated as
non-trivial machines with embedded trivial machines (adopting Espen Aarseth's terminology) that
consist in processes of adaptation. What is important here about Kicklich's straightforward
criticism of a narratological model and his response to it is that both employ levels as a metaphor
for a conceptual relationship among differently functioning sub-phenomena. In responding to the
initial, assumed hierarchy, a different hierarchy is exchanged for the original. I am not arguing that
organizing the figurative structure of a videogame by invoking layers or levels is incorrect. Instead,
3 Konzack proposes a method that identifies seven layers: "hardware, program code, functionality, gameplay,
meaning, referentiality and socio-culture" (90) He also acknowledges two "levels" or perspectives on these
layers: the "virtual space" of the game (that is, in the game world), and "the playground" (that is, the game
board, pieces, players, environment, etc.).
4 I have no intent to rehash the so-called ludology and narratology debate, but it is worth noting how each "side"
makes similar but complementary claims which depend on some form of reductionism that may or may not be
arbitrary. I offer a broader survey of approaches to videogame textual analysis in Chapter 1.
the prevalence of this rhetorical gesture extends from the same textual logic behind Genette's
paratext and McKenzie's social text.
It is also noteworthy that Kucklich arrives at his proposal by closing off the code as external
to the process of gameplay and that he does so by invoking the screen as a metaphor: "Usually, the
only thing the player knows about the world of the game is what is displayed on the screen.
However, the player is able to learn about the implicit rules of the game simply by interacting with
it for a sufficient amount of time" (Kucklich, "Perspectives of Computer Game Philology," my
emphasis). As he is using it here, Kucklich means something synonymous with actually or literally
when he writes "on the screen;" his point is that players only come in contact with the game world
as they actually perceive it with their senses. But the figure of speech he chooses here is interesting
because it suggests the dual nature by which the videogame screen becomes a physical but
transparent threshold between the game world and the real world at the same time that it is a
conduit connecting those two worlds. It also indicates how the material structure of the game text
influences intellectual discourse about games, even when that discourse is not directly relevant to
material structures and their influences. Whereas Montfort criticizes a screen essentialist position,
what I am developing here is in essence a screen materialist approach.
Another common stratification of game content worth noting is condensed into the following
summation, declared by Aarseth in his "Genre Trouble" essay: "Any game consists of three
aspects: (1) rules, (2) a material/semiotic system (a gameworld), and (3) gameplay (the events
resulting from application of the rules to the gameworld)" (Aarseth, "Genre Trouble" 48). This is
the core taxonomy most clearly articulated by Jesper Juul5 and most aggressively defended by
Markku Eskelinen.6 The advantage to this ludo-centric approach is that it allows videogames to be
analyzed among a longer history of games and play that is as ancient as culture itself. However, if
5 In this passage, Aarseth refers specifically to Juul's article "Games Telling stories?" but his Half-Real:
Videogames between Real Rules and Fictional Worlds addresses the topic directly and extensively.
6 Aarseth directs readers to Eskelinen's essay, "Towards Computer Game Studies" (36) in the same collection.
in practice this formal separation privileges rules at the exclusion of semantic context (as Aarseth
elaborates in this essay), Stuart Moulthroup seems correct in calling the insularity of this allegedly
self-contained system, "alarmingly narrow" (48). The fact that Aarseth introduces the second
aspect by conflating or combining materiality and semiotics and offering further clarification that
he is referring to the "gameworld," suggests that there is something more complicated going on
here that merits more than a single "aspect." Regardless of how one treats the phenomenon of
gameplay, it is clear that some meaning and referentiality must be inferred from the various (and
possibly discordant) rhetoric of simulation and representation. Furthermore, although Aarseth
does not specifically use the term levels, it is clear from the primacy he places on rules that he
intends some degree of stratigraphy (however ordered) in relating the 3 aspects of gameplay he
Though he is not necessarily a direct response to the ludology conversation, Alexander
Galloway's approach introduced in Gaming: Essays on Algorithmic Culture demonstrates one way
of understanding how the material/semiotic dimension of the gameworld can influence a game's
ability to express meaning, which is an important way in which Montfort's levels can interact with
one another. As Galloway observes, "the shape and size of Mario in the NES version of Super
Mario Bros. is determined not simply by artistic intention or narrative logic but by the design
specifications of the 8-bit 6502 microchip driving the game software" (32). Furthermore, this sense
in which game characters are embodiments of "math made visible" (32) is continuous with control
structures that determine formal actions within the game since these are dictated by informatic
principles that drive software. Although he is writing about representational graphic sprites, this
point of Galloway's nicely addresses my point in chapter 3 about videogame holotype.
In a different approach, Ian Bogost's unit analysis creates a method from the object-oriented
logic of software, identifying both software (rules) and the gameworld (fiction) as systems
constructed on the basis of separate but interdependent units (Bogost, Unit Operations). Both
Bogost's and Galloway's approaches are consistent with Montfort's five-level model, and taken
together, these methods and assertions amount to what Montfort and Bogost have labeled
"platform studies." Steven Jones has drawn an explicit connection between platform studies and
materialist textual studies, noting,
At the heart of both traditions, book history and textual studies, is an emphasis on what
might be called text technologies, the material methods by which texts of various kinds get
made and distributed and received. In this sense, platform studies already is a form of textual
studies, focused on objects that are not (primarily) verbal texts. By analogy, we can speak of
the "platform" of eighteenth-century print culture as a social framework... (Jones 129)
As the following sections demonstrate, typography can be an important feature of the videogame
text for allowing us to examine how a game's technology merges with its social framework. This,
in turn, leads us to intertextual associations created through the use of particular numeric character
designs. Taken together, the multiple versions of Berzerk on different game platforms constitute the
Berzerk social text or texts, and we can access the technologies of its paratextual provenance
through a close examination of its typography.
The first and original incarnation of Berzerk was programmed in 1980 by Alan McNeil for
Stem Electronics ("Berzerk Videogame by Stem"). The game consists of a "humanoid" character
fighting off talking robots and a bouncing smiley face named Evil Otto who chases the humanoid
protagonist through a dark maze. In terms of the content of its loosely implied story, Berzerk could
be considered an aesthetic forerunner to DOOM(id Software, 1993), and like DOOM, Berzerk also
generated its share of controversy. Berzerk is the first game known to contribute to a player's death
(Kiesling 14), and it became a target of early videogame critics who decried its presentation of
humanoid-on-robot violence. Thomas Radecki, then chairman of the National Coalition on
Television Violence, wrote in 1983, "the object is to kill as many other stick figures as possible,
before they kill you ... This type of role-playing practice is certain to have long-term harmful
effects on the player; it teaches violent reactions" (Qtd. in Sullivan 70). Significantly, Radecki's
criticism here does not identify the act of killing as effectively realistic, which is the main
objection of those who criticize ultra-violent contemporary videogames such as Manhunt and
Postal. Rather, he objects to a symbolic act which depends not on the resemblance of the
Automazeons to humans, but rather on the symbolic relationship between their iconic, stick figure
Excluding the arcade sequel Frenzy (1982), Berzerk saw four licensed translations to other
platforms, including versions for the Atari 2600, Atari 5200, GCE Vectrex, and a board game by
Milton-Bradley.7 It is interesting to note the varying paratextual renditions of the humanoid,
Automazeons, and Evil Otto that accompany the various translations, but it is more important to
note how the shapes used to render text reveal a discourse of materiality which, following
Montfort's terminology, connect and complicate the platform level with the interface level. There
are important differences among each Berzerk, and because those differences reflect on their
respective platforms, the platform-influenced visual differences in typeface design become figures
for differences in gameplay.
This co-involvement seems to follow Montfort's thinking when he recreated the 5-level
illustration for the Platform Studies website (Figure 5-3A). Whereas listing platform as the "first"
level grants it a place of determined primacy, removing the ordinal and simply placing it at the
bottom signifies its foundational status without implying as strong a conceptual dependency on the
part of the other levels. The fact that multiple versions of Berzerk that are mostly similar can co-
exist at all means that, in a purely practical sense, the programmers working on the adaptations at
least began with a common form/function level. The differences which do appear in different
7 Milton-Bradley produced a number of board games based on popular video game titles in the early 1980s.
Though I will be mainly focusing on the videogame versions of Berzerk, the board game version is interesting
for depicting Evil Otto with a body.
versions of Berzerk illustrate what happens as programmers attempt to retain the same textual and
typographic material while changing platforms. The result reveals that a relationship between
levels where contingencies and propensities of each platform have enforced compromises (or
improvements) in the game form and interface manifest at the level of reception and operation. The
technological influence on the reception of the text also extends to the material culture of Berzerk,
both paratypically and holotypically.
Figure 5-4 shows screenshots from the four licensed versions of Berzerk. At first glance, the
games appear to be similar, and in fact, at the level of form, one might well argue that these are in
most respects identical. Some slight variations do, however, change the gameplay significantly. In
the Atari 2600 version, for example, the robots are not programmed to fire their lasers in all eight
directions, so the player (who can fire in eight directions) can gain a tactical advantage by
approaching Automazeons diagonally. Also, in the Vectrex version, the player's sprite is comprised
of a continuous set of vector lines so that there is no gap between the player-character's head and
shoulders. This gap in the other versions can allow a laser to pass through without harming the
player. Figure 5-5 captures this technique in action. The so-called "bulletproof bowtie" technique is
only useful as a last resort, but it works because of choices McNeil made when he designed the
stick figure's body. The reason for this design is apparent in the artwork for the original flyer
advertising Berzerk (Figure 5-6). Despite the fact that the sprite contains a gap between the head
and body of the figure, the fuzzying effects of the raster display artifacts blur the edges of the stick
figure's form so that his head appears to be connected to the rest of his body. The gap one sees in
the emulated, jaggy versions (Figure 5-7) results from the more crisp display technology used by
the emulator software and the user's monitor itself. In this way, the figure's form, which depends
on artifacts at both the platform and the display levels, also affects gameplay and one's experience
or interpretation of the game text.
The Arabic numeral 3 provides a more subtle variation that reveals how pervasive the
interactions and influences are among the levels of the game object. Figure 5-8 shows the numeral
3 as it is rendered on the various platforms, each by way of an emulator. The 3s from the Atari
2600 version and the Vectrex version are the most obviously different because the Vectrex display
attempts to adapt a raster composition similar to the arcade and 5200 versions for its vector display
system and the 2600 employs an entirely different shape for the numeral. The form in figure 5-8B
exhibits characteristics fundamental to jagginess, the most prominent of which are the visible
pixels which compose the numeral shape itself and constrain its form to that which can be drawn at
that output resolution. Figure 5-9 illustrates this compositional logic by highlighting and isolating
one such pixel.
The highlighted pixel in figure 5-9A demonstrates a crucial point in terms of Montfort's
levels. Montfort's main improvement on Konzack is that each of his levels is considered to be
influenced by its cultural context. In other words, the game object is surrounded by context at all
layers rather than finding context only in its reception that is, projecting each expression outward
from a categorically ideal, lower-level code that works its way through progressively disruptive
levels until finally coming into contact with the real world. Instead, for Montfort, context, and
therefore criticism, can intervene at any level and each can be considered in its own terms. As a
logical extension to this idea, each level is in turn part of the context of every other level and can
be employed as a critical tool to unlock its co-involved fellow levels. The image of the numeral 3
in figure 5-9 highlights a single pixel, which is important because its jaggy appearance and visually
discrete sub-units (pixels) mimic the actual digital composition of the game's code. In this way, the
fourth level (interface) communicates something about the first level (code), but the degree to
which it does so depends on a level which lies external to Montfort's ontology, the material
conditions of the display technology.
In the following section, I examine two versions of Berzerk within a framework of platform
studies (or simply textual studies), with particular attention to the typography of each. The two
Berzerk's I examine are the adaptation for the Atari VCS, ported by Dan Hitchens in 1982 ("
Berzerk (Atari)"), and for the GCE Vectrex, ported by Chris King (Woodcock). These are the most
appropriate for this analysis because they are the most different typographically, not only in terms
of the appearance of their lettering and numbering, but also in the means by which numeric
characters are retrieved in the game code. Also, crucially, the Atari VCS and Vectrex are the only
two games of the four where I have immediate access to an actual game console. The coin-
operated original Berzerk and the port for the Atari 5200 can be played on emulators (MAME and
MESS, respectively), but the differences between an emulation and a materially present game is an
important point in this analysis.
Berzerk on Atari VCS
Berzerk for Atari VCS was programmed in 1982, after the coin-operated game had proven to
be largely successful. Berzerk was one of many arcade hits that Atari attempted to recreate as they
increasingly sought to compete with the videogame market (Kent), but in terms of its fidelity to the
original, Berzerk's stick figure graphics appeared to be far more comfortable on the VCS platform
than did the similarly adapted Pac-Man.8 Gameplay was altered slightly for the VCS version
(mainly, the robots cannot fire diagonally), but the main visual difference was in the typeface used
for reporting the player's score. Figure 5-10 illustrates the relationship between Berzerk's binary
data and the numeral 3 as generated by the emulator Stella. As discussed in chapter 2, the Atari
VCS lacked a native text rendering kernel, so game designers had to allow space in each game's
ROM for storing bitmap images of the needed characters. The game program includes instructions
8 The Atari VCS version of Pac-Man is frequently cited as one of the worst videogames of all time. For example,
William Cassidy of GameSpy.com ranks Pac-Man for the VCS at #4 on his list of the "10 Most Shameful
that call up a specified segment of code which contains a graphic representation of the Arabic
numeral "3." As an image, that section of code has no inherent three-ness that is interfaced
programmatically other than the context of its being called when the digit, three, is required for
representing the player's score or other numeric values.
Of course, it should be noted that presenting these images of the numeral three in the context
of this present document involves an additional interference or transformation. In figure 5-10A, I
have converted the game's code into a visual form by processing it with a program that represents
each positive value (binary 1) as a capital X and each negative value (binary 0) as a period. The
numbers in the left column indicate the memory addresses where the example bytes reside within
the game's ROM file. To create the image in 5-10B (and the similar preceding images), I used
Stella's built-in snapshot function to capture the emulator's output to a bitmap file. I then enlarged
the image in a graphics program making sure that the software did not distort or otherwise attempt
to anti-alias the image. The jagginess is maintained, and juxtaposing these two images shows that,
in this example, both code and screenshot are jaggy. Representing the code visually does introduce
another level of interpretation and interference, but the on/off logic it illustrates is true to the digital
character of the storage media. Like the edges of the image in 5-10B, the bit positions in the ROM
must be either positive or negative to communicate the correct image data to the screen. The image
Stella generates can be considered a rather accurate rendering of the original image, but its fidelity
in this example depends on the way Stella draws the image to the screen as well as the way I
captured and manipulated the image. Significantly, this process intercepts the image before it is
transmitted to the screen buffer, so it effectively ignores any influence that the screen might have
on the appearance and referential quality of the image.
The impact of the monitor is, however, quite apparent in figure 5-11 where the image in
5-11B is a different capture of the same numeral 3 represented in figure 5-10B. In this case, I made
the initial capture of the image by photographing the monitor at a very close distance and then
enlarging that digital photograph. The difference between the screenshot 3 and the photograph 3
reveals that, in the case of 5-11B, the congruity of the generated image to the divisions of the
display surface of the screen results in a 3 that is more jaggy, which is significant here because the
jaggy 3 creates an illusion of greater fidelity to an imaginary, un-mediated 3 image. Each generated
pixel is divided neatly into four display pixels, and the edges of the generated pixels are flush with
the edges of the screen's cells. However, as the photograph reveals, the rectilinear structure of the
pixels is not actually continuous. Their subdivision reveals their edges not to be true lines at all but,
rather, points of light arranged in a matrix which the eye combines into a continuous line when
viewing it at a sufficient distance. The difference this makes is that whereas the photographed,
enlarged image (5-11B) emphasizes the effects of the screen layer, the screenshot image (5-10B)
attempts to ignore it.
Jaggy type is not necessarily reclaiming the aesthetic of the screen grid, as may often implied
in overtly nostalgic context, but it is instead accessing the logical matrix of the game's machine
code. This is not to say that the jaggy numeral three in figure 5-10B is more authentic to the game
experience or a better, more ideal 3, but that it expresses something about the nature of the game
image, namely that its digital origin imposes graphical limitations and that the aesthetic effect of
those limitations is not necessarily a bad thing. If the imagery of game emulators expresses a
rhetoric of nostalgia, it is nostalgia that creates an imaginary ideal game image where the screen as
a medium itself is invisible. As an alternative, if figure 5-11 makes an allowance for the regime of
the screen as a signifier of mediality, then figure 5-12 puts it right in the foreground.
This final in-game example illustrates a more dramatic influence of materiality. The image is
a photograph of the numeral 3 generated by an Atari VCS console and displayed on a normal CRT
television. The raster scan lines, phosphorescence, and the resulting halation on the figure are all
natural conditions of the display medium that affect the shape of the 3 in important ways. Note the
irregularity of the (logical) pixels and their tendency to swell at inner covers and narrow at the
endpoints of posts. The corners are all rounded, and the bright, positive space of the shape blends
relatively gradually with the black negative space of the field. Like the Dig Dug logotype in figure
5-2B, this image is inherently and unself-consciously fuzzy. It clearly emphasizes the influence of
the screen on the rendered text image. Moreover, besides expressing a specific quality through the
game's interface level that affects its reception level, this image also suggests something about the
platform and original source code: specifically, it is possible that this shape was chosen for the
VCS port because at a height of 7-pixels, it was more appropriate for the condensed visual and
memory space than the 9-pixel high figures in the arcade version. Another instance of this version
of the 3 (that is, it is the same in terms of its functional representation within the structure of the
Atari VCS game) proves illuminating in this regard.
The 3 illustrated in figure 5-12 performs the same numerical signification within the printed,
simulated game as the 3s in both game images in figures 5-9 5-12.9 This image appears in the
instruction manual for Atari's adaptation ofBerzerk for the VCS. It is clearly an illustration rather
than a photograph because the lines of the laser beam are unbroken diagonals as opposed to the
stair-stepped missiles appearing in the game. The angle these lines illustrate is also far steeper than
what actually appears in the game. More importantly, the shape of the numeral 3, while retaining
its basic form, has changed somewhat dramatically with regard to the outline of its inner post, as
illustrated in figure 5-13B. The line that was previously a short post comprising a single pixel and
a single code bit has now become a tapered point. This printed, fuzzy image of the numeral 3 is
9 Achieving a score that contains a 3 in the first position was more difficult than I expected. In order to capture the
images from Stella and the Atari, I had to reload the game until I started with an opening field of 3 robots so that,
by killing them all, I received a bonus of 30 points. (The game randomly distributes between 3 and 11 robots as it
generates each maze). The game displays that bonus until the player exits that room, so I had time to position my
camera and take the photograph. This approach was necessary since the Atari VCS lacks a pause button, and
since the maximum number of robots per screen is 11, the only possible bonus score (10 points per robot if all
are killed) including a 3 would be 30.
quite a departure from the jaggy 3 in figure 5-9, but if anything, it has a stronger resemblance to
the fuzzy 3 in figure 5-12. From this association, it is possible to surmise that the unacknowledged
graphic designer who prepared this illustration of the screen image was using a CRT display image
as a reference. Another possibility is that the artist deemed the narrow post (I.e. single pixel) too
small to be legible at the printed resolution of the manual. In either case, fuzziness has here been
adopted in order to increase legibility and strengthen an association between a print image and a
screen image. This association invites considering the fuzzy screen image (interface level) within
the context of the print image (reception and operation level), but the print image could also be a
considered part of the interface level since it invokes the interface by adopting the aesthetic regime
of the screen at the same time that it negotiates its own constraints. This connection between the
print image and the screen image also indicates one possible inspiration for the typeface used in the
Atari VCS Berzerk: the shapes of the numerals in Berzerk appear to be adapted from Countdown, a
typeface Colin Brignall designed in 1965 for Letraset.
Table 5-1 shows the numeral forms in Countdown and how they appear to have been adapted
to the bitmap grid constraint. The first column contains a sample from Countdown, the second
shows a representation of the code for that numeral, and the third column contains a photograph of
that numeral on a CRT television screen. Taken together, these images illustrate the visual
relationship of the source bitmap and the graphical realization of that shape on a television screen.
Some differences are apparent (the variable x-height in Countdown has been made uniform in
Berzerk and the Berzerk forms are proportionally wider), but some key features remain intact such
as the asymmetrical weight of lines in the Os and the alternation of thick and thin lines in the 8s.
While it is probably not enough of a similarity to call Berzerk's typography a font of Countdown,
the typeface's influence on Berzerk's numeracy is clear.
With regard to the numeral 3, introducing a tapered point seems to strengthen this
association with Countdown since one of the original typeface's defining features is the way
Brignall used rounded internal and external comers to mimic the effects of halation and light
buildup. Whether or not Brignall actually intended to simulate screen display technology of the
mid 1960s, the letterforms he created have proven well-adapted for that environment and,
therefore, well-suited in other contexts to referencing screen-based media as its adaptation in
Berzerk and frequent uses in arcade cabinet graphics and posters indicate. Accordingly, we can
infer that when Dan Hitchens ported Berzerk to the Atari 2600, he chose to imitate this typeface
either because of its well-established association with other game and science fiction texts or
because its structural characteristics which established that association increased the letters' and
numbers' legibility even (or especially) with the presence of light buildup and halation. The
bitmaps of the numeral shapes lack this fuzzy effect, so one way to describe the adaptation of
Countdown is that Berzerk's version of the typeface is not fully composed until it has undergone
the fuzzying influence of the CRT screen.
With that progressive imbrication that produces the resemblance to Countdown, the final
composition places the Berzerk typeface within a broad textual field. In this way, Berzerk can be
said to exhibit intertextuality with a comic book from the early 1970s called Countdown. This
comic features a logotype appropriately set in Countdown, and because it is set in outer space, the
association it creates with Berzerk suggests a science fiction context for Berzerk as well.10
Furthermore, several other games released for Atari VCS incorporate identical character sets,
indicating that these games, including Defender (1981), RealSports Volleyball (1982), and the
prototypes Bugs Bunny and Holey Moley. According to the database at AtariAge.com, Defender
and RealSports Volleyball were both programmed by Bob Polaro and graphically designed by Alan
Murphy suggesting that these very different games shared a common code base. A different
10 I am grateful to Brian Slawson for drawing my attention to the Countdown comic.
implantation of a character set similar to Countdown appears in Demon Attack (1982), Marine
Wars (1983), and Pooyan (1982). This connection among these games raises the question of
platform and its relationship to videogame textuality. Specifically, the VCS versions of Defender
and Berzerk seem to have more in common than any pairing of the several Berzerks, so how to
what degree does the means by which this commonality is leveraged constitute the textuality of
any of these games? If the underlying code and hardware of a videogame is at the core of its
textuality, then what critical value can be extracted by observing that Bugs Bunny and Berzerk are
textually similar? The problem with this question is that it posits the figurative "core" of textuality
in a position that, like the ludo-centric frameworks mentioned earlier, privileging the platform
excludes semantic content from the production of meaning. The real lesson of platform studies lies
in recognizing the influence of the platform without losing sight of the gameplay as the dominant
textual force. Platform studies does, however, create a vector along which other games can be
broad into the textual situation, allowing us to infer something about the production history of
Berzerk on GCE Vectrex
The Vectrex version of Berzerk is also quite different from the arcade version for reasons
related to the console hardware, and because the Vectrex is a significantly different platform, it is
useful to compare its version to the Atari 2600's. First, the Vectrex uses a more advanced BIOS,
which contains ASCII characters that can be accessed within games by employing a numeric
code." Unlike the Atari VCS where alphanumeric characters have to be stored in bitmap form
within each individual game's ROM, Vectrex games can call on the device's internal library of
letter and number shapes. Second, the forms of these characters are interesting because they
employ a raster composition method within a vector display environment. letterforms are,
11 Specifically, a built-in routine with the label $F37A handles text strings. Programming
documentation and tutorials for the Vectrex are available at
therefore, composed of apparently unbroken horizontal lines which fill in the internal space of the
letter shape. This is different from other vector display systems like those used in the arcade games
Asteroids, Battlezone, and Tempest, which draw letter shapes using vector lines that delineate the
strokes of the letters themselves (see figure 5-14). In other words, these systems display characters
by connecting lines to points placed at intersections or endpoints of letters or numerals.
Ontologically, these are similar to the 7-segment character generation discussed in chapter 2.
The fact that the display is only capable of drawing monochrome images in white lines also
has an impact on the appearance of shapes on the Vectrex. Color is achieved by using transparent
overlays specifically created for each game, which rest in a tray about 34" from the screen surface.
In the case of Berzerk, the overlay simply gives the game images a blue tint, but it also serves to
soften the appearance of the otherwise harshly bright vector lines. This softening also helps
alleviate distortion that occurs in images toward the edges of the screen. A consequence of the
electron gun's method for drawing vectors on the screen causes shapes near the outer edges (like
much of the text) to quiver or shake slightly, so applying a colored layer of interference mitigates
the distraction this may otherwise cause.
Figure 5-15 shows the effect the overlay has on the display of numerals in Berzerk. Other
than the color, the main difference is that the overlay introduces a softening or blurring effect on
the edges of the lines, leading to greater perceptible continuity within the letter shapes. In other
words, the un-modified Vectrex image can be considered jaggy, whereas the overlay causes it to be
slightly more fuzzy. It is important to note here that the overlay mitigates the distortion of
flickering and vibration by introducing a different order of distortion. In this way, the Vectrex
image that is literally dually-layered provides a convenient analogy for the differences between
emulated and actual game images: an actual television contains an additional layer (its screen)
which the emulated screenshot does not.
In terms of the game platform and its influence on design and referentiality, the reason a 3
looks the way it does in Berzerk for Vectrex is simply that that is how 3s always look in Vectrex
games. This rather clearly demonstrates the influence a specific platform must have in determining
game content and expression, but it also means that the opportunity for uniquely expressing a
relationship among hardware, software, and a typeface does not exist on the Vectrex in the way
that it does on the Atari 2600. This shows how technological constraint can encourage creativity
and experimentation, which is one possible reason why programming games for the Atari 2600
remains a popular hobby among enthusiasts.
Successful type design for videogames depends on anticipating the propensities and
infelicities of each potential layer the image must pass through, so understanding these layers is an
important component of a critical approach to videogame textuality. The appearance of
alphanumeric characters in videogames and their representations in other contexts which reference
videogames can be an important relay for the multi-layered, multiply-contextualized levels of
textuality in videogames. This affinity emerges as a result of the unique relationship videogames
share with typographic expression: the sense of dependency on the capabilities of technology for
constraining or freeing the forms which designers have available to them. A typographic approach
to videogame textuality unpacks the expressive content of videogames through the figure of
typography in order to better understand the workings of constraint on the videogame form. In
both, the effects of constraint are often taken for granted, which is generally the goal of the
designer or programmer. However, even contemporary videogames designed for high-definition
display output negotiate some forms of constraint, so in order to understand how the affordances of
game platforms influence their aesthetics, it is useful to look closely at relics from gaming's past
where constraints manifest more clearly.
This present study is at beginning of what should be a fruitful avenue for New Media
scholarship, both in regard to videogames and other digital artifacts. As part of a general trend
toward more robustly historicized approaches to digital media, of which the Platform Studies
collection and the Software Studies Initiative at UCSD are an eminent part, a materialist approach
to studying digital texts has much in common with similar trends in textual studies. Typography is
a site of meaning production in around videogames that expresses the unique ontology of
Figure 5-1. A) A JPEG image with little compression (95% quality). B) The same image with high
compression (20% quality).
Figure 5-2. A) Screenshot of Dig Dug for Atari 2600 as played with the emulator Stella running on
Windows XP. B) A photograph of Dig Dug's title screen as played on an actual CRT
television hooked up to an actual Atari 2600.
Figure 5-3. A) Montfort's table of game levels for computer game analysis; from his article
"Combat in Context,"
version (size adjusted) of Montfort's table of five levels (with their ordinals removed)
from the website introducing Montfort and Bogost's Platform Studies book series from
o  reception & operation Jo
n  interface n
t  game form t
e  game code e
x  platform x
Figure 5-4. An array of the four licensed videogame versions of Berzerk. A) Berzerk the original
arcade game [screenshot from MAME, scaled 25%]; B) Berzerk for Atari 2600
[screenshot from Stella, scaled 50%]; C) Berzerk for Atari 5200 [screenshot from
MESS]. D) Berzerk for Vectrex [screenshot from MESS].
Figure 5-5. "Bulletproof bow tie" technique, demonstrated on Berzerk VCS.
Humanoid ovoids robots
by maniputting "Joy
Stick" and detroys
foboa by firing weapon.
Figure 5-6. Detail from flier advertising original Berzerk arcade machine. This artwork, appearing
on the cabinet and promotional flier for Berzerk, is a photograph of the game monitor.
It retains the monitor's phosphorescence and blurring instead of the un-mediated
Figure 5-7. The different humanoid stick figures from the four videogame versions of Berzerk. The
gap between the figure's head and shoulders appears in all but the Vectrex version. A)
Original arcade game [screenshot from MAME]; B) Berzerk for Atari VCS [screenshot
from Stella]; C) Berzerk for Atari 5200 [screenshot from MESS]; D) Berzerk for
Vectrex [screenshot from MESS].
Figure 5-8. An array of different versions of the numeral 3 as depicted in different Berzerks. A)
Berzerk the original arcade game [screenshot from MAME]; B) Berzerk for Atari VCS
[screenshot from Stella]; C) Berzerk for Atari 5200 [screenshot from MESS]; D)
Berzerk for Vectrex [screenshot from MESS].
Figure 5-9. A) The numeral 3 from Berzerk for Atari VCS [screenshot from Stella]. The red outline
highlights a single pixel. B) A solitary pixel from this numeral 3.
Figure 5-10. A) A representation a section of the machine code (ROM) which executes Berzerk for
Atari.12 B) The numeral 3 which is generated by the machine code in A).
Figure 5-11. A) Same code section as figure 9A. B) Photograph of numeral 3 generated by Stella
on LCD monitor.
12 The bitmap for the 3 sprite is actually stored upside-down, so the code above and below the 3 are the inverted 2
and 4, respectively.
Figure 5-12. A) Same code section as previous two figures. B) Photograph (enlarged) of the same 3
generated by an actual Atari 2600 and displayed on a standard CRT television.
Figure 5-13. A print version of the same numeral 3 in Berzerk for Atari. A) Illustration of screen
image (enlarged) from Berzerk for Atari instruction Manual. B) Greatly enlarged
numeral 3 from 12A.
Figure 5-14. A) The letter R as rendered and displayed on a Vectrex (photographed without
overlay). B) The letter R as displayed on an emulated Battlezone machine.
Figure 5-15. A) Berzerk score display photographed without overlay. B) Same score photographed
Table 5-1. Countdown numerals, Berzerk bitmap code, and Berzerk screen images.
Countdown numeral Berzerk machine code** Berzerk screen images***
Table 5-1 continued.
Table 5-1 continued.
315 .XXX..X. 7X; U>
3152 .X. .XXX. T ,
3163 .XXX. .X.
* Number images sampled from Countdown SH Regular, owned by Scangraphic Digital Type
Collection. Preview images available at
** Code is printed in inverse of its actual ROM order to line up the images for comparison.
*** Photographs taken with a Kodak EasyShare CX7430 (4.0 Mega Pixels) at a distance of
approximately 9 inches from screen surface.
ROMSCRAPE: A SOFTWARE METHOD FOR ANALYZING VIDEOGAME DATA
This appendix provides information about the design an implementation of a software
application I developed to advance the research conducted throughout this study. Collectively
bearing the name ROMscrape, this software involves several scripts written in the programming
language Perl and culminates in a web-deployed search engine interface that allows users to search
binary data for specific patterns of interest. The searching algorithm is non-discriminate, but for
the research objectives for this study (particularly, the analysis of different typeface designs
employed in Atari VCS games, as discussed in chapters 2 and 3), the data in question are the
character designs for numbers and letters. These are stored as bitmap data in ROM memory, and
because this character data is not programmatically accessible in a semantically consistent manner,
an algorithm was employed that produced a series of visually associational indexes.' These indexes
group together chunks of binary code with reference to their similarity as images and allow for
search queries to return chunks exhibiting high degrees of similarity.
The following sections discuss the design and development of this alpha version software. It
is presented here in anticipation of future wider releases as well as to demonstrate, in a more
general sense, the applicability of data mining software for humanities research in digital artifacts.
In this way, it is hoped that ROMscrape can contribute to the emerging field of Digital Humanities,
where computer applications are developed to support humanistic research agendas such as literary
analysis. What follows is presented as a narrative of how I identified and addressed a problem in
my research, and while I do go into some technical detail, it is not my goal to present this appendix
as a scientifically rigorous document.
1 I use the adverb visually somewhat reluctantly here because the index is never, strictly speaking, made visible to
the user. A more accurate term would be an adverbial transformation of the word image, but I am not aware if
such a word exists in English.
In terms of this project, ROMscrape fills an immediate need. As I approached one of the
main research questions guiding this study how have letter designs in console games evolved
over time I found it increasingly helpful to analyze typographic artifacts in videogames both in
their "mediated" presentation on actual videogame screens, as well as in their encoded state as
binary data. Sometimes a contrast between the two reveals evidence of discursive mediality on the
part of type design, as discussed in chapter 4 and in Chapter 5 with regard to Berzerk. To make
claims of this nature more general than single instances and, therefore, to enable a valid claim as
to the uniqueness or normativity of the Berzerk example, I needed to quickly evaluate and compare
hundreds of games for their typographic properties.
Focusing on the data set of Atari VCS ROMs available from various Atari fan-sites (mainly
AtariAge.com), I arrived at a basic set of 528 ROM images,2 ranging from 2KB to 16KB in size. I
had a means for visually accessing binary data,3 but with approximately 8MB worth of data, the
prospect of browsing it byte by byte for interesting patterns presented an enormous obstacle. If
estimated generously, with approximately 40 bytes per second (scrolling visually through a column
of binary output), I predicted that it would take approximately 56 hours of constant scanning
simply to look through all of the code. Adding in time for annotating and collating interesting
similarities would extend the time even further. While this amount of time is not technically
unmanageable, a better solution would be a software application that performed the tedious
scanning for me discarding meaningless data and retaining interesting patterns. The challenge to
such a solution lies in educating software so that it can separate the signal of typography from the
noise of everything else, including other graphics and programming code.
2 A ROM image is a digital copy of the data stored in ROM memory on removable Atari game cartridges. This
kind of copy is referred to as an image because it is a bit-by-bit copy of the complete data stored on the cartridge.
It is not the same kind of copying that occurs when files are transferred from one file system (say, a USB drive)
3 This is the Perl script used to extract the character sets included in Appendix B. The full source code of this
script is also included in that Appendix.
Similar Applications: ROMsearcher and DiStella
The inspiration and motivation for finding a software solution in ROMscrape derived in part
from two pre-existing computer programs. These were were designed to perform a similar
function, although not with the goal of humanistic research. The first, ROMSearcher, was designed
by Chris Covell in order to find hidden or encoded text strings in videogames (Covell,
"ROMSearcher README"). ROMsearcher works by scanning a chunk of bytes for a number
sequence matching the ASCII interpolation of the text string in question. It also can search for
patterns which use alternatives to ASCII or even the customized implementations of character sets
like many Atari VCS games. Most computer systems display text based on the internal
representation of numeric values that correspond to specific letters. The string 'APPLE,' would be
represented by the following number sequence, (usually reported in hexadecimal notation): x41,
x50, x50, x4c, x45, (decimal 65, 80, 80, 76, 69). An ASCII character set is, therefore, an internal
table of values which equates x41 with A, x50 with P, x4c with L and x45 with E.
In a stream of binary data such as a videogame ROM image, the bytes which compose this
text string would be represented as eight-digit binary encodings of the same value. In this manner,
the string APPLE would be represented using the following binary sequence:
ROMSearcher works by looking through binary data for this specific pattern or, failing that, a
pattern with the same sequence of numeric distance between bytes. In this way, an alternate
character implementation (say, one in which x36 = A, etc.) can be discovered. If such a shift is
identified, the game's remaining textual content can be converted and exported.
ROMSearcher is similar to ROMScrape4 because it searches for textual patterns, but
ROMSearcher addresses videogame content at a semantic level. In other words, in order to locate a
particular text string, ROMSearcher requires that there be some internal representation of each
letter in the string corresponding to numeric data. It thus relies on the same textual logic of the
game or file system. The limitation this encounters is that many games include text which is stored
as a single bitmap graphic for a word or phrase. Matthew Kirschenbaum discusses this problem of
text and text-as-image in the course of a forensic analysis of a disk containing the computer game
Mystery House. He notes that one important textual feature of the game is a series of mysterious
notes scattered around the house. They present an obstacle for textual analysis, however, because
theirer 'text' is actually comprised by vector coordinates, which are stored elsewhere on the disk.
One consequence of this is that we can't hack the game and discover the text of the notes by using
a hex editor" (Mechanisms 130). An ideal software solution for extracting text would be one that
recognizes the distinctive pattern of a textual character, say, a capital A, regardless of whether it is
treated programmatically as a part of image data or textually within a character set.
DiStella Disassembler is another tool which provides a function similar to that aspired to in
ROMscrape. As its programmer, Bob Colbert, explains, "Distella allows you to disassemble any 2k
or 4k Atari 2600 ROM image into compilable source code!" (Colbert). This functionality is useful
to the large community of homebrew Atari developers still writing games for the console because
often the best way to learn programming in a particular language (in this case, the Assembly
Language for the VCS's MOS 6502 processor) is to analyze and modify functioning examples.
Programmers can then make changes to the disassembled code, reassemble it, and play the
resulting game in an emulator to see the effect. One significant side-effect of disassembly is that it
must separate programming code from game data information like graphics and sound. "It uses
4 The similarity of the names is coincidental. I had arrived at the designation for ROMScrape prior to learning
an 'intelligent' algorithm to distinguish between data and code, and even uses standard labels for
the 2600's registers" (Colbert). Figure A-i shows a section of the output file from a disassembly
of the VCS cartridge Barnstorming. '
Distella's ability to quickly separate information from instructions is the basis of its
application toward aesthetic ends. Ben Fry, an MIT student, has used Distella in combination with
other programming to produce "distellamaps" visualizations of Distella's output of code and
data as part of his Visualizing Code project. Figure A-2 is a distellamap of Adventure, in which
the famous Easter Egg text, "Created by Warren Robinett," is clearly visible among the orange-
shaded blocks of data.5 These visualizations are clearly enjoyable on an aesthetic level, and are
even available for purchase in poster sizes.
Ben Fry has also created other code visualization projects which seek to make visible the
underlying processes of computational artifacts. One such project, Sprite Deconstructulator (see
figure A-3), presents and highlights the bitmap contents of Super Mario Brothers, illustrating in
real time the game's system for accessing bitmap sprites and thus exposing the logic of the
cartridge's structure to visual inspection. Like Distella and distellamap, Deconstructulator's
function hovers between analysis and aesthetics, so while it is operating in the same artifactual
space as ROMscrape, its use does not directly serve the interest of humanistic study. What is
needed, and what ROMscrape offers, is a means to return data on queries which will allow
researchers to arrive at better understandings of how videogames work across different game
genres and (eventually) other platforms in order to better understand how videogames participate
in and are a product of human culture and society
5 In these visualizations, data is rendered such that an orange block corresponds to a 1 value, and a 0 is represented
by blank space. Instructions are printed using their opcodes, and linked together with curving lines whenever a
GOTO call or reference is performed.
Deployment in Drupal
Whereas tools like Distella and ROMsearcher run as command line scripts or with a minimal
GUI and are aimed at use for specific tasks, the goal of ROMscrape was to provide a widely
accessible and distributed interface on the web. This situation creates a situation of collective
inquiry and scholarship a context in which the database of source material could be expanded by
users and, more importantly, searches can be saved, shared, and compared. To accomplish these
goals, I chose to develop ROMscrape for deployment within the open-source Content Management
System Drupal, first created by Dries Bruyteart and now maintained by a developer community of
thousands. Unlike similar web software such as WordPress or Movable Type, Drupal provides a
flexible framework and a database abstraction layer which simplifies database queries.
This wide scope and immediate avenue for dissemination did, however, introduce its own
problems as it requires search queries and any other calculations to be performed within the
relatively limited computational environment of a shared web hosting account. Assessing and
overcoming this limitation provided a crucial breakthrough by necessitating the development of a
shortcut algorithm. The basic operation of ROMscrape is to take a query pattern and find similar
patterns within a set of binary data, but given a dataset of roughly 528 games, occupying
approximately 3.5MB of memory, the total number of possible chunks which could match any
given query might number as high as 3.2 million.6 Within the relatively modest resources available
for this work (my own computer and a shared web server), the magnitude of this comparison
proved far too processor-intensive.
The problem is that the basic comparison is not just between the query chunk and each of the
3.2 million chunks in the data set. Each comparison must be further broken down into a byte-to-
6 Assuming that a query is a pattern consisting of a sequence of at least 4 bytes, each ROM image or file may be
divided into as many chunks as there are bytes, minus 4. For example, viable four-byte chunks appear at offset 0
3, 1 4, 2 5, etc. If the file is only 4008 bytes long, however, the highest complete four-byte chunk would
appear at offset 4004 4008. In other words, there are almost as many viable chunks in a given set as there are
byte comparison, which is itself composed of a bit-to-bit comparison. In essence, therefore, the
number of comparisons being performed to execute a simple comparison query of a four-byte
chunk (the arbitrarily determined minimum size providing recognizable character data) would
actually be on the order of 102.4 million comparisons. This bit-level comparison is necessary
because the relevant data involved in any given bit is not its numerical significance with regard to
the decimal equivalent of the binary value stored in the byte, but rather its visual significance
within an image. Thus, the position of any given bit value with regard to the image it composes
must be compared to the equivalent value at the same position in a comparison chunk. Figure A-4
illustrates this by contrasting visual similarity with numeric similarity. Whereas the numeric value
of a byte could be expressed in its decimal equivalent and thus compared to other decimals, this
single comparison provides no information relevant to visual similarity. This decimal comparison
has the advantage of being a single calculation, as opposed to the 8 calculations required to
compare each bit with each separate bit, but the decimal value has no necessary relationship to its
visual appearance within a bitmap.
The prospect of performing 102.4 million comparisons for each query made obvious the
need to find a better way: the tasks of research and analysis require flexibility and responsiveness
in a digital tool, and the long-form of comparison was going to take hours for each search. The
answer was to find a shortcut some way to organize the dataset so that obviously or dramatically
different search queries would be passed over and more likely matches would receive closer
A Two-Stage Index
I considered a number of different approaches to this problem, eventually arriving at a
method of building an index in two stages. With the goal of reducing the total number of
comparisons for a minimally processor intensive deployment on a web server, I determined to limit
the number of comparisons within any individual search to 3000. In other words, a given query
image would never be compared to any more than 3000 images in the data set within a given pass.
In order to accommodate the total data set, this required a two-dimensional array of values and two
passes through this index to find the best possible match or matches. Essentially, this structure
amounts to a table with up to 3000 columns and 3000 rows. The first pass compares the query to
each row header, selecting the best match; the second focuses only on that row, selecting the best
items from within that set of no more than 3000 columns. The trick to making something like this
successful is making sure that each row header correctly attracts the query to its best possible
chance of finding a good match. In other words, the bestness of the row header must communicate
the same bestness as its constituents on that row. The first stage in forming this index, therefore,
was to determine the most effective possible values for row headers. Several options were
considered, but the eventual solution was to create what I call a "fuzzy thumbnail" of a given set of
visually similar chunks.
A fuzzy thumbnail is created as a composite of two or more actual chunks or thumbnails.
Where the two images differ at a particular bit, the fuzzy thumbnail creates a compromise value
between the two. For combinations involving more than two images, this compromise is also
weighted to indicate the proportion of values comprising that bit. In this way, the fuzzy chunks
provide a reliable best match index for a series of progressively associated chunks, which are
formed through the process described below as the first index pass. This concept is illustrated in
Using a Perl script, the first stage of index formation scans each ROM file in the set and
extracts every possible four-byte chunk.' These chunks are compiled into a table that records the
7 Although the goal of ROMscrape is to allow searching for chunks of any length up to 12 bytes, statistical
comparisons demonstrated that the variety of four-byte chunks created a more useful and manageable data set for
collation than two-, three-, five-, or six-byte chunks. Variable length is currently accomplished by combining
partial chunks within the actual search script built into Drupal. This functionality, however, does not return
results with sufficient consistency, so I am reviewing this function for future versions.
number of times a particular chunk appears. The script proceeds by finding a chunk and comparing
it to the existing chunks in the table. If an exact match is found, then the total number or "weight"
for that chunk is incremented. Otherwise, that chunk is identified as unique and appended to the
end of the table with a weight value of 1. This pass is fairly easy to form computationally, since the
comparison of chunk to chunk simply determines "match" or "no match," rather than the degrees
of difference matching required for the comparative and qualitative analysis in users' search
queries, and this first step usually completes with less than one minute of computation on a
moderately equipped personal computer.
The output of this step is a table of each existing chunk within the dataset, totaling about 1.5
million. This is a large number, but is significantly smaller than the potential total number of
unique four-byte sequences that are possible mathematically, 4,294,967,296.8 This significant
reduction indicates the difference between meaningless data (every possible byte sequence as
determined by mathematical possibility) and meaningful data (only those byte sequences which
actually appear in the Atari games analyzed). Still, the goal for the search index is to reduce this set
of 1.5 million data pairs to a "smarter" set of 3000 pairs, so the initial pass has to be reduced
further through a process of folding.
This step is much more time-consuming, and because the newly-folded index requires a
progressive structure, I could not distribute the task to multiple computers. Instead, I committed
my personal desktop computer to the task, which ended up taking several days to complete. The
length of this task, I also discovered, made it necessary to build in the possibility of the script
pausing and resuming its processing. This step of index folding works by sorting the table
mentioned above and using the 3000 "heaviest" patterns as starting points for indexes. Next, each
8 This number is calculated by considering that each byte consists of 8 bits which may each be 1 or 0. Given a
minimum value of 00000000 (decimal 0) and maximum value of 11111111 (decimal 255), the total number of
possible values for a given byte of data is 256. Each of those 256 possibilities may be combined with each of the
same 256 possibilities in the next byte. So the total value of possible byte combinations for a two-byte sequence
is 2562 or 65,536. Therefore, the total possibly byte sequences for a four-byte chunk is 2564 or 4,294,967,296.
remaining pattern is matched against the 3000 heavy patterns, locating its best possible match. The
two chunks are combined into a fuzzy thumbnail, and the new thumbnail replaces the heavier
thumbnail on the stack of 3000.
Once this set of 3000 is determined, the final step in forming the index is to assign each
actual chunk within the dataset to its proper index. This required simply processing through each
ROM file and matching each chunk to the appropriate index. Since this is not recursive or
progressive, it was possible to distribute the processing of this task to several different computers.
Eventually involving 6 computers running simultaneously,9 it was still another two days before the
fully indexed data was complete.
At this point, the remaining challenges were relatively straightforward, mainly these
end for inputting pattern queries and an efficient means for organizing the data within the index. I
also incorporated a secondary function for ROMscrape, which retrieves and lists the binary data of
each cartridge in the set. This was then cross-referenced with the search results so that a matched
chunk can be displayed in the context of the full cartridge it is extracted from.
At this point, ROMscrape was functional enough to begin using it for my research. Object
A-i is a short video of one of the search queries I performed for chapter 5. Having identified a
particular shape of interest, the numeral 3 as it appears in Berzerk, I wanted to see what other
games used that same shape or similar ones. The video demonstrates entering the 3 pattern as a
search query, and returning a result which shows six exact matches, including Berzerk, the original
game I found it in. Clicking on the "View this chunk in context" link takes me to a page illustrating
the complete contents of one of these games, Defender. The context confirms that this is indeed the
same character data that appears in Berzerk. Next, clicking on the context link for a different
9 I am grateful to my father, Paul Whalen, for donating processing time on his computer for this purpose.
chunk, one from the game Space Jockey, confirms that although this is a similar 3, the context of
this character set is not identical, it is, nevertheless, similar to Countdown, the original typeface
which may have inspired Berzerk's numbering. Finally, the chunk identified in Space Jockey can
be modified to include the full 3-character, and used as a new search query. This new query returns
the same games already identified as similar, but ranks them differently.
As may be evident in the sample query, there are a number of outlying bugs and infelicities
in the deployment of the software. In addition to improvements in the front-end, the initial process
of forming the index needs improvement, as well as the search algorithm which collates results for
odd-length queries. Essentially, there are a several stages at which an arbitrary rounding or a
similar compromise may be excluding data sets. Some basic auditing of the final stage of index
building indicates that the final distribution does not match the distribution projected by the
cumulative weight of the fuzzy thumbnails. They are similar enough to return reliable results, but
the difference indicates that some improvement is possible. The time-consuming task of
experimentation with this process will hopefully be eliminated with access to more powerful
computing resources in the future. Eventually, ROMscrape will be released to the public on a
Drupal website and contributed as an open-source module for others to extend and modify. Long-
term features will include the ability for users to save and compare search results, and add new
ROM images to the database.
It is my hope that this software proves to be a valuable addition to the field of Digital
Humanities, making it possible to mitigate the problems introduced by the heterogeneous nature of
text and image in digital environments.
START: LFDEC: .byte $78 XXXX $FEOO
SEI .byte $CC ;XX XX $FE01
CLD .byte $CC ;XX XX $FE02
LDX #$00 .byte $CC ;XX XX $FE03
LF004: LDA #$00 .byte $CC ;XX XX $FE04
LF006: STA VSYNC,X .byte $CC ;XX XX $FE05
TXS byte $CC XX XX $FE06
INX byte $78 XXXX $FE07
BNE LF006 .byte $78 XXXX $FE08
JSR LFD47 .byte $30 ; XX FE09
LDA $82 .byte $30 ; XX $ FE OA
BNE LF01B .byte $30 ; XX FEOB
LDX #$01 byte $30 ; XX $FEOC
STX $82 .byte $30 XX $FEOD
DEX .byte $70 ; XXX FEOE
JMP LF64F .byte $30 ; XX FEOF
LF01B: LDX #$07 .byte $FC ;XXXXXX $FE10
LF01D: LDA LFOAD,X .byte $CO ;XX $FEll
EOR $85 .byte $CO ;XX $FE12
AND $86 byte $78 ; XXXX FE13
STA $87,X byte $OC ; XX FE14
CPX #$01 .byte $OC ; XX FE15
BCS LF02C .byte $8C ;X XX $FE16
STA COLUBK,X .byte $78 XXXX $FE17
LF02C: DEX .byte $78 XXXX $FE18
BPL LF01D .byte $8C X XX $FE19
LDA #$21 byte $OC XX $FE1A
LDX #$00 byte $18 XX $FE1B
JSR LFDBD byte $18 ; XX $FE1C
LDA #$28 .byte OC ; XX $FE1D
INX .byte $8C ;X XX $FE1E
STX CTRLPF .byte $78 XXXX $FE1F
Figure A-1. Selection of output from Distella Dissassembler showing the separation of code and
data. This particular example is the output of the game Barn Storm.
Figure A-2. Distellamap of Adventure.bin, created by Ben Fry using a modification of Distella
Figure A-3. Screenshot of Ben Fry's Sprite Deconstructulator.
ilE [ E
ES L] l US
LI LI i Ul[[ LLIL
LILIES LIE LI1U
ELEL] EMEL]]LE B
Figure A-4. Contrasting numeric similarity with visual similarity. A) Two chunks with high
numeric similarity but low visual similarity. B) Two chunks with low numeric
similarity but high visual similarity.
LIE U E E L
LIE EII LICI CI LI
Figure A-5. Forming fuzzy thumbnails. Squares that are not the same value calculate an average
(shown in gray) between the two. A) A simple 3 x 3 grid illustrating the point. B) An
actual pair of bitmaps which might be combined within ROMscrape's index.
I : I: OMscra, l Mozilla iren o
A Odt ew Hwty BItoliats lo0s% tiip
S C Uu t p:ifY0-Qameek-*1aggrscrrapefs
; I.L, IW :' I
Rebuild NCS table
Thanks for your interest in ROMscrape. This is a bare-bones, pre-alpha
[r- oon. @D ** 1, -'- (samIe zatera
Object A-1. Video capture of ROMscrape performing a search and comparing the results. Click on
the image above to start playback; alternatively, click on this text to download the file
directly. (.avi file 8.4MB)
CHARACTER SETS, TYPEFACES, AND TYPE SPECIMENS
This appendix gathers in one location the various typefaces and character sets referenced
throughout the study. Each table below represents the character extracted from the specified
console BIOS. In most cases, these BIOS ROM images are readily available on the Internet, where
they are distributed in order to run various console emulating software. Comparing these selected
character sets reveals the subtle differences in design choices available to system designers, and
because the tables are organized chronologically, these choices bear witness to the evolution of
certain lettering styles over time.
I employed a simple Perl script to extract the data and format it into appropriately sized
Fairchild Channel F (1976)
Table B-1. Character set stored in Channel F BIOS ROM.
$0367 XXXXX** $036c X.... $0371 XXXXX** $0376 XXXXX** $037b X''X'" $0380 XXXXX ** $0385 XXXXX $038a XXXXX* $038f XXXXX*
$0369 X**X'** $036e **X.**** $0373 XXXXX'** $0378 XXXXX** $037d XXXXX* $0382 XXXXX'** $0387 XXXXX"** $038c ***X.** $0391 XXXXX'**
$036a X X' $036f X ..... $0374 X ..... $0379 ...X. .X $037e '....X'' $0383 .... X $0388 X'''X"- $038d .X. ... $0392 X'''X''
$036b XXXXX** $0370 'X.. $0375 XXXXX'** $037a XXXXX** $037f '''X'' $0384 XXXXX* $0389 XXXXX"* $038e ...X... $0393 XXXXX**
$0395 X'''X'. $039a X.****** $039f ... .X $03a4 'X .x... $03a9 ....... $03ae X'X'X' $03b3 "*X'X'' $03b8 XXXXXXXX $03bd .X .....
$0396 XXXXX.* $039b X''XXXX' $03a0 'XXXXX' $03a5 'X .x... $03aa ..X..... $03af X'XXX.** $03b4 ''X'.'.. $03b9 XXXXXXXX $03be
$0397 X $039c X' 'X' $03al ........ $03a6 X .x ... $03ab ........ $03b0 X.X.X.** $03b5 "X'X $03ba XXXXXXXX $03bf X .....
$03cl 6 ... ... $03c6 "X'X''' $03cb X'X .... $03d0 XXX XXXX $03d5 "*X' $03da X .. ... $03df X $03e4 X $03e9 ......
$03c2 ....... $03c7 *X X .X $03cc X X .... $03dl XX' X $03d6 X XXXXX $03db X. ..... $03e0 '''X'X $03e5 X. .x... $03ea ** XX ..
$03c3 XXXXX'*'* $03c8 "*X'X' $03cd X'X ..... $03d2 ..... $03d7 "X' $03dc 'X .x.... $03el ''X' $03e6 'X .x.... $03eb 'X .....
$03c4 ........ $03c9 "X'X' $03ce X'X .... $03d3 ..... .. $03d8 X' $03dd X. ..... $03e2 X .. .. $03e7 aX .... $03ec XX ......
$03c5 ........ $03ca "X'X'''* $03cf X'X .... $03d4 ....*... $03d9 "**.X'' $03de X .... $03e3 X .. $03e8 X ...* $03ed .
$03ee .... $03f3 X. ** ** $03f8 X. .
$03ef XX ..... $03f4 X ..... $03f9 X .
$03f0 X ... $03f5 X .. $03fa X .....
S$03fl **XX $03f6 X. $03fb X ...
$03f2 . $03f7 ..X. $03fc X ...
Table B-2. Character set stored in GCE Vectrex BIOS ROM. Each figure is interlaced so that the bytes which compose the image are
stored at a distance of 80 from one another.
$19f4 ........ $19f5 .X ..... $19f6 .X-X .... $19f7 .X-X ... $19f8 X ..... $19f9 XX -X... $19fa .X ... $19fb .. X .... $19fc ...X ....
$la44 ........ $la45 XXX ... $1la46 X-X .... $1la47 X .X $la48 .XXXX... $1la49 XX- -X ... $la4a -X-X .. $1a4b ..X ..... $1la4c ..X .....
$1a94 ..... $la95 XXX ... $1a96 X-X .... $1a97 XXXXX.. $ a98 X X ..... $ a99 .. X .... $ a9a -X-X .. $1a9b -X ...... $1a9 -X ......
$1ae4 ..... $lae5 .X $ ae6 ........ $ ae7 XX .X $1ae8 .-XXX .. $ lae9 ... XX $ aeb .. ... $1ae X ......
$1b34 ..... .. $1b35 ...... $ b36 ........ $1b37 XXXXX .. $lb38 XXX .... $1b39 .X ...... $1b3a X-X-X $ b3b ....... $ b3 X ......
$1b84 ..... $lb85 ....... $1b86 ........ $1b87 .X .X. $lb88 1 X-X... $1b89 X. XX... $lb8a X. ..X.. $b8b ........ $lb8$ .X .x.
$lbd4 ..... .. $1bd5 .X ..... $ bd6 ........ $lbd7 X-X ... $1bd8 XXXXX... $lbd9 X. XX .. $lbda .XX-X. $lbdb ........ $1bd ...X ....
$19fd .X ... $19fe .X .... $19ff ........ $la00 ...... $1a01 ........ $1a02 ...... $1a03 .... X .. $ a04 XX .... $1a05 X .....
$la4d .- $la4e XXX **. $la4f X ..X .... a50 ........ $1a51 ........ $1a52 ........ $1a .... X $1a54 X- -X .. $1a55 -XX ....
$la9d ...X $la9e -XXX *. $la9f X ... $laaO ........ aal ........ $1aa2 ........ $ aa3 ... $1aa4 .X- -X $laa5 X .....
$laed ...X $1aee XXX $1aef XXXXX. $laf ....... $lafl .XXX* *.* $laf2 . $ af3 .X.. $laf4 *X- -X $laf5 .X ..
$1b3d ...X.. $1b3e X-X-X .. $1b3f .X ..... $lb40 -X ..... $1b41 ........ $1b42 ........ $lb43 .X .... $1b44 X- -X... $1b45 .X ....
$1b8d ..X ... $lb8e ...... $lb8f ..X .... $lb90 .X ...... $1lb91 ........ $1lb92 ........ $ b93 X ..... $lb94 X--X ... $1b95 ..X .....
$1bdd -X .... $1bde ...... $lbdf ........ $1beO X ...... $1bel ........ $1be2 X .. .. $lbe3 X ..... $1be4 ..XX .... $1be5 -XXX ....
$1a06 .XXX.. $a07 -XXX .. $1a08 .... $a09 XXXXX $aOa .XX .. $lab XXXXX .. $1 .XXX $laOd -XXX $1a0e ........
$la56 X...X.. $la57 X ... X .. $la58 ..XX $la59 X ....... $la5a .X ..... $la5b ... ... $la5 X. .X. $la5d X ... X ... $la5e -XX .....
$aa6 .. .x $1aa7 .... X.. $1aa8 X-X laa9 XXXX $1aaa X *. $1aab .. X .... $1aa X ... X $1aad X .. X .. $1aae XX ....
$1af6 .XXX $laf7 ..XX .. $1af8 X--X $af9 ... .. $1 afa XXXX $afb ..X .. $lafc .XXX $lafd -XXXX $1afe ........
S$lb46 X .... $1b47 ... X .. $ b48 XXXXX... $lb49 .. X .. $1b4a X...X... $1b4b -X ...... $1b4c X ...X $ b4d .... X... $lb4e .XX .....
S $1b96 X ...... $1b97 X ...X.. $1b98 .. X .... $1b99 X ... X $lb9a X X .X $ b9b X ....... $ b9c X ... X $1b9d .X .... $ b9e XX .....
$1be6 XXXXX $1be7 -XXX ... $1be8 ..X ... $lbe9 .XXX. $lbea .XXX $lbeb X .. .. $Xbec XXX .. $1bed -XX ..... $bee ........
$la0f -XX... $ al0 ........ $1all ........ $la12 ........ $la13 XXX .... $1a14 -XXX .... $la15 .X... $1a16 XXXX .... $lal7 XXX ....
$1a5f -XX ... $1a60 ...X $1a61 ........ $1a62 .X .... $1a63 X ... X $ a64 X ... X $la65 X X .- $1a66 -X- -X $1a67 X ... X .
$laaf ...... $1ab0 ..x .... $ abl -XXXX .. lab2 .. .x ... lab .... X lab4 X-X-X .. Slab5 X ... X Slab6 -X--X... Slab X ......
$1aff XX... $lb00 -X ..... $lb01 ........ $ b02 ...X ... $lb03 ...X .... $ b04 X-XXX... $1b05 X. .X. $1b06 -XXX .... $ b07 X .......
$1b4f -XX ... $lb50 ..X .... $1b51 XXXX .. $b52 ..X .... $1b53 .. ..... $1b54 X-XX .... $1b55 XXXXX. $1b56 X--X... $1b57 X .......
l$b9f .x $11baO .X .. $1bal ........ $1ba2 .X ..... $1 ba3 ...* $lba4 X ....... $ ba5 X...X. $ ba6 -X--X .. $lba7 X... X .
$1bef -X .... $1bf0 ........ $lbfl ........ $1bf2 ........ $ bf3 ..X ..... $lbf4 -XXXX... $1bf5 X ...X $lbf6 XXXX .... $lbf7 XXX ...
$la18 XXXX.. $la19 XXXXX.. $1ala XXXXX... $1alb -XXXX .. $alc X...X... $1ald -XXX .. $1ale .... X. $1alf X...X... $1a20 X .......
$1a68 .X--X $1a69 X ...... $1a6a X ....... $ a6b X ...... $la6 X...X ... $1a6d ..X .... $la6e .. .x $1a6f X--X .... $1a70 X .......
$lab8 -X--X $lab9 X ...... $1aba X ....... $1abb X ...... $1ab X ... X $ abd ..X .... $labe .. .x $1abf X-X ..... $1 ac0 X .
$lb08 -X--X $1b09 XXX .... $lbOa XXX ..... $lbOb X--XX .. $lbOc XXXXX ... $lbOd ..X .... $lbOe ... .x $lbOf XX ...... $1bl0 X .......
$lb58 -X--X. $lb59 X ...... $lb5a X ....... $lb5b X ... X .. $lb5 X X .. $lb5d ..X .... $lb5e .. .x $lb5f X-X ..... $lb60 X .......
$1ba8 -X-.-X. $lba9 X ..... $lbaa X ....... $1bab X ... X .. $lbac X ... X ... $1bad ..X .... $lbae X ... X $1baf X--X .... $lbbO X ... X ...
$lbf8 XXXX.. $lbf9 XXXXX.. $bfa X ....... $bfb XXXX. $lbfc X...X... $lbfd -XXX .* $lbfe -XXX** $lbff X. X $lc00 XXXXX
$1a21 X...X.. $1a22 X X XX XX .XXX... $la25 .XXX ... $la26 XXXX ... $1a27 -XXXX Xa28 $1a29 X ... X.
$1a71 XX-XX $1a72 XX-X.. $1a73 X...X... $1a74 X ...X.. $1a75 X ...X... $ a76 X .X... $1a77 X ... X $1a78 X-X-X... $1a79 X ... X.
$lacl X-X-X ... $1ac2 X-X-X .. $lac3 X ... X ... $lac4 X ... X .. $lac5 X ... X ... $1ac6 X ...X .. $lac7 X -X .... $lac8 ..X ..... $lac9 X ... X
$1bll X-X-X ... $lb12 X--XX .. $lb13 X ... X ... $lb14 XXXX ... $lb15 X X .. $lb16 XXXX .... $lbl7 ..X $lb18 ..X ..... $lb19 X ... X
$1b61 X ... X $lb62 X ... X .. $1b63 X ... X ... $lb64 X ..... $lb65 X-X-X ... $1b66 X-X ..... $lb67 ...X .. $lb68 ..X ..... $1b69 X ... X
$1bbl X ... X $lbb2 X ... X .. $lbb3 X ... X ... $lbb4 X ...... $lbb5 X--X .... $lbb6 X--X .... $lbb7 X ... X $lbb8 ..X ..... $lbb9 X ... X
$ c01 X ... X $lc02 X ... X .. $1c03 XXXXX... $lc04 X ...... $lc05 -XX-X ... $1c06 X... X ... $lc07 -XXX .. $lc08 ..X ..... $lc09 -XXX ..
Table B-2 continued.
$1a2a X' X $la2b X X $la2c X' X' $la2d X' X' $la2e XXXXX $la2f "XXX $la30 X ..... $la31 -XXX.... $la32 X .x..
$la7a X' '' X" .. $la7b X' ..X' $la7c X' '' X' .. $la7d X' ..X' $la7e .... X' .. $la7f "X ..... $1a80 X ..... $la81 .... X' $ a82 1-X-X ....
$laca X X $lacb X X $lacc -X-X .... $lacd "X'X $lace .X .... $lacf X ...... $ladO "X .... $ladl .... X $lad2 X X'
$lbla -X-X'' $lblb X'-X-X' $lblc .X ..... $lbld $1 X .... $lble X ..... $lblf -X ..... $ b20 .x- $lb21 ... X $1b22 ........
$1b6a X X ... $lb6b X X'X' .. $lb6c "X'X ... $lb6d X .... $lb6e X ...... $lb6f X ... ... $lb70 X .... $lb71 .... X $lb72 ........
$1bba ..x $1bbb X.X.X... $1bbc X X. $1bbd X. .x .. $bbe X ....... $lbbf X .. .. $1bcO X $lbcl .... X $lbc2 ........
$lcOa X .x .. $lcb XX $1cc X ..X. $lcd .x. $lce XXXXX... $lcOf XXX ... $lc10 .X... $lcll .XXX.... $c .......
$ 3 .... $ a34 ...... $la35 .X ..... $la36 .... X $la37 .X ..... $la38 ........ $ a39 $ a3a .. $la3b XXX
$1a8 .... $la84 ...... .. $la85 XXX .... $1a86 ... X $la87 .X ..... $la88 XXX .... $1a89 .XXX. $la8a ........ $1a8b .X.. X..
$1ad3 ..... $lad4 .X $lad5 X-X-X. $lad6 XX $lad7 ..... $lad8 X.X. ad9 XXXXX $lada XX ... ladb X.XXX.X
$1b23 ........ $lb24 XXXXXXX" $lb25 .X ..... $lb26 ...x. .X $lb27 .X ..... $lb28 X.. .X. $.b29 XXXXX $lb2a XXXX .... $b2b XX. X.
$1b7 ........ $lb74 XXXXXXX $lb75 ..x ..... $b76 XXXX ... $lb77 XX'X $lb78 X ...X.. $lb79 XXXXX.. $lb7a XXXX .... $lb7b X.XXX.X.
$1bc3 ........ $lbc4 X.X ... $lbc5 X .. $bc6 XXXX .... $lbc7 .XXX .... $lbc8 .XXX .... $bc9 XXX.... $lbca "XX ..... $lbcb X.. X..
$lc13 XXXXX. $lc 4 ........ $lc15 .X ..... $lc16 XX ..... $lcl7 .X ..... $lcl8 ....... $lc 9 ........ $lcla ........ $lclb ..XXX...
$1a3 ''x ...X $1a3d ..x .... $la3e X'...X.. $1a3f X'...X.. $1a40 ........ $la41 XXXXXXX. $la42 XXXXXXXX $a43 XXXXXXX
$la8 ..X.. $1a8d .XXX'.. $la8e ........ $la8f ........ $la90 .XXXX $la91 X .... X" $la92 XXXXXXXX $la93 XXXXXXX"
$1ad ''XXX" $ladd 'X ..... $lade ........ $1adf ........ $1aeO X'.X'.X. $lael X ..... X $ae2 XXXXXXXX $lae3 XXXXXXX.
$lb2 ''XXX" $1lb2d XXXXX.. $lb2e X.....X" $lb2f ''XXX''' $lb30 X.X''X" $lb31 X .....X" $lb32 XXXXXXXX $lb33 XXXXXXX"
$lb7c XXXXX $b7d .... $b7e X...X $b7f X X $b80 XXXX $b81 X..... X $b82 XXXXXXXX $b83 XXXXXXX
$lbcc .XXXX. $lbcd .X'X.... $lbce ..XXX... $lbcf X ..... X. $bd ...... $lbdl X ..... $bd2 XXXXXXXX bd3 XXXXXXX
$lcl X ..... $lcld X...X $cle ........ $clf ........ $c20 ........ $lc21 XXXXXXX $c22 XXXXXXXX c23 XXXXXXX
Table B-3. Complete character set extracted from Intellivision graphics ROM (grom.bin). Originally, this data was stored in a ROM
chip within the Intellivision console.
$0000 ..*...... $0008 .XX' 'x $0010 -XX-*XX* $0018 ........ $0020 X. .... $0028 ........ $0030 X .... $0038 .' X .... $0040 *XXX-
$0001 ........ $0009 XX' '' $0011 "XX'XX $0019 ***X'X'' $0021 XXXXXXX" $0029 "XX**X" $0031 XXXXX $0039 X ..... $0041 .. X
$0002 ..... $0000a **XX' $0012 ... $001a *XXXXX $0022 XX*X..02 002a XX''X'' $0032 XX $003a "X ..... $0042 ...x .
$0003 ........ $000b **XX'' $0013 .. .... $001b ***X'X'' $0023 XXXXXXX" $002b ... X'' $0033 'XXX' $003b ....... $0043 ...x. .
$0004 ........ $000c ''XX' $0014 .. .... $001c ''XXXXX" $0024 ***X'XX" $002c 'X .... $0034 "XX .... $003c ........ $0044 ... .X .
$0005 ....... $000d ....... $0015 ... ... $001d ***X'X" $0025 XX'X'XX" $002d ''X'XX $0035 xXXXXX $003d ...... $0045 .. .
$0006 ..... $000e ''XX' $0016 4 .. .... $001e ........ $0026 XXXXXXX" $002e "X' 'XX" $0036 .X ..... $003e ........ $0046 ... X
$0007 ....... $000f ........ $0017 .. .... $001f ....... $0027 X .... $002f ........ $0037 ........ $003f ........ $0047 *. *XXX
$0048 "XXX''i $0050 '''X''' $0058 .. ..... $0060 ........ $0068 2 ....... $0070 ........ $0078 ...... X $0080 ..... $0088 ..
$0049 '.X.... $0051 ''XXX'' $0059 ***XX'' $0061 ....... $0069 ....... $0071 ........ $0079 .... X. X $0081 XXXXXXX" $0089 -XXX'
$004a ''X'1 $0052 "XX'XX" $005a ***XX'' $0062 ........ $006a ...... $0072 ........ $007a ...X. X' $0082 XX' 'XX" $008a ***XX''
$004b ..X'. $0053 -XXXX $005b "XXXXXX $0063 ..... .. $006b XXXXXX $0073 ........ $007b ...X $0083 XXXXX" $008b ***XX''
$004c ''X''1 $0054 ...X.. $005c ***XX''' $0064 ....... $006c ....... $0074 ........ $007c ''X' $0084 XX X'XX" $008c XX. .
$004d ''*X''** $0055 ........ $005d ***XX''' $0065 ***XX''* $006d ....*... $0075 ***XX''' $007d "X* .. $0085 XX'''XX" $008d ***XX'''
$004e '.X.. $0056 ....... $005e ..... .. $0066 ***XXX' $006e ....... $0076 ***XX''' $007e "X .... $0086 XXXXXXX $008e *XXXXXX
$004f "XXX''. $0057 ....... $005f ....... $0067 .....X $006f ... .... $0077 ....... $007f X. .. $0087 ........ $008f ...
$0090 ...... ... $0098 ........ $00a0 ....... $00a8 ....... $00b0 b ...... $00b8 .. ..... $00c0 ..... $00c8 ... $00d0 .
$0091 "XXXXXX" $0099 "XXXXXX" $00al "XX''XX" $00a9 "XXXXXX $00bl XXXXXX" $00b9 "XXXXXX" $00cl "XXXXXX $00c9 XXXXXX $00dl ...
$0092 $XX''XX" $009a ****XX $00a2 "XX''XX" $00aa "XX .. $00b2 "XX .. .. $00ba ** *XX" $00c2 "XX' XX" $00ca "XX' XX" $00d2 ***XX'
S $0093 *****XX" $009b *'XXXX' $00a3 -XX''XX- $00ab XXXXXXXX $00b3 "XXXXXX" $00bb ****XX' $00c3 ''XXXX' $00cb "XX''XX" $00d3 ***XX''
S $0094 XXXXXXX $009c .... XX" $00a4 "XXXXXX $00ac .****XX" $00b4 "XX'XX" $00bc ***XX'. $00c4 .XX XX $00cc XXXXXX $00d4 ...
$0095 "XX .. $009d ***. XX $00a5 ***XX" $00ad XX XX $00b5 XX'XX $00bd ''XX ... $00c5 XX XX $00cd ***XXX $00d5 ** XX. '
$0096 XXXXXX $009e XXXXXXX $00a6 *****XX" $00ae XXXXXXX $00b6 "XXXXXXX $00be ''XX*... $00c6 "XXXXXX" $00ce "XXXXXX" $00d6 ***XX.''
$0097 ....... $009f ....... $00a7 X....... $00af .... ... $00b7 ........ $00bf .XX ... $00c7 .... $00cf .... $00d7 .
$00d8 ..... $00e0 ....... $00e8 ........ $00f0 .. ..... $00f8 XXXXXX $0100 XXXXXXX$ $0108 "XXXXXX $0110 "XXXXXX" $0118 .XXXXXX
$00d9 ....... $00el XX" $00e9 ........ $00fl XX ... $00f9 XX XX $0101 X..... X $0109 XX XX $0111 "XX XX" $0119 6 XX XX
$00da ***XX $00e2 ***XX' $00ea "XXXXXXX $00f2 XX $00fa ***XX $0102 XXXXX $010a XXXX $0112 XX1XX $011a 6 XX ...
$00db ***XX''' $00e3 "XX .. $00eb ........ $00f3 ****XX $00fb ***XXXX" $0103 X.X.X'X" $010b "XX''XX" $0113 XXXXX' $011b "XX ...
$00dc ....... $00e4 '**'XX'** $00ec XXXXXX" $00f4 **'XX'** $00fc **XX'** $0104 X'XXXXX $010c XXXXXX" $0114 "XX''XX $011c XX *..
$00dd ***XX''' $00e5 *.....XX $00ed ........ $00f5 "XX .... $00fd ..... $0105 X ...... $010d "XX''XX" $0115 "XX''XX" $011d "XX''XX"
$00de ***XX''' $00e6 ........ $00ee ........ $00f6 ........ $00fe ***XX''' $0106 XXXXXX $010e "XX''XX" $0116 "XXXXXX" $011e *XXXXXX"
$00df X $00e7 ........ $00ef ........ $00f7 ...... $00ff ...... $0107 ...... $010f ........ $0117 ........ $011f ........
$0120 "XXXXX'' $0128 *XXXXXX" $0130 *XXXXXX" $0138 *XXXXXX" $0140 *XX**XX" $0148 *XXXXXX" $0150 *****XX" $0158 *XX**XX" $0160 -XX..
$0121 "XX''XX" $0129 "XX .... $0131 XX ..... $0139 "XX''XX" $0141 "XX''XX" $0149 ***XX' $0151 ** XX" $0159 "XX''XX" $0161 -XX- -
$0122 "XX''XX" $012a "XX ..... $0132 "XX ... $013a "XX $0142 "XX''XX" $014a ***XX' $0152 ****XX $015a "XX'XX' $0162 "XX L
$0123 "XX''XX" $012b "XXXXX'' $0133 "XXXXX'' $013b "XX'XXX" $0143 "XXXXXX" $014b ***XX''' $0153 *****XX" $015b "XXXX'' $0163 "XX*....
$0124 XXXX $012c "XX $0134 "XX .. $013c XX''XX XX $0144 XX' XX $014c ** XX''' $0154 XX' XX $015c XX'XX $0164 XX ...
$0125 "XX' XX $012d "XX .... $0135 "XX .... $013d XX'XX $0145 XX'XX $014d ***XX' $0155 XX' XX" $015d "XX XX $0165 XX .....
$0126 *XXXXX** $012e *XXXXXX 6 $0136 -XX $013e *XXXXXX $0146 *XX *XX- $014e *XXXXXX- $0156 *XXXXXX- $015e *XX**XX- $0166 *XXXXXX
$0127 ........ $012f ........ $0137 ....... $013f ...... $0147 ........ $014f ........ $0157 ........ $015f ..... $0167 .
Table B-3 continued.
$0168 X ..... $0170 X'''XX. $0178 XXXXXX" $0180 "XXXXXX" $0188 "XXXXXX" $0190 "XXXXXX" $0198 "XXXXXX" $Ola0 "XXXXXX $01a8 XX''XX
$0169 XX XX $0171 XXXX $0179 XXXX $0181 XXXX $0189 "XXXX $0191 "XXXX $0199 XXXX $01al XX $01a9 -XX--XX-
$016a XXXXXX $0172 XXXXX $017a XX- XX $0182 "XX XX" $018a "XX XX $0192 XX'XX $019a XX $01a2 XX $Olaa -XX- XX-
$016b XXXXXXX $0173 XXXXXX $017b XXXX $0183 XXXX $0193 019b "XXXXXX" $01a3 L.XX'' $Olab -XX--XX-
$016c XXXXX $0174 XXXXXX $017c "XX''XX" $0184 XXXXXX $018c XXXX $0194 XXXXX $019c XX $01a4 XX $01ac XXXX
$016d XXXXX $0175 XXXX $017d -XX--XX- $0185 "XX $018d XXXXX $0195 XXXX $019d L XXXX $01a5 XX $Olad -XX- XX-
$016e XX'XX $0176 XXXX''X" $017e XXXXXX" $0186 "XX..... $018e XXXXXX" $0196 "XX''XX" $019e "XXXXXX $01a6 ...XX'. $Olae XXXXXX"
$016f ........ $0177 ........ $017f ........ $0187 ........ $018f ...... XX $0197 ........ $019f ........ $01a7 ........ $Olaf ........
$b0 XXXX 01b8 XX.XX $01c0 XX XX $018 XX XX 1d0 XX.XXXX 01d8 *XXXX- $0e0 X ..... 01e8 XXXX $1f0 .X ...
$Olbl XX'XX $01b9 XX'XX" $01cl "XX''XX" $01c9 XX''XX $Oldl ... XX $01d9 XX''' $.. el X ...... XX $Olfl XXX'..
$01b2 "XXXX $Olba XXX'XX $01c2 XXXX'' $Olca "XX' XX" $01d2 XX'' $Olda 'XX''' $01e2 .x... $Olea .. .XX.. $01f2 "X.X.X'
$01b3 X-X-'X $Olbb XXXXX $01c3 'XX'' $Olcb "XXXX $01d3 'XX... $Oldb XXX' $01e3 X .. $Oleb .XX. $X01f3 X- -X--X
$01b4 XXXX $01bc XXXXXXX $01c4 'XXXX' $01c "XXXXXX $01d4 ''XX .... $01dc '''XX'' $01e4 X'....' $01ec ."XX' $X01f4 'X ....X
$01b5 'XX' $Olbd XX'XX $01c5 -XX- XX- $Olcd XX $01d5 XX ..... $Oldd ... XX 01e5 ...... SOled "XX' $X01f5 X .x...
$01b6 'XX' $Olbe XXXX $01c6 XX- XX $Olce .. XX.. $01d6 XXXXXX- $Olde '. XX' $01e6 .... X x $Olee .. XX... $01f6 X .x...
$01b7 ........ $Olbf ........ $01c7 .... .. Olcf ........ $01d7 ........ $Oldf XXXX- $01e7 ..... X $Olef -XXXX .. $01f7 ........
$01f8 '..X '. $0200 ''X $0208 .. ..... $0210 "XXX $0218 ....... $0220 .. XXX" $0228 ...... $0230 . $0238 ........
$01f9 .. X .... $0201 ''. X'' $0209 ........ $0211 XX .... $0219 ........ $0221 XX-' $0229 ....... $0231 XXXXX $0239 .......
$Olfa "X..... $0202 ....X.. $020a "XXXXX'' $0212 ''XXXXX" $021a "XXXXXX" $0222 "XXXXX'' $022a "XXXXXX" $0232 ''XX ... $023a "XXXXXX"
$Olfb "XXXXXX $0203 ..... $020b ....XX'' $0213 ''XX'XX $021b XX''XX $0223 XXXX'' $022b XX''XX $0233 XXXXX'' $023b XXXX
$1fc $0204 020 XXXXX $0214 XXXX 021 XX $0224 XXXX' 022 XXXXXX $0234 'XX. $023 XX'XX
$Olfd .. X''. $0205 ..... $020d XX'XX $0215 XX'XX" $021d XX .. $0225 "XX'XX' $022d XX .. $0235 ''XX.... $023d XXXXX
$ e .X $0206 $ 6 XXXXX $021e XXXX $0226 XXXXX $022 XXXXXX $026 XX $02e XX
$ ff .. $0207 $020f .. $0217 ........ $021f ........ $0227 ........ $022f ....... $0237 $023f XXXX
$0240 "XX''' $0248 ''XX'' $0250 XX" $0258 "XX ..... $0260 ''XXX''' $0268 ........ $0270 ........ $0278 ........ $0280 ........
$0241 "XX' $0249 ........ $0251 ........ $0259 .XX ..... $0261 XX''' $0269 ........ $0271 ........ $0279 ........ $0281 ........
$0242 "XXXXX" $024a .XXX'" $0252 .....XX" $025a "XX''XX" $0262 '''XX''' $026a XXXXXXX" $0272 "XXXXXX" $027a "XXXXXX" $0282 "XXXXXX"
$0244 XXXX" $024c ''XX'' $0254 .....XX" $025c XXXX' $0264 6 ''XX''' $026c XXXXXX" $0274 XX'XX $027c XX'XX" $0284 'XX'XX
$0245 XX'XX $024d ''XX'' $0255 'XX'XX $025d XX'XX $0265 6 ''XX''' $026d XXX'XX" $0275 XX'XX" $027d "XX'XX $0285 XXXXX
$0246 "XX'XXX" $024e XXXXXX $0256 XXXX $025e XXXX $0266 XXXXX6 $026e XXX'XX" $0276 "XX'XX" $027e XXXXXX $0286 ''XX...
$0247 ....... $ .024f ....... $0257 XXXXX" $025f ........ $0267 ..... $026f ........ $0277 ....... $027f ........ $0287 ''XX ..
$0288 ...... $0290 .. ..... $0298 ........ $02a0 ........ $02a8 ..... $02b0 .... .. $02b8 ....... $02c0 .. .. .. $02c8 .
$0289 ........ $0291 .. .. $0299 ........ $02al XX $02a9 ...... $02bl ..... .. $02b9 ... .. $02cl ........ $02c9 ........
$028a "XXXXX'' $0292 "XXXXXX" $029a "XXXXXX" $02a2 "XXXXXX" $02aa "XX'XX'' $02b2 "XX''XX" $02ba XX'X'XX" $02c2 "XX''XX" $02ca "XXX'XX"
028b XXXX $0293 XXXX $029b XX..... $02a3 ''XX $02ab XXXX $02b3 XX''XX $02bb XX'X'XX $023 ''XXXX'' $02cb XXXX
$028c "XX'XX'' $0294 "*XX ... $029c "XXXXXX" $02a4 ''XX ... $02ac "XX'XX'' $02b4 "XX''XX" $02bc XX'X'XX" $02c4 '''XX''' $02cc 'XX'XX"
$028d "XXXXX' $0295 "XX.... 029d .. .... XXX $02a5 'XX.. $02ad XXXX $02b5 XXXX $02bd XXXXXXX $02c5 XXXX $02cd XXXXX
$028e '''XX'' $0296 "XX ... $029e "XXXXXX" $02a6 ''XXXXX" $02ae "XXXXXX" $02b6 '''XX''' $02be XX'XX' $02c6 XX''XX $02ce ... XX"
$028f ''' *XXX" $0297 ....... $029f ........ $02a7 ........ $02af ..... $02b7 ........ $02bf ........ $02c7 .. ... .. $02cf XXXXX
$02d0 ........ $02d8 ''XXX $02e0 XX' $02e8 "XXX' $02f0 ......
$02dl ....... $02d9 'X $02el 'XX' $02e9 'X $02fl ........
$02d2 "XXXXXX" $02da '''X '''x $02e2 '''XX' $02ea 'X' $02f2 ......
$02d3 .....XX" $02db "XX.. $02e3 '''XX''' $02eb ....XX" $02f3 "XXXX'
$02d4 '''XX''' $02dc '''X ''' $02e4 '''XX''' $02ec ''X'.. $02f4 2 'XXXX
$02d5 "XX .... $02dd .X $02e5 'XX' $02ed 'X .. $02f5 ........
$02d6 "XXXXXX" $02de ''' XXX- $02e6 'XX' $02ee -XXX' .. $02f6 ........
Table B-4. Character set extracted from ColecoVision original BIOS.
$5515 -XXXXXX" $5523 ***XXXXX $5531 X'...X'. $5539 ........ $5547 ".X
$5516 X ...... $5524 ... X. $5532 "XX'XX' $5540 ....... $5548 "X
$5517 X.XXXX'X $5525 'X". $5533 "X'X'X'' $5541 ....... $5549 X
$5518 X X ... .X $5526 .. 'X. $5534 "X'X'X'' $5542 ...... $5550 X
$5519 X X .. X $5527 ..... $5535 ........ $5543 ...... $5551 X
$5520 X.XXXX6X $5528 .... $5536 .. $5544 ....... $5552
$5521 X .. .. X $5529 .... $5537 ........ $5545 .. $5553 X
$5522 -XXXXXX $5530 ..... $5538 ........ $5546 ........ $5554
$5587 "X ....6 $5595 X $5603 .X ..... $5611 .X $5619 .X
$5588 X'X'''** $5596 X .x .... $5604 X .. .... $5612 X .... $5620 X'X
$5589 X6X''' $5597 X. .. .. $5605 X ...... $5613 ....X. $5621 XX
$5590 "X* .... $5598 ........ $5606 X ... ... $5614 .... X $5622 **X
$5591 X X X $5599 .... $5607 X .***.. $5615 .... X $5623 .XX:
$5592 XX'X' $5600 ........ $5608 X ... $5616 X .... $5624 X'X
$5593 .XX X. $5601 ..... $5609 .X ... $5617 .X .. $5625 .*X
$5594 ..... $5602 ...... $5610 .. ..... $5618 ...... $5626
$5659 ........ $5667 "XXX.*** $5675 .X ..... $5683 -XXX.*** $5691 XXX;
$5660 .'.X.. $5668 X ... X $5676 .XX ... $5684 X X .. $5692
$5661 6..X.' $5669 X XX $5677 .X ..... $5685 ...X. $5693
$5662 .X .... $5670 X'X X ** $5678 .X ..... $5686 .XX. $5694 X
S$5663 .X .... $5671 XX X6 ... $5679 .X ..... $5687 X ..... $5695
$5664 X ...... $5672 X ..X $5680 .X ..... $5688 X..... $5696 X
$5665 ........ $5673 "XXX** $5681 XXX $5689 XXXXX ** $5697
$5666 ...... $5674 ........ $5682 ........ $5690 ....... $5698
$5731 -XXX *** $5739 -XXX.*** $5747 ........ $5755 ........ $5763 **
$5732 X' 'X" 5 $5740 X 'X ... $5748 ........ $5756 .... $5764 ..X
$5733 X ..X. $5741 X ..X. $5749 .X ..... $5757 X .. $5765 -X
$5734 "XXX.*** $5742 "XXXX.. $5750 ....... $5758 ...... $5766 X
$5735 X. .X.. $5743 ... X $5751 X ..... $5759 X .... $5767 -X
$5736 X ..X. $5744 X .... $5752 ........ $5760 ..X'.'.. $5768 **X
$5737 "XXX ... $5745 XXX .... $5753 ........ $5761 "X ..... $5769 *.*
$5738 ........ $5746 ........ $5754 ........ $5762 ........ $5770 ..
$5803 $5811 XXXX $5819 $5827 XXXX9 XX $5835 XXX:
$5804 "X'X ... $5812 X .X'. $5820 X .X'. $5828 X .X $5836 X.
$5805 X.. X .. $5813 X ... $5821 X ....... $5829 X .X". $5837 X.
$5806 X' 'X" $5814 XXXX ... $5822 X ....... $5830 X .X $5838 XXX:
$5807 XXXXX* $5815 X.'.X.. $5823 X ...... $5831 X ..X. $5839 X
$5808 X .'.X". $5816 X'''X'' $5824 X' 'X' $5832 X X X X $5840 X.
$5809 X...X.. $5817 XXXXL7 $5825 "XXX.*** $5833 XXXX.. $5841 XXX:
$5810 ...... $5818 ........ $5826 ........ $5834 ...... $5842
)555 -X.X. *
556 *X'X *
)55 8 ..... ..*
)55 9 ..... ..*
5560 ..... ..
5561 ..... ..
5562 ..... ..
5628 X .. ...
5629 *'*X .*.*
632 .' X .....
5699 X. X ....
5704 '''X ....
)705 X ....*
5844 X ......
5845 X .... ..
5846 XXXX" ..
5847 X .... ..
5848 X .... ..
9 X .......
5564 -X-X *
5566 "X'X'* *
5568 "X'X'* *
5569 -X-X *
5641 .X X...
,571 X .....*
,573 X'X .....
,574 "XXX ....
,576 XXXX ....
,577 X ......
,716 X. .....
,717 X .***...
,718 XXXX ....
,721 "XXX ....
859 X' ..'X'
860 X'''X' ''
861 X' 'X' '
863 X ... X
864 X ... X
865 X .X ..
5579 XX ......
581 X ....
5582 "'X ....
5583 X ....
5657 X .....
5724 .... X''
5725 "'X ....
5726 X .....
5728 *X .....
5795 *XXX ....
5796 X.X. **
5798 X.XXX '**
5799 X XX....
5800 X .......
5801 *XXXX* *
5868 X. .....
5869 'X .....
5870 'X .....
5871 X .....
5872 'X .....
5873 "XXX ....
79 "X .....
31 '''X ''...
2 .... X" ..
85 X X X...
52 X .....
X .. ..
Table B-4 continued.
$5875 .... X $5883 X. X *
$5876 .... X $5884 X--X.* *
$5877 .* .X $5885 X-X ....
$5878 .... X $5886 XX.....
$5879 ...X ** $5887 X X ....*
$5880 X'''X"* $5888 X''X'''
$5881 "XXX ... $5889 X ...X .
RR 88 ....... 5890 .......
X XX **
$5949 X .....*
$5951 *.... X *
$6020 X .....
$6022 .X ... .
$6023 ...X ..
$6091 .. ...
$6094 Xxx ...
$6095 XXX... *
6098 .. ...
$6165 X ...X..
$6169 X..* X. *
5 "XXX ....
1 XXX ...
5891 X ... ...
5892 X ... ...
5893 X ......
65894 X ......
65895 X ***...
$5896 X ......
$5964 X X .X .
$5965 X **X '*
$5966 X **X '*
$5967 X **X '*
$5968 X" "X' ''
5970 .. ...
$6035 .. *
6037 X ...* ..
$6038 "X'X ....
6039 X'''X' ''
$5956 .X ...*
$5957 "'X ....
$5958 'X .... .
$5959 "'X ....
$5960 'X .... .
$5961 "X .xx..
$6028 ***XX' "
$6029 *XX *
$6030 ** XX' *
$6104 X ... ...
$6105 X ...
$6106 ... ....
$6171 .. *...
$6176 X*' X'. *
$6178 .. .....
$6244 ... ...
$6246 "XX** .
$6247 *"*X ** *
$6248 *XX ....
27 X .....
28 X .....
98 **X *'* *
b5971 X ..X. .
$5972 X ..X. .
5977 *X ....*
$5978 .. .....
6 1 7 ... ...
$6117 X*'*X '*
$6118 X'* *X' *
x. $5 ..
x. ..* X $5!
*X. X *** $5.
* .x ***. $5.
x.- *x. $61
. .x. $6
X... .. $6.
;6181 XXXX ....
;6182 X.* X. *
66183 XXXX ....
;6184 X .......
66185 X .......
$6251 .. ....
$6253 X*'*X '*
$6254 "X'X ....
$6255 X .....
6256 X .....
$5979 X'''X' '"
$5980 X'''X' '"
15981 X *' X''*
15982 X X.. X .
15983 X X.. X .
16051 *X" *X ...
16052 **X X ..
6053 I ''X* ...
16054 ... ...
16057 .. ....
16130 .' .....
16127 XX .....
16128 **X ...*
6130 X.*. .
6200 XX .....
162 02 .. .....
$6268 "X ......
6269 ''X. ...
16272 "X ......
16273 *'XXX '*
)1 X'*X 'X *
)3 X X" "
x6 ... ...
x .. .
$6063 XXXXX** $6071 "XXX***
$6064 X'''X''' $6072 "X''X"**
$6065 X'''X''' $6073 XXXX...
6066 ........ $6074 ...
$6131 ........ $6139 .......
$6132 ........ $6140 .......
$6133 -XXX *** $6141 X '-X'.* *
$6134 .X ....* $6142 X'X **. *
6135 .X .... $6143 XX ....*
66136 X X. .. .. $6144 X X ..
$6137 XXX....* $6145 X .X'. .
$6138 ........ $6146 .....
6203 ........ $6211 ......
6204 ........ $6212 .. ..
$6205 "XXXX** $6213 XXXXX"**
6206 X ....... $6214 ..X ...
$6207 -XXX .... $6215 X .x ..
$6208 ... X'' $6216 ''X' ''
$6209 XXXX.*** $6217 ..X ..
6210 ... $6218 .....
6275 X ...... $6283 XXXX*X* *
6276 .X ..... $6284 X .X.
66277 X.X .... $6285 ..x....
66278 .... X $6286 ***XX .
$6279 .'X $6287 ..x ..
$6280 X..... $6288 .. x ...
$6281 *X.***** $6289 XXX ** *
6282 x.........62 x .
x. ** ***
:6 6 XXXXX"
j6 6 XXXXX"
;5931 *XXX ....
5932 X ..X. .
;5933 X'X* .X .
;5935 X *X*X'*
$5936 X''X ....
$5937 "XX'X' *
;6004 .... X ..
;6005 *X ....*
$6006 X .....
;6007 X ......*
;6077 -XXXX' *
$6078 X .......
;6081 "XXXX '*
6219 .. ...
16221 X''x. .
16222 X 'X '*'* .
16223 X ...X .
;6224 X... X'''
19 XXXX ..
:1 X'''X *'*
42 XXXX* ...
3 X X .....
4 X .X ....
616 2 ........
$6300 "X-X- *
Table B-5. Character set extracted from alternate ColecoVision BIOS.
5516 X ...... X
5518 X'X xx* X
594 ... ....
660 .... XX
5661 .... XX.
5662 ... XX.
5663 ..XX ...
5664 .XX ...
5665 .XX ....
738 .. ..
I .xx... ..
5524 .... X.
552 5 "''* XX"
552 6 "''* XX"
527 ... ..
5 7530 ...XX ..
x531 -X X..
,534 .X'X .'X
,603 .... XX'"
5605 ".XX ....
5606 "XX ....
5607 ".XX ....
5609 .... XX-.
5675 .... XX'"
5677 .... XX'"
5678 .... XX'"
5679 .... X '
5680 .... .XX
74682 .X. x .
5749 ... XX ...
5821 "XX .....
5824 "XX. XX
5611 .-XX ...
5612 ... XX ..
5613 .... XX-.
5614 .... XX-.
5615 .... XX-.
5616 .XX ..
5617 ..XX ...
5686 ... XXX.
5687 ..XXX ...
5760 ...XX ..
6 n xxxx
5548 XX ...
5549 XX ...
5551 ... ...
5694 .... XXX
5764 "' XX''"
6 ----- ------
5767 "'XX ....
5836 .XX. X
5837 'XX ....
560 ... ...
627 ... ...
5631 '''XX' .
633 ... ...
5699 ..... XX-
1700 .... XXX-
5702 ''X''X X"
5704 ..... XX
6705 ..... x.
5845 ''XX ....
5846 9 XXXX'
1847 ''XX ....
1848 ''XX ....
5849 "XXXX' '
5566 "XX' XX"
6779 >XX ..XX
D635 ... ...
636 .... .
563 7 .......
D638 ... ...
642 .x .
5709 "XXX ....
5779 "XXX ....
5781 ....XX '"
578 3 ....XX .'"
,575 ..... ."
,576 "XXXXX '.
5577 ..X. .X ..
,716 "XX 'XX
,719 "XX''' X
,720 XX, 'XX
5789 ...... XX
,790 X..... "
5581 .... XX'.
.65 x ..
655 .. x ...
5725 ..... "
5726 ....xX '
5727 ''XX ..
5 "..XXX .
.7 *XX' **XX
.8 *XX ***XX
19 *XX XX
$5877 X..... X
$5881 "XXXX .
$5951 ...... XX
$5954 ... ...
$6019 .... .
$6022 ** *XX' '
$6023 "''*XX' "
$6025 ..... XX
$6096 "XX **. *
$6235 6 .
$6237 6 XX'*'XX
$6241 "XX '**XX
28 *XX ****
29 "XX .....
96 *XX** XX
98 ** XX*XX
)1 *XXX* **
384 *XX *XX*
Table B-5 continued.
5892 *XX ....
5893 *XX ....
5894 -XX* ....
5895 XX* *XX
$5896 "XX'' XX
$5966 "XX '**XX
5967 -XX** XX
$5969 XXXX' "
$6035 ***X .*
$6037 *X'* *X' "
$5977 *"*XX '*
$6043 ... ....
$6099 .... XXX
$6103 **' XX' *
$6104 *"*XX "*
$6174 6 XX''XX
$6176 -XX:*. XX
15980 "'XX. XX
15981 .XX. XX
16051 *" XX.*.*
16052 "'XX ....
$6053 "''XX' '"
6055 6 .
16126 '** XX'
16128 "** XX'
16267 *. **XXX"
16268 *"* XX '*
16269 *"* XX '*
16271 *"* XX '*
16272 ***XX' '
16273 *. **XXX"
* XX **. *
;6185 "XX .....
;6186 "XX .....
* *XX'XX" $5!
* **XXX'* $5!
* *XX'XX" $5!
* XX'**XX $61
* XX'**XX $61
:6 6 ~xxxxxxx
$6059 ........ $6067 -XX .....
$6060 ........ $6068 -XX .....
$6061 **XXXXXX $6069 *XX*XXX*
6062 "XX*xXX $6070 -XXXXX
$6063 "XX'*'XX $6071 "XX*'XX
$6064 "XX''XXX $6072 "XX'*'XX
$6065 **XXX'XX $6073 *'XXXXX"
6066 ...... $6074 .....
$6131 ........ $6139 -XX .....
$6132 ........ $6140 "XX **. *
$6133 **XXXXXX $6141 *XX**XX
$6134 *.....XX $6142 "XX'XXX"
$6135 .....XX" $6143 *XXXXX'*
$6136 .....XX. $6144 "XX''XXX
$6137 $XX''XX" $6145 "XX'*'XX
$6138 *"XXXX'* $6146 ........
6203 ........ $6211 *.... XX-
$6204 ........ $6212 *** XX'
76205 *'XXXXX $6213 **XXXXXX
$6206 XXX* X $6214 ** XX *
'6207 *.*XXX'* $6215 ** XX '*
$6208 "X'*'XXX $6216 **"XX'XX
$6209 *'XXXXX" $6217 ***'XXX"
$6210 ........ $6218 .. ..
6275 *X ***... $6283 "XXX ..
$6276 *'*X *** $6284 ** XX '*
$6277 **X *'* $6285 *"*XX '*
$6278 .... X'* $6286 *XX'
$6279 **X'** $6287 *.*XX '*
$6280 *"*X *** $6288 *"*XX '*
$6281 *"X **** $6289 "XXX .*
$6282 ........ $6290 ........
$5933 *XX'* *XX
;6005 *... XX"
;6010 4 .
$6079 "XX **. *
$6012 *XX ....
$6013 **XX ....
$6014 "* XX ....
$6015 "*XX ....
$6016 *XX ....
j6 6 x~xx~x
Table B-6. Character set extracted from Atari 5200 BIOS ROM image.
$0000 ...... $0008 ..... $0010 ........ $0018 ........ $0020 ***XX' $0028 ........ $0030 XXX' $0038 .. ..... $0040 ...
$0001 .*.*..*. $0009 ***XX''" $0011 "XX''XX" $0019 "XX''XX" $0021 "'XXXXX" $0029 "XX''XX" $0031 "'XX'XX" $0039 ***XX'"* $0041 ****XXX"
$0002 ..... $000a ***XX'' $0012 *XX**XX" $001a XXXXXXXX $0022 "XX $002a "XX'XX'' $0032 *'**XXX $003a ***XX'' $0042 **.*XXX
$0003 ........ $000b ***XX' $0013 "XX''XX" $001b "XX''XX" $0023 'XXXX' $002b ***XX-- $0033 **XXX' $003b ***XX' $0043 ***XX
$0004 ........ $000c ***XX $0014 .. ..... $001c "XX' XX" $0024 ** XX" $002c **XX $0034 "XX XXXX $003c ...... $0044 .XX. ..
$0005 ....... $000d ...... $0015 ........ $001d XXXXXXXX $0025 XXXXX" $002d "XX 'XX $0035 "XX 'XX" $003d ... .. $0045 ***XXX
$0006 ....*... $000e ***XX''' $0016 ........ $001e "XX**XX" $0026 ***XX' $002e "X' XX" $0036 **XXX*XX $003e ..... $0046 ***XXX
$0007 ...... $000f ........ $0017 ........ $001f ...... $0027 ...... $002f ........ $0037 ........ $003f ...... $0047
$0048 ........ $0050 .. ... $0058 .. ..... $0060 ........ $0068 ..... $0070 .. ..... $0078 *....... $0080 ....... $0088
$0049 "XXX*'** $0051 "XX''XX" $0059 ***XX' $0061 ........ $0069 ..... $0071 .. ..... $0079 ****XX $0081 ''XXXX" $0089 ***XX'
$004a ''XXX"i $0052 ''XXXX'' $005a ***XX'' $0062 ....... $006a ...... $0072 .. .... $007a .. XX'' $0082 "XX'XX" $008a ''XXX'
$004b ''XX" $0053 XXXXXXXX $005b "XXXXXX" $0063 ....... $006b *XXXXXX $0073 ........ $007b ***XX' $0083 "XX'XXX" $008b ***XX'''
$004c ***XX". $0054 0e XXXX'' $005c ***XX' $0064 ....... $006c ...... $0074 *.*..... $007c ''XX ... $0084 "XXX'XX" $008c ** XX'
$004d ''XXX"1 $0055 "XX''XX" $005d ***XX''' $0065 ***XX" $006d ...... $0075 ***XX''' $007d "XX .. $0085 "XX'XX" $008d ***XX -
$004e "XXX*'** $0056 ........ $005e .. .... $0066 ***XX" $006e ....... $0076 ** *XX. $007e .X. $0086 XXXX' $008e *XXXXXX
$004f ...... $0057 ....... $005f .. ..... $0067 **XX' $006f ...... $0077 .... ... $007f ...... $0087 ........ $008f .
$0090 ... .. $0098 ..... $00a0 ........ $00a8 ....... $00b0 ...... $00b8 ..... $00c0 ..... $00c8 ........ ........
$0091 .XXXX'' $0099 "XXXXXX" $00al ****XX'' $00a9 "XXXXXX" $00bl ''XXXX'' $00b9 "XXXXXX" $00ci ''XXXX'' $00c9 ''XXXX'' $00dl .....
$0092 "XX XX $009a .* *XX $00a2 ***XXX' $00aa "XX ... $00b2 XX .... $00ba *..* XX $00c2 "XX'XX" $00ca "XX'XX" $00d2 XX
$0093 ****XX'' $009b ***XX''' $00a3 ''XXXX'' $00ab XXXXX'' $00b3 "XXXXX'' $00bb ****XX'' $00c3 *'XXXX'' $00cb *'XXXXX" $00d3 ***XX''
S$0094 ** XX $009c **XX $00a4 XX'XX' $00ac ** XX $00b4 "XX' XX" $00bc ***XX $00c4 XX XX $00c XX. $00d4 ....
$0095 .*XXx .. $009d XX'XX" $00a5 "XXXXXX" $00ad "XX'XXx $00b5 "XX'XX" $00bd 'XX. $00c5 "XX XX" $00cd .***XX' $00d5 ***XX'.
$0096 "XXXXXX" $009e ".XXXX' $00a6 ....XX'x $00ae *XXXX' $00b6 XXXX'' $00be **XX ... $00c6 ''XXXX'' $00ce ''XXX''' $00d6 **XX-
$0097 ....... $009f ....... $00a7 ...... $00af .. ..... $00b7 ........ $ 0bf ........ $00c7 ........ $ cf $00d7 .......
$00d8 ....... $00e0 .* XX" $00e8 ........ $00f0 "XX .. $00f8 ..... .. $0100 .... ... $0108 ........ $0110 $0118 ........
$00d9 ...... $00el ****XX'' $00e9 ........ $00fl ''XX' $00f9 ''XXXX' $0101 ''XXXX' $0109 ***XX''' $0111 "XXXXX'' $0119 ''XXXX''
$00da ***XX" $00e2 ***XX'' $00ea "XXXXXX" $00f2 ***XX'' $00fa XX'XX" $0102 XX'XX $010a *XXXX' $0112 XX'XX $011a "XX'XX
$00db ***XX" $00e3 "XX ... $00eb ...XX .. $00f3 **XX" $00fb XX $0103 XXX XXX" $010b XX' XX" $0113 XXXXX $011b XX ...
$00dc ..J.... $00e4 ***XX' $00ec ........ $00f4 ***XX" $00fc ***XX'' $0104 "XX'XXX" $010c "XX' XX" $0114 XX XX" $011c XX .....
$00dd ***XX" $00e5 ** *XXXX $00ed XXXXXX- $00f5 ''XX''* $00fd ...... $0105 "XX ... $010d "XXXXXX" $0115 "XX'XX $011d "XX''XX
$00de ***XX". $00e6 X*X XX" $00ee ....... $00f6 "XX'''* $00fe ***XX' $0106 XXXXXX $010e XX XX $0116 XXXXX" $011e XXXX
$00df ..XX'. $00e7 $ ....... $00ef .... ... $00f7 ..... $00ff ....... $0107 .. $010f ........ $0117 ........ $011 ........
$0120 ........ $0128 ..... .. $0130 ...... $0138 .... .. $0140 ..0.0 .. $0148 ........ $0150 ........ $0158 $0160 ......
$0121 "XXXX'' $0129 *XXXXXX" $0131 *XXXXXX" $0139 *'XXXXX" $0141 *XX**XX" $0149 *XXXXXXX $0151 ***** XXX $0159 *XX**XX" $0161 -XX.....
$0122 "XXXX $012a "XX .... $0132 -XX -... $013a "XX ... $0142 "XX XX $014a **XX XXXX $0152 ***XX $015a XX'XX $0162 -XX- --
$0123 XX''XX $012b XXXXX'' $0133 XXXXX'' $013b .XX ... $0143 "XXXXXX $014b ***XX''' $0153 *****XX $015b XXXX'' $0163 -XX ...
$0124 "XX''XX" $012c "XX .. $0134 "XX ..... $013c "XX'XXX" $0144 "XX''XX" $014c ***XX''' $0154 ****XX $015c "XXXX''' $0164 -XX .....
$0125 "XX'XX'' $012d "XX .... $0135 -XX ..- $013d -XX' XX" $0145 "XX''XX" $014d ***XX'' $0155 "XX' XX" $015d "XX'XX' $0165 -XX- --
$0126 "XXXX''' $012e *XXXXXX $0136 "XX*.... $013e **XXXXX" $0146 *XX**XX" $014e *XXXXXX" $0156 *$XXXX'' $015e *XX**XX" $0166 *XXXXXX"
$0127 ........ $012f ........ $0137 ........ $013f ........ $0147 ........ $014f ........ $0157 ........ $015f ........ $0167 ........
Table B-6 continued.
$0168 . .. $0170 . . $0178 ..... $0180 . . $0188 . . $0190 ....... $0198 . . $01a0 . ... $01a8 . ...
$0169 XX XX $0171 XX''XX $0179 ''XXXX'' $0181 XXXXX'' $0189 ''XXXX'' $0191 XXXXX'' $0199 ''XXXX'' $01al XXXXXX $01a9 -XX--XX
$016a "XXXXXX $0172 $XXXXX $017a -XX--XX- $0182 XXXX $018a -XX--XX- $0192 -XX--XX- $019a XX..... $01a2 ..XX'' $Olaa -XX--XX-
$016b XXXXXXX $0173 $XXXXXX $017b -XX--XX- $0183 XXXX $018b -XX--XX- $0193 -XX--XX- $019b XXXX-- $01a3 ..XX'' $Olab -XX--XX-
$016c XXX-XX $0174 $XXXXXX $017c -XX--XX- $0184 XXXXX $018c -XX--XX- $0194 -XXXXX' $019c ..... XX- $01a4 .XX'' $01.ac -XX--XX-
$016d XX XX $0175 XXXXX $017d XXXX $0185 XX ..... $018d XXXX $0195 XXXX $019d ..... XX $01a5 .XX' $Olad -XX--XX-
$016e XX XX $0176 XXXX $017e ''XXXX'' $0186 "XX .... $018e "XX'XX" $0196 XXXX $019e ''XXXX'' $01a6 .XX'' $Olae 6XXXXXX-
016f ........ $0177 ........ $017f ........ $0187 ........ $018f ....... $0197 ........ $019f ........ $01a7 ..... af ........
$01b0 .xx...... $00 .xx .x .x $ 8 .xx. .x.. .x.. ...x ... ... ......
$OlbO ........ $01b8 ........ $01c0 ........ .. ....... $01d8 ...O ........ $. xx xx01e8 ... $OlfO
$01bl XX''XX $01b9 XX XX $01cl XX''XX $019 XX''XX $01dl XXXXXX $01d9 XXXX $01el X. $01e9 "XXXX $01fl ....x.
$01b2 -XXXX $01ba XX XX 01c2 -XX--XX $Olca xXXXX $01d2 ....XX'' $Olda ''XX'' $01e2 -XX ..... $01lea x XX' $01f2 x XX..
$01b3 XXXX $01bb XXXXX $01c3 XXXX $01cb XXXX $01d3 '''XX''' $Oldb xxXX' $y01e3 -XX .... $01eb x x XX $01f3 x.XX.XX.
$01b4 XXXX $01bc XXXXXXX $01c4 'XXXX'' $01c ''XX'' $01d4 XX.... $01dc '''XX' $ 01e4 ''XX'' $01ec x x XX $01f4 XX ... XX
$01b5 "XXXX $Olbd 6XXX'XXX $01c5 -XX--XX- $Olcd XX $01d5 "XX $Oldd ''XX' $01e5 XX' SOled ''XX' $01f5 ..
$01b6 ''XX'' $Olbe "XX''XX $01c6 -XX--XX- $01ce ''XX'' $01d6 "XXXXXX" $Olde '''XXXX- $01e6 XX- $Olee -XXXX' .. $01f6 .......
$01b7 ........ $Olbf ........ $01c7 ........ $Olcf ........ $01d7 ..... .. $Oldf ........ $01e7 ........ $Olef ...... $01f7 ........
$01f8 ....... $0200 ....... $0208 XX' $0210 ...... XX $0218 .. XX'' $0220 ...XX''' $0228 ........ $0230 ..... XX $0238 XX .....
$01f9 ........ $0201 XX'XX $0209 ...XX''' $0211 ...... XX $0219 ....XX'' $0221 '''XX''' $0229 ....... $0231 XXX $0239 XXX ....
$Olfa ........ $0202 "XXXXXXX $020a 'XX' $0212 ...... XX $021a ''XX'' $0222 '''XX''' $022a ........ $0232 'XXX" $023a XXX ....
$01lfb ........ $0203 XXXXXXX $020b XXXXX $0213 ......X $021b XXXXX $0223 XXXXX $022b XXXXX'' $0233 .XXX" $023b 'XXX'''
$01fc ........ $0204 XXXXX $020c XXXXX $0214 ......XX $021c XXXXX $0224 XXXXX' $022 XXXXX $0234 .XXX'' $023c 'XXX'
$Olfd ....... $0205 ''fXXX'' $020d ... .XX. $0215 ...... XX $021d ........ $0225 ...XX''' $022d '''XX''' $0235 XXX' $X023d .... XXX
$Olfe XXXXXXXX $0206 '''X''' $020e '''XX''' $0216 XXXX $021e ....... $0226 '''XX''' $022e '''XX''' $0236 XXXX. $.023e ....XXX
X $Oiff ....... $0207 ....... $020f '''XX''' $0217 ...... XX $021f ........ $0227 '''XX''' $022f '''XX'' $0237 XXXX ... $023f .. XX
$0240 ...... X $0248 ..... $0250 XX ..XXX $0258 XX. XXXX $0260 XXXX' $0268 XXXXXXXX $0270 ... $0278 ....... $0280 ........
$0241 ..... XX $0249 ........ $0251 XX ..... $0259 XXXX $0261 XXXXX X $0269 XXXXXXXX $0271 ........ $0279 ....... $0281 '''XXX'
$0242 .... XXX $024a ..... $0252 XXX $025a ...XXXX $0262 XXXX $026a ...... $0272 ........ $027a ....... $0282 x ..XXX.
$0243 XXXX $024b $0253 XXXX $025b .... XXXX $0263 XXXX $026b ..... $0273 ........ $027b ....... $0283 "XXX'XXX
$0244 XXXXX $024c XXXX $0254 XXXXX $ x025xc .... $0264 ...... $026c ........ $0274 ........ $027c XXXX $0284 "XXX'XXX
$0245 XXXXXX $024d x XXXX $0255 XXXXXXxx $025d ..... $0265 ........ $026d ....... $0275 ... $027d XXXX''' $0285 x.... ..X
$0246 XXXXXXX $024e .XXXX $0256 XXXXXXX" $025e ..... $0266 ...... $026e ..... $0276 XXXXXXXX $027e XXXX''3 $0286 ''XXXX''
$0247 XXXXXXXX $024f XXXX $0257 XXXXXXXX 025f ........ $0267 ...... $026f ..... $0277 XXXXXXXX 027f XXXX' $0287 ........
$0288 ....... $0290 .... ... $0298 '''XX''' $02a0 ....... $02a8 ...... $02b0 XX ... $02b8 ........ $02c0 ..XX. $02c8 XXXX ....
$0289 ........ $0291 ....... $0299 '''XX''. $02al ....... $02a9 ...... $02bl XX. .... $02b9 ........ $02cl 'XX'' $02c9 XXXX. ....
$028a ........ $0292 ....... $029a '''XX''' $02a2 XXXX" $02aa ....... $02b2 XX. $02ba ........ $02c2 .XX. $02ca XXXX ....
$028b ''XXXXX $0293 XXXXXXXX $029b XXXXXXXX $02a3 "XXXXXX" $02ab ........ $02b3 XX .... $02bb XXXXXXXX $02c3 XXXXXXXX $02cb XXXX ...
$028c ''XXXXX $0294 XXXXXXXX $029c XXXXXXXX $02a4 "XXXXXX" $02ac XXXXXXXX $02b4 XX .... $02bc XXXXXXXX $02c4 XXXXXXXX $02cc XXXX ...
$028d ''.XX'' $0295 ........ $029d '''XX'' $02a5 "XXXXXX $02ad XXXXXXXX $02b5 XX. $02bd .XX' $02c5 .. .. .... $02cd XXXX ....
$028e ''XX'''. $0296 ........ $029e '''XX''' $02a6 ''XXXX' $02ae XXXXXXXX $02b6 XX. .. $02be '''XX' $02c6 ........ $02ce XXXX. ....
$028f ''XX''' $0297 ........ $029f '''XX''' $02a7 ........ $02af XXXXXXXX $02b7 XX. .... $02bf 'XX' $02c7 ........ $02cf XXXX ....
Table B-6 continued.
$02d0 XX... $02d8 XXXX. $02e0 ........ $02e8 ........ $02f0 ........ $02f8 ... .... $0300 .... ... $0308 ........ $0310
$02dl ***XX... $02d9 .XX .... $02el ***XX... $02e9 ***XX. $02fl ***XX. $02f9 *...XX.. $0301 ***XX.. $0309 ........ $0311 XX ....
$02d2 *.**XX.. $02da .XXXX. $02e2 XXXX. $02ea **.*XX. $02f2 ..XX $02fa .* *XX. $0302 .XXXX $030a .XXXX. $0312 .XX ..
$02d3 **XXXXX $02db .XX... $02e3 .XXXXXX. $02eb .**XX.. $02f3 .XXXXXX $02fb XXXXXX $0303 .XXXXXX. $030b *****XX $0313 *XXXXX..
$02d4 **XXXXX $02dc .XXXXXX. $02e4 ***XX. $02ec .XXXXXX. $02f4 ..XX.. $02fc ****XX.. $0304 .XXXXXX $030c *XXXXX $0314 .XX..XX.
$02d5 ...... $02dd **XX... $02e5 *.*XXxx. $02ed .XXXX. $02f5 ***XX... $02fd *XX. $0305 .XXXX. $030d .XX.XX $0315 .XX.XX
$02d6 .4 .... $02de XXXX $02e6 ***XX. $02ee ***XX. x $02f6 .. ..... $02fe .. .... $0306 .* XX. $030e XXXXX. $0316 *XXXXX..
$02d7 ...... $02df ...... $02e7 ........ $02ef ........ $02f7 ........ $02ff ... .... $0307 .... .. $030f $0317 ....
$0318 ..... $0320 ........ $0328 ........ $0330 ........ $0338 ........ $0340 ........ $0348 ........ $0350 x. .... $0358
$0319 ..... $0321 ****XX $0329 $. . $0331 ***XXX $0339 ........ $0341 .XX .... $0349 ***XX... $0351 *...* XX. $0359 .XX ..
$031a .*XXXX. $0322 ****XX $032a .*XXXX. $0332 *..XX... $033a .*XXXXX. $0342 .XX .... $034a ....... $0352 ....... $035a .XX. ...
$031b .XX*.... $0323 **XXXXX. $032b .XX.XX $0333 **XXXXX. $033b .XX.XX $0343 .*XXXXX. $034b **XXX.. $0353 ****XX $035b XX.XX..
$031c .XX.... $0324 *XX**XX. $032c .XXXXXX. $0334 ***XX.. $033c *XX.*XX. $0344 *XX**XX. $034c ***XX.. $0354 *****XX $035c .XXXX...
$031d .XX..... $0325 .XX..XX. $032d .XX. $0335 ***XX.. $033d .XXXXX. $0345 .XX..XX. $034d .**XX... $0355 *****XX. $035d XXXX.
$031e *.XXXX. $0326 **XXXXX. $032e ..XXXX.. $0336 ***XX... $033e *****xXX $0346 *XX**XX. $034e ..XXXX.. $0356 *****XX. $035e XX..XX
$031f .xx.. $0327 .x. $032f x.x.x. $0337 ..x ... $033f .XXXXX. $0347 ........ $034f ........ $0357 ..XXXX.. $035f
$0360 ..... $0368 ...... $0370 ........ $0378 ........ $0380 ........ $0388 .. ..... $0390 ... $0398 . ... $03a0 .x..
$0361 c XXX. $0369 .......x $0371 ........ $0379 ........ $0381 ........ $0389 ........ $0391 ........ $0399 ........ $03al ***XX.
$0362 ***XX. $036a *XX.XX. $0372 .XXXXX $037a .XXXX. $0382 .XXXXX $038a .XXXXX $0392 XXXXX $039a XXXXX. $03a2 .XXXXXX.
$0363 ***XX.. $036b *XXXXXXX $0373 *XX.XX $037b *XX.XX $0383 *XX.XX $038b *XX.XX $0393 *XX..XX. $039b *XX $03a3 ***XX...
$0364 ***XX.. $036c *XXXXXXX $0374 *XX..XX. $037c *XX..XX. $0384 *XX..XX. $038c *XX..XX. $0394 *XX..... $039c XXXX.. $03a4 ***..XX...
$0365 ***XX..* $036d .XX.X.XX $0375 .XX..XX. $037d .XX..XX. $0385 .XXXXX.. $038d ..XXXXX. $0395 .XX*.... $039d *****XX. $03a5 ***XX...
$0366 .XXXX. $036e .XX.**XX $0376 .XX..XX. $037e *.XXXX.. $0386 .XX*.... $038e *****XX. $0396 *XX*.... $039e .XXXXX.. $03a6 ****XXX.
KJ $0367 ........ $036f ........ $0377 ... $037f . $0387 *XX $038f XX $0397 . $039f . . $03a7
$03a8 ....... $03b0 ....... $03b8 ........ $03c0 ...... $03c8 $03d0 .. .....R $03d8 ........ $03e0 *XX $03e8 ....
$03a9 ........ $03bl ........ $03b9 ........ $03cl ........ $03c9 ... .... $03dl ........ $03d9 ***XX''' $03el ***XX''. $03e9 *XXXXXX"
$03aa "XX''XX" $03b2 "XX''XX" $03ba "XX**XX $03c2 *XX''XX" $03ca *XX''XX" $03d2 "XXXXXX" $03da ''XXXX'' $03e2 ***XX*'' $03ea "XXXX''
$03ab *XX''XX" $03b3 *XX''XX" $03bb XX'X'XX $03c3 ''XXXX'' $03cb *XX''XX $03d3 ***XX'' $03db $XXXXXX $03e3 ***XX'' $03eb -XXXXX
$03ac "XX''XX" $03b4 "XX''XX" $03bc *XXXXXXX $03c4 ***XX''' $03cc "XX''XX" $03d4 ***XX''' $03dc "XXXXXX" $03e4 ***XX''* $03ec "XX'XXX"
$03ad "XX''XX" $03b5 ''XXXX'' $03bd ''XXXXX" $03c5 ''XXXX'' $03cd ''XXXXX" $03d5 ''XX*... $03dd ***XX''' $03e5 ***XX''* $03ed "XX''XX"
$03ae *XXXXX" $03b6 **' XX'** $03be *-XX'XX- $03c6 -XX''XX- $03ce ***. XX'* $03d6 -XXXXXX- $03de *-XXXX'* $03e6 "**XX'** $03ee ....*XX"
$03af ........ $03b7 ........ $03bf ........ $03c7 ........ $03cf "XXXX''' $03d7 .... $03df ........ $03e7 XX $03ef ........
.$03fa XXX '
..03f6 ... .X '
$03fe .X ....
Nintendo Famicom / NES
Table B-7. Character set extracted from Nintendo Entertainment System (NES) BIOS ROM.
$0001 "-XXX''" $0009 ...XX'" $0011 XXXXX $0019 XXXXXX $0021 XXX $0029 XXXXXX $0031 XXXX $0039 XXXXXXX $0041 xXXXXX "
$0002 "X'-XX-* $000a *'XXX'' $0012 XX XX $001a XX'' $0022 XXXX $002a XXx x... $0032 "XX .. $003a XX XX $0042 XX' XX"
$0003 XX' *XX $000b *'XX' $0013 *x XXXx $001b *'XX' $0023 XXXX' $002b XXXXXX' $0033 XX ... $003b .. .XX'' $0043 XX'xXX
$0004 XX XX $000c XX $0014 'XXXX' $001c XXX XX XX $002c ..... XX" $0034 X6XXXXXX' $003c XX''' $0044 XXXXXX
$0005 XX''XX $000d 'XX' $0015 "XXXX' $001d ..... XX $0025 XXXXXXX $002d .....XX $0035 XX''XX" $003d ''XX. $0045 XX'XX
$0006 -XX-'X'' $000e XX XXXX $0016 XXX $001e XX' 'XX $0026 XX'' $002e XX XX $0036 XX XX" $003e XX $0046 XX XX
$0007 ''XXX'' $000f "XXXXXX $0017 XXXXXXX- $001f "XXXXX $0027 ....XX $002f XXXXX $0037 XXXXX $003f XX .... $0047 XXXXX
$0008 ........ $0010 ........ $0018 ........ $0020 ........ $0028 ........ $0030 ........ $0038 ........ $0040 ........ $0048 ........
$0049 XXXXX $0051 ''XXX'' $0059 XXXXXX $0061 XXXX $0069 XXXXX $0071 XXXXXXX $0079 XXXXXXX $0081 XXXXX $0089 XX XX
$004a XX'XX $0052 XX'XX $005a XX'XX" $0062 "XX'XX $006a XX'XX' $0072 XX...... $007a XX...... $0082 "XX .... $008a XX'XX-
$004b XXI 'XX $0053 XX..XX $005b XX'XX" $0063 XX' .... $006b XX'XX $0073 XX ...... $007b XX ..... $0083 XX. ... $008b XX..XX"
$004c XXXXXX $0054 XX'XX $005c XXXXXX' $0064 XX ..... $006c XX'XX $0074 XXXXXX' $007c XXXXXX, $0084 XXXXXX $008c XXXXXXX
$004d .....XX" $0055 XXXXXXX $005d XX XX $0065 XX ..... $006d XXX 6 X 6X $00 X7d XX ..... $0085 XX'''XX $008d XXXX
$004e .. .XX'. $0056 XX XX $005e XX XX $0066 XXXX $006e XXXX $0076 XX $007e XX $0086 "XX' 'XX $008e XX'XX
$004f XXXX $0057 XX XX $005f XXXXXX $0067 XXXX $006f XXXXX $0077 XXXXXXX $007f XX $0087 "XXXXXX" $008f XX' XX-
$0050 ........ $0058 ..... $0060 ........ $0068 ........ $0070 ........ $0078 ........ $0080 $0088 ........ $0090 ........
$0091 "XXXXXX" $0099 *'XXXX" $00al XX''XX $00a9 "XX .... $00bl XX''XX $00b9 XX''XX $00cl "XXXXX'' $00c9 XXXXXX'' $00dl "XXXXX''
$0092 ..XX' $009a .....XX" $00a2 XX.XX'. $00aa -XX .... $00b2 XXXXXX $00ba XXXXX $00c2 XX.XX $00ca XX'XX" $00d2 XX 'XX
$0093 '''XX''' $009b .... XX" $00a3 XX'XX''' $00ab "XX .... $00b3 XXXXXXX" $00bb XXXX'XX" $00c3 XX'''XX" $00cb XX'''XX" $00d3 XX'''XX"
$0094 x'XX''' $009c ..**XX" $00a4 XXXX.... $00ac "XX. $00b4 XXXXXXX $00bc XXXXXXX $00c4 XX XX" $00c XX'XX" $00d4 XX' -XX
S$0095 '''XX''' $009d XX''XX $00a5 XXXXX'' $00ad "XX.... $00>b5 XX'X'XX $00bd XX'XXXX $00c5 XX''XX $00cd XXXXXX' $00d5 XX'XXXX"
$0096 '''XX''' $009e XX''XX $00a6 XX'XXX'' $OOae "XX .... $00b6 XX''XX $OObe XX 'XXX" $00c6 XX''XX $OOce XX ..... $00d6 XX''XX''
00 $0097 -XXXXXX" $009f "XXXXX'' $00a7 XX''XXX" $00af "XXXXXX" $00b7 XX''XX $00bf XX''XX" $00c7 "XXXXX'' $00cf XX ...... $00d7 -XXXX-X"
$0098 ..... .. $OOaO $00a8 ........ xx........ $00b .......x $00c0 ........ $00c8 ........ $O0dO ........ $00d8 ........
$00d9 XXXXXX $00el XXXX $00e9 XXXXXX $00fl XX XX $00f9 XX XX $0101 XX XX $0109 XX XX $0111 XXXX $0119 XXXXXXX
$00da XX 'XX" $00e2 XX'XX'' $00ea ''XX'' $00f2 XX''XX" $00fa XX''XX $0102 XX.XX $010a XXX'XXX" $0112 "XX'XX" $011a ..-XXX-
$00db XX'''XX" $00e3 XX...... $00eb 'XX'' $00.f3 XX'XX" $00fb XX'XX $0103 XXXXX" $010b XXXXX' $0113 lXX'XX $011b '''XXX-'
$00dc XX''XXX $00e4 XXXXX' $00ec 'XX' $00f4 XX''XX $00fc XXX'XXX $0104 XXXXXXX $010c 'XXX'''. $0114 'XXXX'' $011c 'XXX'''
$00dd XXXXX' $00e5 X.....XX $00ed 'XX' $00Ef5 XX' -XX" $00fd "XXXXX' $0105 XXXXXXX" $010d "XXXXX' $0115 'XX $011.d xXXX
$00de XX'XXX' $00e6 XX'XX $00ee XX $00f6 XX.XX" $00fe "XXX' $0106 XXX'XXX" $010e XXX'XXX $0116 ...XX'' $011e XXX .....
$00df XX''XXX" $00e7 "XXXXX" $00ef XX''' $00f7 XXXXX' $00ff .X...... $0107 XX''XX $010f XX'XX" $0117 ...XX'' $011f XXXXXXX"
$OOeO ........ $00e8 .x ...O.. OO .... .. ..x.x $0100 ....... $0108 ........ $0110 ........ $0118 $0120 ........
$0126 ....... $012e "XX''' $0136 ''XX .. $013e "XX'XX" $0146 XXXX
$0127 ....... $012f X $0137 ......... $013f ..... .X $0147 -X' X''
$0128 ........ $0130 ........ $0138 ........ $0140 ........ $0148 ''XXX' .
Sega Mega Drive / Sega Genesis
Table B-8. Character set extracted from Sega Mega Drive (a.k.a. Sega Genesis) BIOS ROM.
.$b00 .... $b008 XX $b010 XX-XX- $b018 X. X $b020 .. .x... $b028 -XXX .. X b030 *XX .. $b0. 8 -XX $b040 .... XX'-
$b001 ..... $b009 ..XX. SbOll -XX-XX- $b019 '''X''X" $b021 xXXXXXX $b029 "-X-X''X $b031 X' X'' $b039 'XX" $b041 X. ..x..
$b002 ........ SbOOa XX $b012 -X-'X'' SbOla "XXXXXXX $b022 .X''X'' Sb02a XXXX'-X' $b032 '''XX'' Sb03a -X'''. $b042 'X .....
$b003 ..... SbOOb '' XX" $b013 ........ SbOlb $ 'X.X. $b023 XXXXX" Sb02b .. .X $Xb033 X'X' X Sb03b ....... $b043 'X .....
$b004 ....... SbOOc ..... $b014 ........ SbOlc XXXXXXX $b024 ....X -X $b02c XX XX $b034 -X X-X $b03c ........ $b044 'X .....
$b005 ..... SbOO. d '. XX $b015 ........ $bOld 'X''X'' $b025 "XXXXXX" SbO2d 'X'X'X $b035 -X X X Sb03d ........ $b045 '. X ....
$b006 ..... SbOOe ''XX" $b016 ..... SbOle ''X''X'' $b026 .... X SbO2e "X' 'XXX $b036 "XXX''X Sb03e ....... $b046 .... XX''
$b007 ..... .. $bOOf ... $b017 ........ $bOlf ........ $b027 ...... $bO f ........ $b037 ..... $b03f .. $b047 .
$b050 ........ $b058 .... X $b060 ....... $b068 ........ $b070 ..... .. $b078 .......xx $b080 XXXX $b088 XX $b090 XXXXX
$b051 ... X' $b059 .... X $b061 ........ $b069 ........ $b071 ........ $b079 ...... .x $b081 XX XX b089 XXX $b091 XX XX
$b052 "X'X'X" SbOSa ... X $b062 ....... SbO6a ........ $b072 ..... Sb07a .... $b082 .XX'XX $SbO a '..XX. $b092 .XX x XX
$b053 ...XXX'' SbOSb "XXXXXXX $b063 ........ SbO6b XXXXXXX $b073 ....... b07b ....X''' $b083 XXX''XX SbOb '''XX" $b093 ....XXX"
$b054 XXX $b05c .... .$b06c $b074 . . $b07xc X .. $b084 .XX' XX $b08c XX" $b094 XXX ..
$b055 d .. $b065 XX 6d ........ $ b075 -XX Sb07d 'X ..- $b085 XX X Sb08d 'XX"X $b095 XX .....
$b056 ....... Sb05e ..x..x $b066 XX" Sb06e ... .... $b076 XX' Sb07e $.x $b086 XXXX" Sb08e XXXX. $b096 "XXXXXXX
$b057 ...... $b ........ $b067 "X ..... $b06f ........ $b077 .... $b07f ........ b087 ...... Sb08f . $b097 ........
SbOaO ....$XX" SbOa8 XXXXXX SbObO 'XXXXX SbOb8 'XXXXXX SbOcO 'XXXXX $b0 c8 -XXXXX SbOdO ....... SbOd8 ....... SbOeO ...... XX
SbOal '''XXX SbOa9 "XX .... SbObl 1XX'''XX SbOb9 "XX'''XX SbOcl "XX'''XX $b0c9 -XX'''XX SbOdl "*XX''' SbOd9 '''XX'' SbOel .... XX''
SbOa2 ''*XXXX" SbOaa "XXXXXX" SbOb2 "XX .... SbOba .....XX" $b0c2 "XX'''XX SbOca "XX'''XX SbOd2 "**XX''' SbOda '''XX'' SbOe2 ''XX ...
SbOa3 "XX'XX" SbOab .XX'..XX SbOb3 $XXXXXX" SbObb .XX" $b0c3 'XXXXX b XXXXXX d3 ..x.... SbOdb ........ SbOe3 .x.....
SbOa4 $ XX'XX" SbOac ...... XX SbOb4 "XX'XX Sbbc XX $b0c4 XX XX SbOc ...... XX SbOd4 ........ bdc ....... SbOe4 'XX ....
SbOa5 XXXXXXX SbOad "XX'XX SbOb5 XX''XX SbObd ....XX'' $b0c5 XX'XX SbOcd XX''XX SbOd5 "*XX''' SbOdd '''XX'' SbOe5 ... XX''
SbOa6 ....-XX" SbOae -XXXXX" SbOb6 ''XXXXX" SbObe '''XX'' $b0c6 'XXXXX" SbOce -'XXXXX- SbOd6 "XX'' SbOde ''XX'' SbOe6 ...... XX
$bOa7 ........ $bOaf ........ $bOb7 ........ $bObf ........ $b0c7 ........ $bOcf .. ...... $bOd7 .. ... $bOdf X $bOe7 ........
bOfO -XX ..... $bOf8 '-XXXXX- Sbl00 'XXXXX'' $b108 '''XXX' SbllO "XXXXXX" $b118 ''XXXXX" $b120 6XXXXXX" $b128 ''XXXXXX $b130 ''XXXXXX
$bOfl '''XX'' S$bOf9 -XX'''XX SblOl "X $b1.X $bi09 '''XXX'' Sblll "XX'''XX $b119 "XXX''XX $b121 "XX'''XX $b129 XX.... $b131 XX....
$bOf2 ..... XX- SbOfa ...... XX $b02 -XXX-X $blOa XXXX $b112 XX XX $blla XX..... $b122 "XX XX Sbl2a XX.... $b132 XX ....
SbOf3 .......x SbOfb ''XXXX" $b103 "X''X''X SblOb ''XX'XX $b113 XXXXXX Sbllb XX ..... $b123 XX'XX Sbl2b ''XXXXX $b133 XXXXX
SbOf4 ..... XX- SbOfc ..XX''' $b104 -X--X--X SblOc XXXXXXX $b114 "XX'''XX Sbllc XX ..... $b124 XXXX b12 XX.. b134 'XX....
SbOf5 '''XX''' SbOfd ........ $b105 -X--X--X SblOd -XX'''XX $b115 "XX'''XX Sblld "XXX''XX $b125 "XX'''XX Sbl2d ..XX ... $b135 XX....
SbOf6 -XX ..... SbOfe ...XX''' $b106 '-XX-XX- SblOe -XX-''XX $b116 "XXXXXX" Sblle ''XXXXX" $b126 "XXXXXX" Sbl2e ''XXXXXX $b136 'XX"..
$bOf7 ........ $bOff ........ $bl07 ........ $blOf ........ $bll7 ........ $bllf ........ $b127 ........ $bl2f ........ $b137 ........
$b140 -XX--XX- $b148 ...XX".. $b150 .... XX- $b158 -XX'''XX $b160 -XX.... $b168 "XX'''XX $bl70 -XX'''XX $b178 ''XXXXX- $b180 "XXXXXX"
$b141 XX''XX $b149 ..XX". $b151 ....XX'' $b159 XX''XX $b161 "XX .... $b169 XXXXXX $bl71 XXX'XX $b179 XX'XX $b181 "XX'''XX
$b142 "XX''XX" Sbl4a 'XX" $b152 ...XX'' Sbl5a "XX'XX'' $b162 -XX .... Sbl6a XXXXXXX $b172 -XXXXXX Sbl7a XX'XX $b182 XX'XX
$b143 "XXXXXX Sbl4b ...XX".. $b153 ....XX'' Sbl5b XXXX'' $b163 "XX .... Sbl6b XX'X'XX $b173 XXXXXXX Sbl7b XX'XX $b183 XXXXXX
$b144 "XX''XX $b14c .XX". $b154 XX-'XX' $b15c XXXX' $b164 "XX... $b16c "XX'X'XX $b174 "XXXXXX $bl7c XX'XX $b184 "XX"...
$b145 "XX'XX Sbl4d ..XX" $b155 XX''XX' Sbl5d -XX-XX $b165 .XX .... Sbl6d "XX'XX $b175 "XXXXX Sbl7d .XX'XX $b185 XX.....
$b146 "XX'XX Sbl4e ..XX" $b156 "XXXX'' Sbl5e "XX''XX $b166 XXXXXXX Sbl6e "XX'XX $b176 XX'XX Sbl7e ''XXXXX $b186 "XX...
$b147 ........ Sbl4f ........ Sb157 ........ Sb15f ........ Sb167 ...... .. Sb 6f ....... Sb 77 ....... Sbl7f ........ Sb187 ........
Table B-8 continued.
$b90 XXXXXX $b98 XXXXX $blaO XXXXXX $bla8 XX''XX $blbO XX XX $blb8 XX'X'XX $blcO XXXX $blc8 XX''XX $bldO XXXXXXX bld8 XXX'''..
$b191 XX XX $b199 XX XX $blal .XX $bla9 XXXX $blbl XX-XX $blb9 -XX-X-XX $blcl -XX'XX $blc9 -XX--XX- $bldl XXX $bld9 X .....
$b192 XX XX $bl9a "XXX.... $bla2 .xXX'' $blaa XX-XX- $blb2 XX XX $blba XXXXX $blc2 XXXX $blca XXXX $bld2 .... XXX $blda .....
$b193 "XXXXXX" $bl9b ''XXXXX" $bla3 ...XX'' $blab "-XX-XX $blb3 ''XX'XX" $blbb "XX'X'XX $blc3 '''XXX'' $blcb ''XXXXX- $bld3 ...XXX'' $bldb "X .....
$b194 -XX'X'.. $bl9c .....XXX $bla4 ...XX''' blackc "XX''XX" $blb4 ''XX'XX $blbc "XX'X'XX $blc4 ''XX'XX" $blc c ''XX... $bld4 XXX $bldc .....
$b195 "XX''XX" $bl9d "XX'''XX $bla5 '''XX' $blad I "-XX-XX $blb5 '''XXX'' $blbd "XXXXXXX $blc5 -XX'''XX $blcd '''XX'. $bld5 "XXX ... $bldd "X .....
$b196 XXXXX $bl9e XXXXX- $bla6 'XX' blaee '-XXXX-' $blb6 .XXX' $blbe 'XX'XX" $blc6 XX XX $blce '. XX'. $bld6 XXXXXXX $blde '-XXX''
$b197 ........ Sbl9f ........ Sbla7 .... blaf ........ $blb7 ........ Sblbf ..... $blc7 ........ blcf ....... bld7 ........ bldf ........
$bleO -XX XX $ble8 XXX SblfO ... ... Sblf8 ........ $b200 ....... $b208 ...... $b210 -XX ..... b218 ....... $b220 XX $b228 ........
Sblel "X' X" Sble9 ... X.. Sblfl .... .... Sblf9 ........ $b201 ....... $b209 ... .. $b211 "XX $b219 ....... $b221 .XX" $b229 ........
$ble2 ".XXXXX Sblea .... Xx Sblf2 .... X... $blfa ........ $b202 ....... Sb20a I XXXX' $Lb212 "XX'XX' S.b21a ''XXXX" $xb222 x xXXXXX Sb22a ''XXXX''
Sble3 .. X. Sbleb .... X.. Sblf3 'X-X-' Sblfb ........ $b203 XX'' Sb20b "X''XX" $b213 "XXXXXX" Sb21b -XX- XX- $b223 "XX''XX" Sb22b xXX' XX"
$ble4 ..XXXXX. $blec x.... Xx $blf4 'X Xx $blfc ........ $b204 XX'' $b2.Oc ''XXXXX" $b214 "XX''XX" $b21c -XX .... $b224 "XX''XX" $b22c "XXXXXX"
Sble5 ... X. Sbled .... X.. Sblf5 -X ..... X Sblfd ........ $b205 ....... Sb20d XX'XX $b215 XX'XX Sb21d "XX XX $b225 "XXX'XX" Sb22d "XX .....
$ble6 ...XXX'' $blee ...XXX" $blf6 ........ $blfe XXXXXXX $b206 ....... $xb20e XXXXX $b216 -XXXXX $b21e XXXX $b226 XXXXX $b22e XXXX
ble7 ...... Sblef ...... blf7 ........ blff ........ $b207 ....... b20f ........ $b217 ...... Sb21f ........ $b227 ........ b22f ........
$b230 ....... $b238 ........ b240 $b248 XX $..bb250 XX- $b258 -XX ... $b260 .XX. $b268 ........ $b270 ........ $b278 ........
$b231 .XXX'' $b239 ........ $b241 ''XX .... $b249 ........ $b251 ....... $b259 ''XX''XX $b261 "XX' $b269 ......... $b271 ........ $b279 ........
$b232 XXXX $b23a XXXX $b242 XXXX $b24a XX $b252 .... XX $b25a XXXX $b262 XX $b26a XXXXX $b272 XXXX' 6. 2 $b27a ''XXXX''
$b233 XXXX $b23b XXXX $b243 XXXX $b24b .XX' $b253 .... XX" $b25b ''XXXX'' $b263 XX''' $b26b XXXXX $b273 ''XX'X $b27b "XX''XX
$b234 XX'' $b23c XX''XX $b244 ''XX'XX $b24c XX''' $b254 .... XX $b25c ''XXXX' $b264 .XX''' $b26c XXXXX $b274 ''XX'X" $b27c XX''XX
$b235 "XX'' $b23d ''XXXXX" $b245 'XX'XX" $b24d '''XX''' $b255 "XX'XX" $b25d ''XX'XX" $b265 "*XX''' $b26d "XX'XX'X $b275 ''XX''X" $b27d "XX''XX"
$b236 "*XX'' $b23e .....XX" $b246 ''XX'XX" $b24e '''XX''' $b256 "XXXXX"Q $b25e ''XX''XX $b266 "*XX''' $b26e "XX'XX'X $b276 ''XX''X" $b27e ''XXXX''
KJ $b237 ... ... $b23f 'XXXX' $b247 ........ $b24f ........ $b257 'XXX' $b25f ........ $b267 ..... $b26f ........ $b277 ........ $b27f .. .
$b280 ....x b288 ........ $b290 ... $b298 .... S b2aO XX .. Sb2a8 ....... b2bO Sb2b8 ......... $b2 ........ b2c8 ......
$b281 ...... $b289 ........ $b291 ........ $b299 ........ Sb2al XX Sb2a9 .. .... b2bl .. ... S b2b9 .. $b2cl ..... b2c9 .....
$b282 "XXXXX" $b28a ''XXXXX" $b292 ''XX'XX" $b29a '''XXXX" $b2a2 "XXXX'' $b2aa "XX''XX" $b2b2 "XX'''XX $b2ba "XX'XX'X $b2c2 "XX''XX" $b2ca "XX'''XX
$b283 "XX''XX" $b28b "XX''XX" $b293 ''XXX'X" $b29b ''XX ... $b2a3 ''*XX''' $b2ab "XX''XX" $b2b3 "XX'''XX $b2bb "XX'XX'X $b2c3 ''XXXX'' $b2cb "XX'''XX
$b284 "XX''XX" $b28c "XX''XX" $b294 ''XX ... $b29c '''XXX'' $b2a4 ''*XX''' $b2ac "XX''XX" $b2b4 ''XX'XX" $b2bc "XX'XX'X $b2c4 '''XX''' $b2cc ''XX'XX"
$b285 "XXX'XX" $b28d "XX'XXX" $b295 ''XX ... $b29d .....XX" $b2a5 ''*XX''' $b2ad "XX''XX" $b2b5 ''XX'XX" $b2bd "XX'XX'X $b2c5 ''XXXX'' $b2cd '''XXX''
$b286 XX'XX" $b28e 'XXXX $b296 ''XX.. $b29e ''XXXX'' $b2a6 '''XX'' $b2ae 'XXXX'X $b2b6 ''XXX'' $b2be 'XX'XX" $b2c6 "XX''XX" $b2ce '''XX'
$b287 "XX'''xx Sb28f XX" $b297 ........ Sb29f ........ Sb2a7 .. ..... Sb2af ........ Sb2b7 ........ Sb2bf ........ $b2c7 ........ Sb2cf XX ...
$b2dO ...... b2d8 XX b2eO ... X $b2e8 .XX' b2f ......
$ 2dl ...... b2d9 ... b2el ... x. .' b2e9 .. $b2fl .... ..
$b f9 "X .... $Xx "
Sb2d2 "XXXXXX" Sb2da ''X... $b2e2 ...X ..'' Sb2ea .... X Sb2f2 'XX'X
Sb2d3 .... XX $' Sb2db X.. ... .Sb2e3 .. .. .... Sb2eb ... X''. Sb2f3 "XXXXXXX
Sb2d4 '''XX''' Sb2dc $'X ... Sb2e4 ..... X' Sb2ec .... X'. Sb2f4 "X''XXX"
$b2d5 XX b2dd ... .. b2e5 ....... X b2ed .. .X $b2f5 ........ .X
$b2d6 "XXXXXX" $b2de ''XX' b2e6 .... x b2ee '''XX''' $b2f6 ..... ...
$ 9S7 ........ ....... 9 7 .... .... f ........ .9 7 ........
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Zach Whalen grew up in East Tennessee, where he pursued undergraduate education at Carson-
Newman College. As an honors student at Carson-Newman, Zach initiated his interest in digital media
with a senior project on Hypertext Fiction and Critical Theory. It is also at Carson-Newman that Zach,
through both athletic and musical collaboration, met and soon fell in love with his wife Stacy, who
moved with Zach to Gainesville in 2002 so that he could pursue a Master's Degree in English at the
University of Florida.
Zach's Master's Thesis, an approach to analyzing videogame music, has lead to an article in the
journal Game Studies, and it is being reprinted in a collection on music and multimedia due out in 2009.
Zach has also published articles and book chapters related to music and videogames, genre in
videogames, the videogame Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas, and the CSI franchise of television shows
and spin-off videogames. Zach has co-edited, with Laurie N. Taylor, a collection of essays titled Playing
the Past: History and Nostalgia in Video Games, which will be published by Vanderbilt University Press
in Fall 2008.
For most of his tenure as a doctoral student, Zach has worked with the online journal Image TexT
Interdisciplinary Comics Studies, the first (and still only), online peer-reviewed journal of comics
scholarship. ImageTexTwas founded by Donald Ault and is published by the Department of English.
Zach has served as Webmaster for ImageTexT, and from 2006 2008, Zach held the position of
Production Editor for the journal.
Zach is also the founder, editor, and administrator of the website Gameology.org, a group blog and
resource for a community of videogame scholars.
In fall 2008, Zach will move to Virginia to take a position as Assistant Professor at the University
of Mary Washington. Also, more importantly, he and Stacy will welcome their first child (a baby girl!)
into the world.