Citation
The Videogame Text

Material Information

Title:
The Videogame Text Typography and Textuality
Creator:
Whalen, Zachary
Place of Publication:
[Gainesville, Fla.]
Publisher:
University of Florida
Publication Date:
Language:
english
Physical Description:
1 online resource (290 p.)

Thesis/Dissertation Information

Degree:
Doctorate ( Ph.D.)
Degree Grantor:
University of Florida
Degree Disciplines:
English
Committee Chair:
Ault, Donald D.
Committee Co-Chair:
Harpold, Terry A.
Committee Members:
Bryant, Marsha C.
Slawson, Brian
Graduation Date:
8/9/2008

Subjects

Subjects / Keywords:
Bytes ( jstor )
Character sets ( jstor )
Computer games ( jstor )
Computer programming ( jstor )
Graphics ( jstor )
Numerals ( jstor )
Pixels ( jstor )
Textuality ( jstor )
Typographic fonts ( jstor )
Typographies ( jstor )
English -- Dissertations, Academic -- UF
expression, game, materiality, mediality, platform, software, textual, textuality, typography, videogame, videogames
Genre:
Electronic Thesis or Dissertation
born-digital ( sobekcm )
English thesis, Ph.D.

Notes

Abstract:
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 'materialis' 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 structures. 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 Ian 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. ( en )
General Note:
In the series University of Florida Digital Collections.
General Note:
Includes vita.
Bibliography:
Includes bibliographical references.
Source of Description:
Description based on online resource; title from PDF title page.
Source of Description:
This bibliographic record is available under the Creative Commons CC0 public domain dedication. The University of Florida Libraries, as creator of this bibliographic record, has waived all rights to it worldwide under copyright law, including all related and neighboring rights, to the extent allowed by law.
Thesis:
Thesis (Ph.D.)--University of Florida, 2008.
Local:
Adviser: Ault, Donald D.
Local:
Co-adviser: Harpold, Terry A.
Statement of Responsibility:
by Zachary Whalen.

Record Information

Source Institution:
University of Florida
Holding Location:
University of Florida
Rights Management:
Copyright Whalen, Zachary. Permission granted to the University of Florida to digitize, archive and distribute this item for non-profit research and educational purposes. Any reuse of this item in excess of fair use or other copyright exemptions requires permission of the copyright holder.
Classification:
LD1780 2008 ( lcc )

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Full Text





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

contexts.

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











Table 4-1. Summary and examples of characteristics of jaggy type.


Characteristic


Example*


Stair-stepped angles and curves


',


Sharp distinction between foreground and background colors


#000ff
(blue)


#ffffff
(white)


Uniform, rectilinear subunits: actual or simulated pixels









Simulated pixel edges flush with actual monitor pixels


UM..
ME ME






-






(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.









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











COmPUTER

I SPACE BALL

FUN
FAST
SALL AGES PLAY
-roonYER


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 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.









common, so its connotative difference from jaggy type is one way to expose discursive functions

of videogame typography.

Fuzzy Type

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







Stella 2.3.5: "Adventure (1978) (Atarly'




Ehl
.:

CL



I'B


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)


























Table B-4. Character set extracted from ColecoVision original BIOS.

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$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




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)55 9 ..... ..*
5560 ..... ..
5561 ..... ..
5562 ..... ..




627 .....
5628 X .. ...
5629 *'*X .*.*
5630 XXXXX'**
5631 ''X*.....
632 .' X .....







5699 X. X ....




)703 XXXXX.**
5704 '''X ....
)705 X ....*
5706 ........




5771 ........
5772 ........
5773 XXXXX...
5774 ........
5775 XXXXX'''
5776 ........
5777 ........
5778 ........




5843 XXXXX'''
5844 X ......
5845 X .... ..
5846 XXXX" ..
5847 X .... ..
5848 X .... ..
9 X .......


5563 "X'X'"**
5564 -X-X *
5565 XXXXX**
5566 "X'X'* *
5567 XXXXX**
5568 "X'X'* *
5569 -X-X *
570 .....




5635 .....
5636 .....
5637 .
5638 .

5640 .X.**
5641 .X X...
5642 ......


-X ...
X ....

X ....
-X ...






XX ...
-X ...
X ....
X ....
-X ...
-X ...
X ....





X ....







X ....





XX ...



X ....



XX ...


,571 X .....*
,572 -XXXX...
,573 X'X .....
,574 "XXX ....
,575 .X'X''...
,576 XXXX ....
,577 X ......
,578 ........




,643 ........
,644 ........
,645 ........
,646 XXXXX''"
,647 ........
,648 ........
,649 ........
5650 ........




,715 *.XXX..*
,716 X. .....
,717 X .***...
,718 XXXX ....
,719 X'XX.*..
,720 X'''X''"
,721 "XXX ....
799 ........


859 X' ..'X'
860 X'''X' ''
861 X' 'X' '
862 XXXXX'**
863 X ... X
864 X ... X
865 X .X ..
866


5579 XX ......
5580 XX.'-X'
581 X ....
5582 "'X ....
5583 X ....
5584 X''XX''"
5585 **.XX..*
586 ....




5651
5652
5653
5654 ...
5655
5656
5657 X .....
658 ..





5724 .... X''
5725 "'X ....
5726 X .....

X727 .X.....
5728 *X .....
5729 *X..*...
5730 ........




5795 *XXX ....
5796 X.X. **
5797 X'X'X''
5798 X.XXX '**
5799 X XX....
5800 X .......
5801 *XXXX* *
5802 .




5867 -XXX....
5868 X. .....
5869 'X .....
5870 'X .....
5871 X .....
5872 'X .....
5873 "XXX ....


79 "X .....
30 ''X'''..
31 '''X ''...
2 .... X" ..


84 ''X'''**
85 X X X...
I6 ....





52 X .....



55 X''XX"**
56 X'''X"**
57 "XXXX"..
X .. ..






































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)









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.









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









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.













I.
i-I


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)









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.

GCE Vectrex

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









A tari V C S ........................................................12 3
Intellivision.......................... .....................127
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

APPENDIX

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








ABCDE F GH I JKLMN

OPQRSTUVWXYZab

cdefgh i jk Lmnop

qrstuvwxyz0123



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")


Cyber Crime




Inves i gaor,


Figure 2-7. Cover of Cyber Crime Investigator 's Field Guide illustrating OCR-A in use as
reference to computer technology.









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).

















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.


Breakout *XXX*XXX
.X.X.X.X
.X.X.X.X
.X.X.X.X
XXX XXX



Combat ... XXX*
... X.X.
.... X.X.
.... X.X.
*.... XXX



Indy 500 ... XXX-
.... X.X.
.... X.X.
... X.X.
.... XXX



Outer .....XXX
Space .. **X*X


..... XXX



Space XXX *XXX
Invaders X*X**X*X


XXX* *XXX



Dodge XXX *XXX
'Em X.X..X.X
X.X..X.X
X.X..X.X
XXX XXX
X*X*X*X


* *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
































179









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.









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.









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.









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.













-r --I

I l Hi I :j

T I



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
converter.









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









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:

01000001
01010000
01010000
01001100
01000101

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.









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.

Easter Eggs

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.










Carr, Diane, David Buckingham, Andrew Bur, and Gareth Schott. Computer Games: Text, Narrative
and Play. Cambridge, UK: Polity, 2006.

Cayley, John. "Literal Art: Neither Lines nor Pixels but Letters." First Person: New Media as Story,
Performance, and Game. Ed. Noah Wardrip-Fruin & Pat Harrigan. Cambridge, MA: The MIT
Press, 2004.

Chapman, Matt, and Mike Chapman. "Butt IQ." HomeStarRunner.com 30 Oct 2001. 17 Dec 2007 www.honmestarrunner.com/sbemail3.html>.

--. "Web Comics." HomeStarRunner.com 8 Oct 2007. 17 Dec 2007
.

Colbert, Bob. "Distella Disassembler." 14 Feb 2008 .

"Computer Font Fonts.com." Fonts.com by Monotype Imaging. 25 Nov 2007
.

Covell, Chris. "ROMSearcher." 14 Feb 2008
.

--. "ROMSearcher README." 17 Apr 2008
.

Crouwel, Wim. "Type Design for the Computer Age." The Journal of Typographic Research 4.1 (1970):
51-59.

Daniels, Simon. "Re: question about Westminster." 10 Dec 2007.

Deuel, Brian. "Al Alcorn Interview." BrianDeuel.com. 16 Apr 2008 mail.com/briandeuel.com/aainterview.html>.

Dictionary, American Heritage. High Definition: An A to Z Guide to Personal Technology. Houghton
MifflinReference Books, 2006.

Drucker, Johanna. "Intimations of Immateriality: Graphical Form, Textual Sense and the Electronic
Environment." Reimagining Textuality: Textual Studies in the Lage Age ofPrint. Ed. Neil Fraistat
& Elizabeth Bergmann Loizeaux. Madison, WI: University of Wisconsin Press.

--. The Alphabetic Labyrinth: The Letters in History and Imagination. London: Thames and Hudson,
1999.

--. The Visible Word: Experimental Typography and Modern Art, 1909 1923. Chicago: University of
Chicago Press, 1996.

Editors. "Change is Good." Wired. Feb 2007: 26.

Eskelinen, Markku. "The Gaming Situation." Game Studies: The International Journal of Computer
Game Research 1.1 (2001). 17 Aug 2007 .










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
offset.









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).









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.

Holotypical Forms

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
















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 ....









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

46).









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.









CHAPTER 1
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.

























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
the public.


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.
















A B

Figure 3-24. Screenshots of the same game (Zaxxon) emulated with A) the original ColecoVision
BIOS and B) the alternate system font BIOS.


1-F-


Figure 3-25. The 7-segment figure generator patented by Frank W Wood in 1908 (Wood).


1.R 76E









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















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



0>
00















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 ........









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.
























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
dots.


Figure 4-11. Title and logo for Blip magazine. Image from Gifford. Logo 1982 Marvel Comics,
Inc.









APPENDIX B
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

tables.









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


































Figure 3-12. Screen illustration of GI AY-3-8810 chip, playing Draw Poker. Image from
Buchsbaum 236.

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).




166









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
) is a particularly ineffective
example of this type of game.
11 Game Liberation is available on Juul's website: .



















A













B










C


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.









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

contexts.

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









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.









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.









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.

Conclusion

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.










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")









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.









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

By

Zachary Nathan Whalen

August 2008

Chair: Donald Ault
Chair: Terry Harpold
Major: English

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

structures.

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,










one another is fundamentally characteristic of the videogame as a unique form of electronic

textuality.3

Platforms

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

videogame screens.

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).

















0 REI3-5ELTH
WWWWWWW


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 A-3. Screenshot of Ben Fry's Sprite Deconstructulator.


00DDDDD00
0000DDDDDDD
0000DDD000DDDD
000DDDDDDDD00
0000DDDDDDD00
000DDDDDDDD00


DD00000DDD00


00DDDDDD
00DDDDD00DD00
0000DDDDDDD00
00DDDDDDD
DDDDDDDD
0000DDDDDDD00
000DDDDDDDD00
LILIEH111[L[E[I
011ELILIL[][ ELL
L][[]il[][]E LIL
[][]il[]E [][ E
[][]il[]E[][ LE
L][[][[][[][ LE




E][L11E[]]E LE
]IE0011[E[ US
ES L][] l[][] US
[][]I]I]IE[I[I[I
LI LI i Ul[][[ LLIL
[][][][][][][][]
L[SE1[]][[]
[][][][][][][][]


00111000
01000100
00000100
00001000
00010000
00000000
00010000
00000000




00111000
01000100
00000100
00001000
00010000
00000000
00010000
00000000


00111001
01000101
00000011
00000111
00010001
00000001
00001111
00000001




00011100
00100010
00000010
00000111
00001000
00000000
00001000
00000000


00DD00DD
DDD00DDD
0000DDDDDDD
0000DDDD
00DDDDDDD000
LI]LIE1U1U1LI LI
[]IEL]I[]EL[]E
LILIES[][E[U U
LILIES][]LIElUi
SEEM[]L1IE[L[]U
L][L[L[LIEEEE1
LILIES LIE LI1U


DDD[ DD00
00]00010
00000000
DOODDDmD

00DDDDDDD000

[00000 B
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.









APPENDIX A
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.












Frc htecture
i20 000 pMdletionsd methods





A B
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

0123q51389q


Figure 2-40. Comparing numerals for A) Westminster B), E-13B and C), Data 70.



















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.


$3115
$3116
$3117
$3118
$3119
$3120
$3121


.XXXXXX.
.X. .XXX.
...XXX.
...XXX..
...XXX.
.X. .XXX.
.XXXXXX.


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).


$3115
$3116
$3117
$3118
$3119
$3120
$3121


.XXXXXX.
.X. .XXX.
...XXX.
...XXX..
...XXX.
.X. .XXX.
.XXXXXX.
* xxxxxx.


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.









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.









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.

Berzerk(s)

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,









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.









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









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

Selector:3

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.









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

the screen.

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









CHAPTER 4
FUZZY AND JAGGY: AESTHETIC AND ONTOLOGICAL DISPOSITIONS OF VIDEOGAME
TYPE

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

support videogames.

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.




















































Figure A-2. Distellamap of Adventure.bin, created by Ben Fry using a modification of Distella
Disassembler.









261









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
about ROMSearcher









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









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.

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
.









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!

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.

Galaxy Game

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
Videogames.









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.









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
















Mattel Intellivision



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 .





















C

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)



















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'X''X''

XX"X"

X XX **
X...X .
x*...X


$5947 -XXX....
$5948 X'''X"..
$5949 X .....*
$5950 "XXX.*.*
$5951 *.... X *
$5952 X'''X"**
$5953 "XXX'"..
$5954 ......




$6019 ......
$6020 X .....
$6021 .X.**...
$6022 .X ... .
$6023 ...X ..
$6024 ***..X.
$6025 .....
$6026 ....




$6091 .. ...
$6092 ....
$6093 XXXX.***
$6094 Xxx ...
$6095 XXX... *
$6096 X......
$6097 XXXX.***
6098 .. ...




$6163 ..
$6164 ..
$6165 X ...X..
$6166 XX..X.
$6167 X.X.X.**
$6168 X..XX.
$6169 X..* X. *
$6170 .......




$6235 .....
$6236 .
$6237 X.*.X.*
$6238 X.**X.*
$6239 X.X.X.**
$6240 XX.XX**
$6241 X.*..X.*
624


5 "XXX ....
6 X'''X'''
7 X'''X'''
8 X'''X'''
9 X'''X'''
10 X'''X'''
1 XXX ...
x.


5891 X ... ...
5892 X ... ...
5893 X ......
65894 X ......
65895 X ***...
$5896 X ......
5897 XXXXX**
$5898 ........




5963 X"*"X'''
$5964 X X .X .

$5965 X **X '*
$5966 X **X '*
$5967 X **X '*
$5968 X" "X' ''
$5969 "XXX.*.*
5970 .. ...




$6035 .. *
6036 ...
6037 X ...* ..
$6038 "X'X ....
6039 X'''X' ''
$6040 ........
$6041 ........
6042 ........


$5955 XXXXX**
$5956 .X ...*
$5957 "'X ....
$5958 'X .... .
$5959 "'X ....
$5960 'X .... .
$5961 "X .xx..
$5962 ...




$6027 XXXXX"
$6028 ***XX' "
$6029 *XX *
$6030 ** XX' *



$6033 XXXXX'"
$6034 ......




$6099 ......
$6100 .......
$6101 XXXX''"*
$6102 X......

$6103 XXX.***

$6104 X ... ...
$6105 X ...
$6106 ... ....




$6171 .. *...
$6172 .......
$6173 XXXXX.**
$6174 X...X'".
$6175 X'''X'".
$6176 X*' X'. *
$6177 XXXXX**
$6178 .. .....




$6243 .....
$6244 ... ...
$6245 X*'X'"*
$6246 "XX** .
$6247 *"*X ** *
$6248 *XX ....
$6249 X*'X'"*
$6250 .......


23 XXXX'**




27 X .....
28 X .....







96 X'''XXX
)7 x.*X***

98 **X *'* *
x9 ...x...*



)1 "*X'''**
** .....


b5971 X ..X. .
$5972 X ..X. .
$5973 X'''X'".
$5974 X'''X'".
$5975 X'''X'".
$5976 "X'X''"
5977 *X ....*
$5978 .. .....




6043 .......
$6044 .......
$6045 .......
6046 .......
$6047 .......
$6048 .......

$6050 XXXXX**






6 1 7 ... ...
6115 ...
$6116 .......
$6117 X*'*X '*
$6118 X'* *X' *
$6119 XXXXX''
$6120 X'''X''*
$6121 X'''X''*
$6122 .....


x. $5 ..
x. ..* X $5!
*X. X *** $5.
* .x ***. $5.
x.- *x. $61
. .x. $6
X... .. $6.


*XXXX***

X*XXX.**

XXX ....


66179 ........
66180 ........
;6181 XXXX ....
;6182 X.* X. *
66183 XXXX ....
;6184 X .......
66185 X .......
66186 ........




6251
$6251 .. ....
$6252 .
$6253 X*'*X '*
$6254 "X'X ....
$6255 X .....
6256 X .....
$6257 ''X*.....
6258 .......


$5979 X'''X' '"
$5980 X'''X' '"
15981 X *' X''*
15982 X X.. X .
15983 X X.. X .


15986 ......




16051 *X" *X ...
16052 **X X ..
6053 I ''X* ...
16054 ... ...
6055 ......

6056 .....
16057 .. ....
16058 .......




16123 ....
6124 .....
16125 XXXXX'**
6126 **X.***
16130 .' .....
16127 XX .....
16128 **X ...*
16129 XXXXX.
6130 X.*. .




61956 .......
6196 ....
6197 XXXXX.*
$6198 X'*X***
16199 XXXXX**
6200 XX .....
$6201 X''X*....



162 02 .. .....

$6267 ''XXX'''
$6268 "X ......

6269 ''X. ...
$6270 XX......
$6271 ''X*.....
16272 "X ......
16273 *'XXX '*


99 X"**X"**
0 XX.XX..
)1 X'*X 'X *
)2 X'X'X"*
)3 X X" "
)4 X"**X"**
)5 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 .


XXXXX"

XXX ....


x. ** ***


j665

:6 6 XXXXX"
:6L6 X
j663 .
j664 x.
j6 6 XXXXX"
6 66b


;5931 *XXX ....
5932 X ..X. .
;5933 X'X* .X .
$5934 X'''X'''
;5935 X *X*X'*
$5936 X''X ....
$5937 "XX'X' *
$5938 ....





;6003 XXXXX.**
;6004 .... X ..
;6005 *X ....*
$6006 X .....
;6007 X ......*

$6009 XXXXX.**
$6010 ........




;6075 ........
;6076 ........
;6077 -XXXX' *
$6078 X .......
$6079 X.......
;6080 X.*****
;6081 "XXXX '*
;6082 ........


6219 .. ...


6220 .




16221 X''x. .
16222 X 'X '*'* .
16223 X ...X .
;6224 X... X'''
;6225 "XXX....






16226 ...
$6291 "X*......
$6292 X'X'X'''

$6294 ........
$6295 ........
$6296 ........
16297 ........
;6298 ........


19 XXXX ..
:0 X'''X'**
:1 X'''X *'*
42 XXXX* ...
3 X X .....
4 X .X ....
5 X...X..
6 ........


$6011 XXXXX.*
$6012 XX..*...
$6013 XX..*...
$6014 XX..*...
$6015 XX..*...
$6016 XX..*...
$6017 XXXXX**
6018 ...




6083 ..
6084 ....
$6085 XXXX**
$6086 *X.*X..*
$6087 *X.*X.**
$6088 *X.*X.**
$6089 XXXX.**.
6090 .




6155 ...
6156 .
$6157 X...X...
$6158 XX.XX.**
$6159 XKX.X.K*
$6160 X...X...
$6161 X...X...
616 2 ........


X'''X'''
X***X**
X.*X **
X*X.*
X*X**


$6299 X'X'X"*
$6300 "X-X- *
$6301 X'X'X**

$6303 X'X'X**
$6304 "X'X"*
$6305 X'X'X"*
6306 .....
6 X-
6 ...
6 X-
6 ...
6 X-
















Figure 2-33. Cover, Electronic Games: Design, Programming, and Troubleshooting (1978).
(Buchsbaum & Mauro)
RaBbCcOdEeFf
GgHhliJjHkLimm
NnDOPpDqRrSs
TtUuVvWlmXxYq
Zz i$ O()? \ /
Figure 2-34. Sample of Orbit-B BT.























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
bitmap.


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].









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.









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


















































8









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









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).









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










|II


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
similarity.)


FIHICDEFGHIJHLm

nnDPQRTUUUXHE



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
Doesburg")


Figure 2-49. WiredMagazine spine text and section logos.



l directory y Of Wdnderful Things
Figure 2-50. BoingBoing logotype.


UIF?2c~









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.









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
legibility.









The Need

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)
to another.
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.









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.


















Atari 5200



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 ........









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









(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








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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.

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Figure 4-7. Image from figure 6 shown at what may have been its original size. A) With anti-
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Figure 4-8. Text detail (slightly enlarged) from advertisement for the Atari 2600 game, Star Wars:
Death Star Battle.









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.




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