In Third Person’s Style Guide to Video Game Shirts


I am a fairly outward person when it comes to my love of video games. Besides writing a blog about them, I oftentimes bring up gaming in day-to-day conversation with anyone willing to listen; video game fan or otherwise. I also like to wear video game shirts. Once upon a time, the thought of outwardly showing my nerdiness through a gaming t-shirt horrified me. Over the years though, as gaming has become more socially acceptable and I’ve become more comfortable in my own skin, I’ve taken to purchasing and wearing video game shirts in public with pride.

As much as I enjoy gaming shirts, I have extremely specific taste. There are shirts that I will pay stupid amounts to have while there are many other shirts that I feel personally offended by just by looking at them. When I wear a gaming shirt, I want to convey a very specific message to certain people, which many shirts don’t do. I’m no fashionista when it comes to…well, anything, but I thought I’d share my perspective on gaming shirts anyway. Maybe you’ll agree with my gaming fashion do’s and don’ts, maybe you won’t. In any case, I’d love to hear your gaming fashion tips in the comments.


Shirt Styles I Love

For me, the more simple the shirt is, the better. The shirt doesn’t have to scream that it’s a video game shirt for me. It just needs to convey my love of the game to others who also love it. If the average person doesn’t get it, that’s arguably even better to me. It’s almost a hipster way of approaching it, but I’d rather wear something that only those that are ‘in’ really appreciate rather than something that everyone can recognize instantly as a video game t-shirt.

The Aperture Laboratories golf shirt is genius. My girlfriend Steff and I saw a guy wearing that on the train a few months ago and it made us very happy to know that we ‘got it’. If you didn’t know any better, you’d think it’s just his uniform from his work. In reality, it’s a reference to Portal that you’d only know if you played it.

Over the past few months, I’ve been looking into shirts that cater to the hardcore fighting game community. They take their designs even further, as many of them have direct nods to the culture rather than to the games themselves. For instance, the shirt above from BrokenTier, which my girlfriend got me for my birthday. Even if you’ve played Marvel vs. Capcom 2 or 3, you wouldn’t fully get this shirt unless you’re familiar with the video featuring Yipes commentary. That video and those catch phrases mean so much to the community that Deadpool directly references the curly mustache line in Marvel vs. Capcom 3. BrokenTier also provides a Curly Mustache shirt, which is amazing for those that are really into the scene.

Shirt Styles I Have Mixed Emotions For

I’m of two minds about the style I call the ‘box art shirt’. Many of the video game shirts available on the market are nothing more than slapping already existing marketing assets onto a shirt. I’ll be the first to admit that I own a few shirts like this, but I don’t think they do the best job at making you feel special. There’s no deeper thought required to interpret what it is. I feel like I’m simply paying to advertise their game to anyone and everyone by wearing a shirt like this, rather than trying to convey a sentiment to like-minded fans.

Shirt Styles I Hate With a Passion

I hate gaming shirts that take the source material and bend it way out of context to make it ‘cool’ for a general audience. To me, the ‘beauty’ of a video game shirt is that you’re showing your love of that game by referencing the game and only the game itself on the shirt. However, these shirts don’t tell me that at all.

Instead, when I see someone who wears this type of shirt, I see them as people who aren’t really fans of the games or the culture. I see them as people who want to wear something that refers to games, but need some sort of pop-culture tie-in to make it more socially acceptable. In a way, I think these shirts appeal to ‘nerd posers’, which is a weird concept to think about. If the shirt pictured above was just the question block from Super Mario 1, I’d love it. When I see that block, I think about how huge that game was in the 80s, the dozens of hours I’ve spent playing through it, all of the discovery within the game that occurred between my friends and I, and how this game continues to stand the test of time. For many of my cousins in the 200s, this was their first game, too, and it’s had the same effect on them that it had on me 20+ years ago.

With the “I’d Hit That!” caption below the block, I find it gross. The caption completely takes away from what makes that question block awesome. Now the focus is on a pop-culture catchphrase that doesn’t have nearly the significance or long-term impact as the question block. My sentiments against these types of shirts are so strong, that I have no problem saying that I’d rather wear a pink blouse than the “I’d Hit That!” shirt or any other gaming shirt like it, because the pink blouse would not hurt my soul like those other gaming shirts would.

In Summary

For me, I value the meaning behind a video game t-shirt is worth more than any other fashion considerations. As long as the meaning is there and true to the source material, I’m at least cool with the thought. On the other hand, I wouldn’t wear the most fashionable gaming shirt in the world if it in any way took away the significance from the source material. Video games are a special medium to many of us, and treating them with a little bit of reverence goes a long way.

3 thoughts on “In Third Person’s Style Guide to Video Game Shirts

  1. Josh October 1, 2011 / 12:14 PM

    I have a shirt that say’s ‘need money for horse armour’
    From the good Oblivion days. Do you get it?
    Anyway I love video game shirts and wear them proudly.

    • Jett October 1, 2011 / 1:09 PM

      Oh the ‘good old days’ of DLC. My most recent gaming shirt I got as a gift. My girlfriend Steff got me a T12: Toronto Fighting Game Championship t-shirt from the event to comemmorate my performance. The results were released and I actually did better than I thought. I got 25th in Marvel singles out of over 100 competitors and 13th in Street Fighter teams. Having the shirt as a reminder of that is pretty nice 🙂

      • Josh October 1, 2011 / 9:30 PM

        Cool, I can imagine you looking back at it at that shirt fifty years from now to recall it. Nice memento you have there.

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