If you're reading this, you're probably familiar with the acclaimed PS4 action/adventure game Horizon: Zero Dawn. (Many have called it a "certified gaming classic.") Perhaps you've even beaten it. However, only true Horizon: Zero Dawn enthusiasts will have noticed the mistake I made in the first sentence of this paragraph, and, indeed, this very sentence as well. Can you spot it?
Perhaps the headline of this piece gave it away, but the title of the game is not Horizon: Zero Dawn. It's Horizon Zero Dawn, according to the game's official PlayStation Store page. However, if that colon placement looked correct to you, you're not alone. In fact, in order to demonstrate exactly what we mean, please determine for yourselves if the following title of a recent hit video game is correct: Star Wars Jedi Fallen Order. Do you have an answer? Then move on to the next paragraph.
Mixed signals — If you said yes, I have some bad news for you: not even modern video game title conventions will allow a five-word mouthful without a colon somewhere in there. If you opted for Star Wars: Jedi Fallen Order, you are also sadly incorrect. According to its Steam page, the official title of the game is Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order, and no, we are not kidding.
Such distinctions may seem pedantic to some, and they arguably are. After all, your average consumer isn't likely to notice them, and Google doesn't exactly need the precise colon placement to be correct to serve you up news about the game. Still, when writing about these games on the internet, it can be pretty damn annoying to have to check where to place the colon or dash — or, indeed, whether they have one at all.
Colon confusion — In recent years, it's fair to say that many mainstream video game titles have shied away from unnecessary colons, dashes, and subtitles. 2011's Assassin's Creed: Revelations needed the colon, but 2020's Assassin's Creed Valhalla didn't; 2010's Halo: Reach opted for a little extra punctuation, but 2021's Halo Infinite has spared us the extra character. But not everyone has played ball: it's still God of War: Ragnarok coming to PS5 in 2022, and let's not forget the recently-released Kena: Bridge of Spirits.
In general, it feels like most of the industry has figured out that you don't need an additional punctuation mark to offset the name of your awesome intellectual property or series name in order for gamers to figure out that it is, indeed, That Game Again. Unfortunately, though, some franchises are still holding onto the convention for dear life, particularly Call of Duty and many licensed franchises.
Name game — It's important to note that this punctuation confusion is hardly limited to the world of games; I've seen The Raid: Redemption at least three times now, and I still don't know what exactly is being redeemed, except perhaps coupons for crowbars, hatchets, and penknives at a local hardware store. Video games titles of every era have their own annoying contrivances; back in the 2000's and early 2010's, it felt like every game had an unnecessary subtitle like "Redemption" or "Reloaded," and let's not even discuss confusing franchise reboots like 2006's Sonic the Hedgehog.
Colons might be useful in wordy titles like Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order, but for the most part, they're pretty much useless to your everyday player. Please, video game publishers, do yourselves a favor and throw the rest of them into the abyss. Leave the colons and dashes to pretentious writers like us.