Games

The Platformer as Typography Teacher

You’re not just interacting with a particular font, but everything that contributed to the history of that font as well.

Type:Rider is an iOS platformer that doubles as a history lesson of the written word. You play as the symbol for the colon, which in this case acts as a pair of wheels. You tilt your device to roll the colon and press a single on-screen button to jump.

The environment is your teacher, as most of the levels are made out of letters. Each level in Type:Rider focuses on a different font. That typeface is tilted and slanted in ways that make movement possible. This kind of level design is particularly clever because there’s really no better way to understand the little difference between fonts than when you’re jumping over and around and through them.

The pointed tips of the Gothic type become speed bumps and ramps when you’re riding over them, while the straight sides act as slides. With Garamond, the letters are floating in water to emphasize the “fluidity” of the text; there are no pointed tips, so the curved and smooth surfaces give you a lot of speed.

Some fonts are so thin that their serifs can fit between your colon, allowing you to hang off an edge. Other fonts are so thick that you’ll just bounce off of them if you try that trick, but then that makes it easier to wall jump between characters.

There are several fonts that the game highlights, spanning centuries of typographical evolution. That’s what makes Type:Rider a genuine teacher and not just a neat platformer: It doesn’t just want you to notice the differences between fonts. It wants you to understand what those differences mean -- why they exist.

Collectible asterisks unlock encyclopedia entries that describe to you the state of the world around the time a given font was created. These provide context for how the font came to be. Through them, we’re shown how these shapes evolved from styles that mimic handwriting to styles that embrace mechanical use and are designed to be exact, easily reproducible, and readable. We see the push and pull of aesthetics versus practicality, and then practicality as an aesthetic. We see how various artistic movements and advances in printing affected typography and how it was used in political and social movements.

Thankfully the game doesn’t just tell us this history. It lets us platform through that history as well. Movable type printing was invented around the time the Gothic font was created, so in addition to riding over letters you’re also jumping over ink stamps and avoiding being crushing by a printing press. At other points, with other fonts, you’re platforming over typewriters, telegraphs, linotypes, currency, advertisements, and more. You’re not just interacting with a particular font, but everything that contributed to the history of that font as well.

Type:Rider takes something we all take for granted -- that daunting selection of fonts in any version of Microsoft Word, most of which you’ll never use -- and explains why they’re there. There’s a reason that they exist, and there’s a complex history behind even the simplest of things, proving them to be simple in appearance only.

Type:Rider is a fine platformer, with its share of clever tricks and frustrating jumps, but it’s the history lesson behind the jumps that make it special.



Music


Books


Film


Television


Recent
Music

The 10 Best Experimental Albums of 2015

Music of all kinds are tending toward a consciously experimental direction. Maybe we’re finally getting through to them.

Books

John Lewis, C.T. Vivian, and Their Fellow Freedom Riders Are Celebrated in 'Breach of Peace'

John Lewis and C.T. Vivian were titans of the Civil Rights struggle, but they are far from alone in fighting for change. Eric Etheridge's masterful then-and-now project, Breach of Peace, tells the stories of many of the Freedom Riders.

Music

Unwed Sailor's Johnathon Ford Discusses Their New Album and 20 Years of Music

Johnathon Ford has overseen Unwed Sailor for more than 20 years. The veteran musician shows no sign of letting up with the latest opus, Look Alive.

Jedd Beaudoin
Music

Jazz Trombonist Nick Finzer Creates a 'Cast of Characters'

Jazz trombonist Nick Finzer shines with his compositions on this mainstream jazz sextet release, Cast of Characters.

Music

Datura4 Travel Blues-Rock Roads on 'West Coast Highway Cosmic'

Australian rockers Datura4 take inspiration from the never-ending coastal landscape of their home country to deliver a well-grounded album between blues, hard rock, and psychedelia.

Books

Murder Is Most Factorial in 'Eighth Detective'

Mathematician Alex Pavesi's debut novel, The Eighth Detective, posits mathematical rules defining 'detective fiction'.

Music

Eyedress Sets Emotions Against Shoegaze Backdrops on 'Let's Skip to the Wedding'

Eyedress' Let's Skip to the Wedding is a jaggedly dreamy assemblage of sounds that's both temporally compact and imaginatively expansive, all wrapped in vintage shoegaze ephemera.

Film

Of Purges and Prescience: On David France's LGBTQ Documentary, 'Welcome to Chechnya'

The ongoing persecution of LGBTQ individuals in Chechnya, or anywhere in the world, should come as no surprise, or "amazement". It's a motif undergirding the history of civil society that certain people will always be identified for extermination.

Television

Padma Lakshmi's 'Taste the Nation' Questions What, Exactly, Is American Food

Can food alone undo centuries of anti-immigrant policies that are ingrained in the fabric of the American nation? Padma Lakshmi's Taste the Nation certainly tries.

Film

Performing Race in James Whale's 'Show Boat'

There's a song performed in James Whale's musical, Show Boat, wherein race is revealed as a set of variegated and contradictory performances, signals to others, a manner of being seen and a manner of remaining hidden, and it isn't "Old Man River".

Music

The Greyboy Allstars Rise Up to Help America Come Together with 'Como De Allstars'

If America could come together as one nation under a groove, Karl Denson & the Greyboy Allstars would be leading candidates of musical unity with their funky new album, Como De Allstars.

Music

The Beatles' 'Help!' Redefined How Personal Popular Music Could Be 55 Years Ago

Help! is the record on which the Beatles really started to investigate just how much they could get away with. The album was released 55 years ago this week, and it's the kick-off to our new "All Things Reconsidered" series.

Music

Porridge Radio's Mercury Prize-Nominated 'Every Bad' Is a Wonderful Epistemological Nightmare

With Every Bad, Porridge Radio seduce us with the vulnerability and existential confusion of Dana Margolin's deathly beautiful lyricism interweaved with alluring pop melodies.

Music

​​Beyoncé's 'Black Is King' Builds Identity From Afrofuturism

Beyoncé's Black Is King's reliance on Afrofuturism recuperates the film from Disney's clutches while reclaiming Black excellence.

Reading Pandemics

Colonial Pandemics and Indigenous Futurism in Louise Erdrich and Gerald Vizenor

From a non-Native perspective, COVID-19 may be experienced as an unexpected and unprecedented catastrophe. Yet from a Native perspective, this current catastrophe links to a longer history that is synonymous with European colonization.

Music

John Fullbright Salutes Leon Russell with "If the Shoe Fits" (premiere + interview)

John Fullbright and other Tulsa musicians decamped to Leon Russell's defunct studio for a four-day session that's a tribute to Dwight Twilley, Hoyt Axton, the Gap Band and more. Hear Fullbright's take on Russell's "If The Shoe Fits".

Reviews
Collapse Expand Reviews

Features
Collapse Expand Features
PM Picks
Collapse Expand Pm Picks

© 1999-2020 PopMatters.com. All rights reserved.
PopMatters is wholly independent, women-owned and operated.