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This typographical platform puzzle game designed for iOS touchscreen devices offers an immersive experience and engaging history of typography from Gothic fonts all the way to digital desktop publishing (and a little bit beyond).
The look and feel of the game, its mechanics, physics engine, and interface are all reminiscent of Arnt Jensen and Dino Patti’s 2010 indie game Limbo. In both games, the player controls a character (every pun intended) that seeks something to complete it. In Limbo, it’s a boy seeking his sister, while in Type:Rider we have two dots could be read as a colon when upright, but consistently requires a third dot to complete an ellipsis and progress in the game (see image below).
The use of language seems to be inspired by the single solitary word “HOTEL” that appears in the playable part of Limbo (read entry on this unexpected e-poem). This electrified set of letters which the character must traverse appear also in Type:Rider seems to offer an homage to Limbo by presenting these letters in intermittent and electrifying neon lighting (see images below for comparison).
Most importantly, the idea of placing language within a game environment that has a well developed physics engine, allows for composition, manipulation, and scripting of behaviors for that language and conflates the roles of player and reader. Considering the striking similarities between the games and its strong educational bent (see image below), one might interpret Type:Rider is offering a visual and game engine allusion to suggest that the history of typography is trapped in the Limbo of human memory and by playing this game one can help rescue it from oblivion.
This game offers a rich and enjoyable educational experience. Even if the players don’t take the time to read the brief and informative texts on typographical designers, pioneers, technologies, companies, techniques, and traditions, the experience of the game exposes them to the form and culture of typography. The background images, music, detailed graphical rendering of the letters in the foreground, and other game elements all make reference to the culture that produced each font (see examples below).
Traversal becomes a kind of extremely close reading, as players realize (consciously or not) that just as the shapes and textures of certain fonts lend themselves to different game mechanics, they also bring different cultural baggage to the page. When one considers how the enormous array of fonts made available to us by word processing, graphic design, and Web publishing software strips the typography from their context, one might appreciate how this game educates a born-digital generation on the foundational history of those fonts. And it does so in a self-referential, fun, and well researched game.
The game’s portrayal of typography in the digital world seems to end with desktop publishing, which is true in many ways, yet it seems incomplete without representing what language can do in born-digital environments. Perhaps the creators haven’t considered the rich tradition of electronic literature (which I ♥ E-Poetry and other projects seek to represent), or perhaps they feel this tradition hasn’t contributed much to typography itself. However the case may be, the game itself exemplifies many of the things language can do in digital environments, and there are examples of almost all kinds of textual behaviors on display.
And upon completion, the game does offer a bonus level which has a hilarious and incisive final commentary about typography on the Web. It is not to be missed.