Digital Halos

Digital halo n. A geometric shape hovering over the head of a character in a game. Traditionally emits light

I’m coining a new word– digital halo. What is a digital halo? The “thing” that is on top of the heads of game characters. There is no religious connotation to this term. If you look into the definition of halos, they don’t necessarily have to be a ring-shape, although traditionally halos been portrayed mostly in the form of an oval or circle. The key part of a halo is that there is a nucleus and something revolving around or radiating from that nucleus. So if the thing on top of characters’ head is glowing, I think I can claim that it is somewhat of a halo.

The halo has become an icon in gaming  (or at least a staple in game design) to the extent that we don’t even think it’s weird that an object is floating above the head of a character. Halos also make game-playing easy because they represent the status of a game character.

There are many different types of halos. There are halos like the rings above NPCs in Lord of the Rings Online or the exclamation marks above the heads of NPCs in World of Warcraft, that indicate that the character has a quest or some kind of task to offer. With these halos, the light coming from them is important; if the light is extinguished, that game character becomes almost worthless in terms of game play. Along those lines, other types of halos indicate readiness:  halos on top of animals in simulation games like Harvest moon (green hearts) or Farmville (pink guitar picks)  indicate that the animal is “ready” to be harvested.

Then there are the halos that indicate mood,  like the green diamonds above the heads of character in some of The Sims games that change color. In some of the more casual time-management games, halos will indicate patience or satisfaction level. When a character runs out of patience, they will stomp off and leave.

There are also halos that are like a divining rod– a tracker. They will glow stronger if you are close to a target or wanted item, like the “ball” on top of characters in Neverwinter Nights (only a feature of certain quests), which blinks faster when you get close to the assassins’ lair.

Can you think of any examples of digital halos?

ps. (On an completely unrelated note, this term is dedicated to Trent Reznor, whose halos have always been inspiring.)


One response to “Digital Halos

  1. I always thought that halos normalized the acceptance of anime style emotion symbols in western media. Just a guess, I don’t have any research to back it up.

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