We live in a world of type. We tattoo our cities in it from top to bottom. It clothes us, and sometimes armors us. Yet despite the fact that it permeates every aspect of our lives, few of us really feel that they understand typography. A new game, Type:Rider, aims to change all of that by turning some of the world’s most influential fonts into a multiverse of video game worlds.
Available today on iOS and Android, Type:Rider allows players to explore a series of hauntingly designed levels, each of which focuses on a specific font, as well as a time in typographic history associated with it. For example, a player might be tasked to navigate a world of typographic Gothic architecture, while simultaneously learning about Johannes Gutenberg and his movable type printing press.
The design of a world is usually related to the period in which a certain type originates. In the Times world, the player explores environments inspired by the Roaring Twenties, including a jaunt through a Fritz Lang Metropolis-inspired cityscape. Garamond takes place during the Renaissance, while Clarendon plays like a Sergio Leone western. The Pixel world, on the other hand, explores the fonts of operating systems. Other worlds include Didot, Clarendon, and Helvetica. It’s said there may be a hidden world that, yes, allows you to confront typography’s modern-day Boss Monster, Comic Sans.
“Typography is an old and invisible art that only a few people really know, but the history of letters is, in the end, the history of mankind,” says Théo Le Du Fuentes of Arte Creative, a Parisian designer who helped create Type:Rider. “That’s why we set out to create a game that allows players to learn about the history of type while literally exploring it.”
Like any platformer, in Type:Rider, players explore the game’s levels and collect power-ups. Brilliantly, though, in Type:Rider, you explore as a colon that rolls around on each of its periods as if they were the wheels of a motorcycle. Likewise, the power-ups are pages from a surprisingly detailed primer on the history of type, which can be revisited and read like an e-book after the game is completed.
What’s so great about Type:Rider is that it uses various combinations and configurations of various fonts as the actual architecture that makes up every level. Playing the game, you might have to navigate a tricky series of K’s that swing wildly over a pit, or ride a rollercoaster of interlinked S’s. According to Le Du Fuentes, he first came up with the clever artifice way back in 2008. Asked to create a game at the Gobelins School of Applied Arts, Print, and Digital Media, Le Du Fuentes found that it was really easy to use letters as in-game assets in Adobe Flash. “I created a few levels with them and ended up thinking it was very fun and entertaining,” says Le Du Fuentes. “That was the first prototype of Type:Rider.”
Although it is releasing first on mobile devices, Arte Creative also intends on launching Type:Rider on Facebook, as well as making it available as an interactive installation for educational and cultural institutions. But that’s not to say that Type:Rider wants to turn players into font snobs.
“We’re not trying to teach people to be experts in type in Type:Rider, but I think it’s important to know that it is a complex art with a long history,” says Le Du Fuentes. “Our hope is that after playing Type:Rider, players will choose their next font with a little more experience and knowledge than they would have before.”