0This chapter begins with an admonition to take great care with type. The categories and definitions proposed and explored here are indeed tentative. The term paratype offers a useful way into a conversation of influence, intention, and constraint in the field of textuality that surrounds videogames, but its ability to determine or delineate those boundaries is not reliable. Still, the common feature of some logical or empirical relationship with videogames has united practical developments in the technology of machine input with the aesthetic ideals of European modernism, and the result reveals the uniquely situated domain of videogame textuality. While it is not necessarily the case that the aesthetic viability of typefaces designed for videogames prove (owing to their resemblance, say, of van Doesburgâs alphabet design) that the neo-Plasticist principles of aesthetics were correct, neither is it the case that HuszÃ¡râs figure design prophesied the coming of sprite animation. It is also not the case that typefaces like Moore Computer, Westminster, and Data Seventy have any historical connection to videogames. Rather, these relationships and associations demonstrate the powerful and uniquely malleable ability for typographic form to reference its means of reproduction.
0Figure 2-44. De Stijl logo, designed by Theo Van Doesburg and Vilmos HuszÃ¡r.
0Figure 2-45. Vilmos HuszÃ¡r, Ornament XXe eeuwse stijl (1917).
0Though their relationship with actual videogames is purely formal, some typefaces and lettering created in the early part of the 20th century bear a surprising resemblance to forms found in videogames of the 1970s. Chief among these designs is the work of the Dutch De Stijl group, an artist group associated with the periodical, De Stijl, first published in 1918 (Purvis 25)â . Theo van Doesburg was the groupâs founder and sole editor of the journal, and it is his dominant personality which characterizes much of the groups ideals, expressed in a series of manifestos which lay out the groupâs core ideal, identifying and uniting the universal consciousness of artistic expression (Blotkamp, âIntroductionâ ix)â . In practice, this meant âsearching for and the most fundamental elements of each separate field of art and then uniting these elements in a well-balanced relationshipâ (Blotkamp, âIntroductionâ ix)â . The groupâs artistic works tend to emphasize rectilinear forms and primary colors, and the typography employed in the journal itself is strikingly performative (see figure 2-43). Typography itself is an art based on the mechanical reproduction of a limited set of forms, so it seems a fitting medium for explore the aesthetic ideas of De Stijl.
0Although MICR-based typefaces discussed above began appearing in videogame arcade cabinets, consoles, and instruction manuals from their earliest inceptions in the 1970s, it was not until the late 70s that such lettering was even possible on videogame screens, and not until the early 80s was it at all common. Adopting the same assumption that type created for mechanical reading signifies a lingua franca for human/computer interfaces (and hybrids), most of the games which used this style of lettering did so as part of some kind of science fiction setting, with some noteworthy exceptions. On the Atari 2600 console, these games include some of the Star Wars games released by Parker Brothers as well as a few other space-oriented shooter games. The table 2-1 illustrates the Arabic numeral glyphs for a number of these, grouping together similar or identical holotypes.
0Figure 2-38. Sample of Westminster typeface.
0The origins of Westminster (Figure 2-38) are somewhat unclear, but it emerged at least as early as 1971 as figure 2-39 demonstrates. It is also the most pervasive and common of the MICR fonts because it has been distributed freely with Windows operating systems since Windows 98. Its distribution of slabs has much in common with Orbit-B, but Westminsterâs proportions are much narrower. Microsoftâs typography website does provide a few tantalizing details about Westminster, but does not identify the designer or exact year of origin. Printed below is the full text of Microsoftâs information about Westminster, which comes included with the font software:
0Orbit-B, designed in 1973 by Stan Biggendon, was another VGC original like Moore Computer. It adopts a similar slab distribution pattern to Moore Computer (see figure 2-34), but the slabs themselves are slightly narrower and connect to the body of the letter with a steep diagonal rather than a right angle. Its strokes are also proportionally narrower than Moore Computer or Data 70 while its counters are noticeably wider. The numerals in Orbit-B are still quite different from those E-13B, but show more in common than Data 70. Figure 2-35 shows Orbit-B and E-13B side-by-side.
Figure 2-34. Sample of Orbit-B BT.
0âData 70â (or âData Seventyâ) is another typeface which some claim is the first full alphabet based on the MICR font E-13B (Figure 2-26). Fortunately, the origins of Data 70 are better documented, so its claims to originality can be evaluated in more detail. Owens and Reinfurt, in their article on the influence of E-13B, only discuss Data 70, but they claim that, like Jaspert does of Moore Computer, that Data 70 âexpanded the look of the E13B numeral set into a full upper and lowercase alphabetâ (Owens & Reinfurt 147)â . Since Moore Computer is an uppercase-only typeface, it is true that Data 70 is, in one sense, a further expansion than Moore Computer. However, the fact that Data 70 includes Arabic numerals bearing little to no resemblance to E-13B (see figure 2-27) suggests instead an indirect line of influence. Bob Newman designed Data 70 in 1970 for Letraset, a manufacturer of rub-on lettering and other graphics (Owens & Reinfurt 147)â . Its characters adopt the extraneous slabs of E-13B, but Data 70âs are more rounded and more judicious and consistent in their distribution. In general, the typeface reflects a specific stylization that evokes the sense of E-13B while emblematizing the original.
0The minimal aesthetic properties of E-13B saw extended influence in a number of type designs created in the late sixties and early seventies, and many of these MICR-based faces saw extensive use in relation to videogames. The typesetting and printing industries were undergoing rapid and dramatic changes during this period, adapting to new technologies like photo- and CRT-based compositors, so a number of companies and design studies were going out of business or changing hands. In addition, the decorative typefaces echoing the style of E-13B were often seen as novelty products, so records about several of these typefaces and fonts are cursory may be unreliable. Nevertheless, the evidence indicates that the first full alphabet based on E-13B was a font called Moore Computer (Figure 2-18), published by the Visual Graphics Corporation (VGC), possibly as early as 1968.
0The technology necessary for MICR developed roughly parallel with OCR and addressed a similar need: inputting large amounts of information into a computer system using characters which could be read and verified by humans. In the 1950s, the growing demand of check processing demanded that a mechanized, automated solution replace the tedious methods of hand sorting, routing, and processing all personal checks (McKenney 61)â . A Technical Subcommittee of the American Bankerâs Association convened in 1954 to address the problem, and after a series of consultations with banks, manufacturers and the Federal Reserve Bank, the committee developed a recommendation and standard for a common machine language for check processing, which was published in its final form as Document 147 of the Bank Management Commission, first published in 1959 and still in use today (McKenney 75)â .
0Early OCR technology such as David Shepardâs âGISMO,â a âRobotic Reader-Writerâ built in an attic and unveiled to the public in 1951, focused on tasks like reading for the blind and text duplication (Schantz 8)â . It was not until Readerâs 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)â . 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.
0When one examines artifacts of videogame culture from the 1970s and early 80s, a few distinct typographic patterns emerge. One of the most unique and striking patterns appears in the images shown in figures 2-1, 2-2 and 2-3. The distinctively blocky forms of the letters in these and many other game-related logotypes helped give videogames a distinct visual culture. The mostly rectilinear forms of the letters and the inclusions of extraneous rectangular slabs create a sense of technological intrusion, but the ancestor of these designs — a font known as E-13B, developed for use in Magnetic Ink Character Recognition (MICR) — makes even more explicit the connections between human and machines as textual agents.
Powered by Drupal
, an open source content management system. "Waffles" theme by iEarth