What Happened To Colons In Video Game Titles: An Investigation

In recent years, something puzzling has happened. The colon, that useful piece of punctuation used to separate the title of a work from its subtitle, has all but disappeared from video game names.

Here are just a few examples: Need for Speed Unbound, Sonic Frontiers, Assassin's Creed Origins, Odyssey, and Valhalla, Far Cry New Dawn, Dying Light 2 Stay Human, God of War Ragnarök, Horizon Zero Dawn and Forbidden West, Tom Clancy's Rainbow Six Extraction, Halo Infinite, and Resident Evil Village.

Now, in many of the series I mentioned above, previous entries did include a colon. (The Sonic series is, by and large, a notable exception). In the 2000s and early 2010s, we had Need for Speed: Most Wanted, God of War: Ascension, Assassin's Creed: Brotherhood, Tom Clancy's Splinter Cell: Chaos Theory, and Resident Evil – Code: Veronica.

That last example is something we rarely see these days: an over-punctuated title. We have swung in the opposite direction. Everything now is under-punctuated. The weird thing is that the way titles are stylized in the logos hasn't changed. Assassin's Creed Valhalla is stylized in much the same way Brotherhood was, with the main title offset by short lines on either side, and the subtitle below. So why the shift in how it's written?

Well, it may be part of a larger cultural shift toward minimalism. Over the course of the last 20 years, boring simplicity has triumphed over flamboyant complexity in many different areas of design. The exteriors of fast food restaurants have become sleekly modern, while the interiors have been revamped to remove any of the colorful excess that may have remained from the '90s.

In logo design, the same thing has happened. Look at the Taco Bell logo the chain used in 1992 and then look at the one it uses now. The shape and framing hasn't changed, but the colors and details have drained out over the years. Now, we have the suggestion of a ringing bell without any of the interesting touches that made the earlier logos pop. Or, if you want to see a really depressing one, look at the logo Traveller's Tales used from 1995 to 2005, and the one they've used from 2005 until the present. The old one is an autumnal scene as a fox (wolf? coyote?) carrying a bindle walks by a tombstone with a huge harvest moon looming in the background. The name is presented in an ornate, swooping but angular font. The new logo is a blocky lowercase t leaning on a blocky capital T in a white purgatory.

The Traveller's Tales logo is an egregious example, but this kind of simplification has happened throughout the games industry. The logo Santa Monica Studios used from 1994 to 2014, which looks like it could be airbrushed on a metal band's merch, got replaced with something much simpler and more respectable: an abstracted S repeated and mirrored to form a shape that vaguely resembles a leaf. Ubisoft, Blizzard, Bandai Namco, Insomniac, Naughty Dog, Sucker Punch — these companies and many, many more have simplified their logos over the years. As a result, none of the logos are off-putting. But most don't have much personality, either.

So, could the removal of the colon be a part of this broader cultural trend? You can simplify a game's name by removing the subtitle as Saints Row (2022), God of War (2018), Hitman (2016), Thief (2014), Tomb Raider (2013), and Wolfenstein (2009) have shown us. But you can only reboot a series so many times. Once you've done the reboot, how else can you simplify? Well, removing the colon seems like one, weird way to do it.

On the other hand, it might not actually signify anything. It might have no real connection to broader cultural trends. But it's weird. I miss my colons.

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