Flying Logos and Bitmap Alphabets: Arcade Games Revisited

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For this morning’s Daily Heller, I interviewed Kris Johns, the design director of Atari, about the past and present of this pioneering digital-game company. Coincidentally, Idea, Japan’s most elegant and comprehensive design magazine, was delivered today. Lo and behold, the issue is devoted to the graphic design of video arcade games produced by the Bandai Namco, Capcom, and Sega companies. Looking through this profusely illustrated document of the nascent period of electronic gaming, it is hard to believe that it is over 40 years old. Yet to look at the styles of the trademarks, typefaces, and machine designs is to jump back into a past that seemed to fly by as fast as some of the flying logos.

May 2012 issue

This issue of Idea, which is known for its expansive coverage on most all of the topics it covers, features spread after spread on what has become the shiny gothic logo style of video games, as well as a very complete inventory of 8-bit digital typefaces and family variations. Interspersed throughout are photos of the machines, like Sega’s Galaxy Force and Thunder Blade, that are so high-tech as to make a techie’s mouth water. And who can forget (unless you weren’t born yet or are loosing your memory with age) Virtual Cop, a two player shooting game which still exist in some arcades? (This and other issues of Idea can be found here.)

Four of the dozens of bitmapped alphabets

The language of video game logos. . .

. . . they haven't entirely disappeared.

Shooting the bad guys with cops and against zombies

Riding on Sega's video vehicles was a joy of childhood—and adulthood.

.You might also enjoy The Ultimate Game Guide to Your Life: Or, The Video Game as Existential Metaphor, now on sale at