Italicize video game titles or else!

04 Oct

Regular readers may remember my recent lament about how I’ve mostly failed to convince news organizations I’ve worked for to refrain from capitalizing the word “internet.” I’m pleased to report, however, that I’ve had better luck with another of my stylistic bugbears – namely, the italicization of video game titles.

Back at the CBC, the standard was to leave game titles in regular type, despite films, TV shows and album titles getting special italics treatment. I argued with the style gurus about how this was discriminatory and that games were no less works of art and entertainment than any other medium. If you italicize the works of Michael Bay and Nickelback, for example, you simply must do the same for the likes of L.A. Noire, Mass Effect or Uncharted 2.

The historical argument against italicizing games is that they were typically considered pieces of software. And you wouldn’t write Microsoft Word – it’s obviously Microsoft Word. The other argument is that board games, such as Monopoly or Scrabble, don’t get italics.

Neither comparison is accurate anymore, if it ever was. Neither software nor board games employ directors, cinematographers, story writers, actors, stuntmen and musicians all together, as video games do. The obvious comparison today is to television or film, both of which get the honour of italics.

My arguments worked and the CBC adopted italics for video games last year. Here’s the official style rule. Italics are applied to:

Video games and computer games considered artistic creations (e.g., SimCity, Pac-Man, Guitar Hero) rather than merely electronic versions of board games, card games or puzzles (e.g., the nouns Monopoly, Scrabble, solitaire and sudoku would be left in regular type).

I’ve put forward the same arguments with some other editors I currently work with, with varied success. MSN, where I do most of game writing, is now italicizing titles, at least in my stuff. They didn’t before, not because of any innate bias against games, but simply because no one had thought to do so.

So there it is. Gamers, consider this a call to arms. In our ongoing quest to get video games taken as seriously as any other artistic or entertainment medium, we need to get them fair treatment in the most basic of fora: typeface. Many publications and news outlets still don’t italicize game titles. If you see such an example, speak out and complain. They cannot deny us our slanted type any longer!


Posted by on October 4, 2011 in video games


5 responses to “Italicize video game titles or else!

  1. Marc Venot

    October 4, 2011 at 2:49 am

    Wikipedia is redirecting computer games to video games.
    With the tablet and its sdk to create video games has become significantly simpler yet rather often of artistic value. The price is also much lower than the usual video games even on portable device and many multiplayer games are free (or close). With the Kindle Fire even the hardware is becoming easy to acquire.
    So what are the factors to place the threshold?

  2. Daniel Friesen

    October 4, 2011 at 3:01 am

    Heh, stylistic discrimination? 😉 Don’t worry, I don’t italicize either games or movies.
    Though if a title is too long — typically one of those titles with 1-2 words, a colon, and then maybe another 3 or so — whether it’s a Movie, Game, Book, or any other medium I might put it in quotes so it’s not confused for part of the rest of a sentence.

  3. Simon Cohen

    October 4, 2011 at 10:42 am

    The trouble is consistency.
    If the argument is that games deserve italics based on the level of artistry required to create them, how can you treat Angry Birds and L.A. Noire the same?
    They bear as much relationship to each other as finger painting and Van Gogh’s greatest works. I think a blanket rule of “italicize all video game titles” sends the wrong message. We need a few more shades of grey 🙂

    • petenowak2000

      October 4, 2011 at 10:45 am

      Disagree. The italicization of films, music and TV isn’t judged by their merit or length, so neither should games. A 12-minute punk album gets the same italics that a double-album prog rock epic does. Same goes for a 10-minute documentary or anything by Peter Jackson.

      • Simon Cohen

        October 4, 2011 at 11:55 am

        Okay, let’s say we go with that rule. Would the same apply to YouTube videos e.g. Charlie Bit My Finger ?

%d bloggers like this: