Capitalization Rules for the Names of Games

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How do you style the first letter of words for games and similar entertainment? The default setting is lowercase, though of course there are exceptions.

Names of card games are lowercased except for words normally capitalized, thus poker, but “Texas hold ’em.” Names for other games of chance, whether more or less “legitimate” ones like Russian roulette and bingo, those that straddle both worlds (like craps, which has two forms: casino, or table craps, and street craps), and confidence games like three-card monte, follow the same rules. Names of variations, and other terminology, aren’t capitalized, either.

Those of strategy games such as chess and checkers are lowercased, too (but note “Chinese checkers”), as are names of tile games such as dominoes. Traditional children’s games like tag and hopscotch, and those with more complex names, such as capture the flag, hide-and-seek, and king of the castle, need no special emphasis, either.

Brand names of trademarked games like Monopoly, Scrabble, and Chutes and Ladders are capitalized, but note that it is not necessarily to use registration symbols with them. (You will, of course, note the r in a circle adjacent to the brand name on the game itself and in printed and online literature published by the company, as well as in written materials of any company affiliated or in partnership with the trademark holder, but no other publication is required to include such symbols.)

Names of electronic games follow the same rule. You may also see these names italicized or enclosed in quotation marks; the justification for these styles is that such games have a narrative and are therefore equivalent to films. However, names of kinds of software are capitalized but not italicized.

Names for games like pool and its variants, foosball, air hockey, and other tabletop entertainments should not be capitalized.

Names of competitive sports such as baseball, basketball, and football are lowercase, but note that Major League Baseball is not merely a description of the highest level of professional baseball in the United States but also the official designation and is thus capitalized.

Names of large competitive events are capitalized: Examples include, in the United States, the World Series and the Super Bowl, and internationally, the Olympic Games (informally called the Olympics) and the Pan American Games. (But note that “Highland games” is a description and not the name of a specific event.)

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11 thoughts on “Capitalization Rules for the Names of Games”

  1. Hi, can you give examples of electronic games, the ones you lowercase and/or enclose quotation marks. Do you retain the capitalization of Counter-strike, Red Alert, Starcraft?

  2. When I was working for my college newspaper, we came across a game that caused a lot of uncertainty: ultimate frisbee. The word “Frisbee” alone is capitalized, but when we combine it with “ultimate,” we decided it was a sport and shouldn’t have any more distinction than baseball, basketball, or football. We wrote it as “ultimate frisbee.” What are your thoughts?

  3. John:

    Virtually all games that are products, including the ones you list, should be at least capitalized. (The only exceptions are products that consist of traditional game equipment: A jump rope available in a plastic package at a store may be labeled “Jump Rope,” but it’s still a jump rope used to play jump rope.)

  4. Scott:

    That’s an interesting case. I did some research online and learned that the preferred name is simply ultimate, equivalent to football, etc., to avoid using the Frisbee trademark. I suppose the sports organizers opted not to genericize the game’s name as ultimate flying disc.

    Wham-O, the maker of Frisbees, would not have been pleased to read in your school newspaper about “ultimate frisbee” (or “ultimate Frisbee,” for that matter), and if a company representative done so, the university would likely have received a cease-and-desist letter. Sigh.

  5. “… but note that it is not necessarily to use registration symbols with them.” Shouldn’t it be ‘necessary’ and not “necessarily”?

  6. Since games like Starcraft 2 or Halo: MCC are capitalized I will continue to capitalize games like Chess or Poker.

  7. Tom:
    As I mentioned in a response to John, computer games are products, and just as Prius and Cheerios and Kleenex are product names, their names are therefore capitalized. But chess and poker are nonproprietary—though companies produce chess sets and decks of playing cards, no company holds the trademark for the names of those games—hence the distinction.

  8. How about “Rugby” (whether Union or League)? This would seem to follow other games of similar kind in being lowercase – but it is also named after a place and so would seem to require uppercase. Some commentators say it has been the name of the game for long enough now to be separate from the place.
    And how about “Union” and “League” – should those be uppercase?

  9. Michael:
    In line with what you mention, rugby is no longer associated with its place of birth and is treated lowercase, as are union and league in reference to the distinctive codes of play.

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