Even if you don’t usually geek out over typography, you might still be interested in Arcade Game Typography, a book that compiles pixelated typefaces from old video games, mostly from the 1970s through the 2000s. It’s not a new book — it was published in 2019 — but I only learned about it a few days ago, when longtime Uni Watch reader Jason Hilyer brought it to my attention.
As you can see above, the front and back covers of the hardcover version featured pixelated versions of an “A” and a “Z,” respectively. In between is all sorts of cool stuff that will definitely push your buttons if you ever spent time playing video games back in the day, like the following:
The author, a type designer named Toshi Omagari, says his inspiration for the book came from the May 2012 issue of the Japanese magazine Idea, which was devoted to video game graphics. Here’s a really good video about him, the book, and 8-bit typography — totally worth your eight minutes:
If you want to get this book, the paperback edition is available on Amazon. The hardcover version is sold out, although pricey copies are available on eBay.
(Super-duper thanks to Jason Hilyer for letting me know about this one.)
I want it.
I *need* it!
Dear God do those blown-up figures hurt my eyes!
I quickly recognized the X-Men font, and I haven’t even thought of that game since the 90’s.
I’ve always been a huge fan of computer and video game typography — it’s quite a challenge to get any style out of characters that are just 8 to 12 dots high, more so if the characters have to be monospaced. Apple’s 1980s Mac fonts, which are proportional, are a triumph of getting the most out of these small sizes.
In Japanese, where early video games were developed, characters are naturally monospaced, but 8×8 dots isn’t enough to write the complicated Chinese characters that the language usually uses, so early games wrote all the words in phonetic kana, of which there are only about 100 and which are simple enough to be readable at 8 point.
The nice thing about these small fonts, though, is that their simplicity makes it possible for a single person to create them. I tried my hand at making hacks and translations of 8- and 16-bit games and occasionally tried making new fonts. It was a lot of fun, and I hope the art of designing small-but-stylish pixel fonts doesn’t die now that HD screens have become commonplace.
This is another must-have book for me. I love how they coped with this limitating grid and still came up with so many creative fonts.
Amazing how creative they were with just 8×8 pixels! I spent my childhood messing with the Commodore 64, and loved digging into the custom fonts from its games and other software. That computer had a “multicolor” mode where its normal 320×200 screen became 160×200, with 2 bits (allowing 4 colors) assigned to each pixel (compared to the 2-colors of the 1 bit per pixel mode). Fonts for that mode had to be 4×8, which meant lettersets that were 3 pixels wide… crazy that they came up with anything legible!