The reticle is that little dot, crosshairs, or aiming circle on your screen that’s so common you might not have thought much about it. Sure, it helps you aim, but the reticle has other incredibly important purposes that are easy to take for granted.
Our pixelated friend showed up early in arcades, mostly in submarine games, like Sea Wolf (1976), and later on in light gun games like Sega’s Jurassic Park (1994). Battle Zone (1980) featured a legit, stationary aiming reticle, which I mention because the reticle was dynamic; it changed when you hovered over an enemy.
Using a reticle to communicate gameplay information is pretty standard now, but it’s a feature that a whole generation of first-person shooters just forgot about, when they had a reticle at all. A lot of the early FPS games, like Doom (1993) and Goldeneye (1997) didn’t bother with one.
Outside of Halo, which arguably perfected the crosshair in 2001, first-person shooters generally didn’t get wise to using the reticle as a form of communication until the mid-2000s. Now the reticle is used as a vehicle for all sorts of information, like when you’re hovering over an enemy, what gun you have equipped, and whether you can interact with an object. It’s so common we rarely have to think about what information we’re getting from that little dot on our screen.
And that’s not even the best service the reticle provides. If you’ve ever circled back to those early first-person shooters, you might’ve experienced the Gamer’s Sour Curse: motion sickness.
That freckle is a constant, unmoving point on the screen, a place to focus when your avatar is in motion. It’s the same theory behind spotting, a technique where a dancer will keep their eyes trained on one spot as their body executes full spins. In fact, the creators of Mirror’s Edge actually consulted with ballerinas to figure out how they do eight spins in a row without vomiting all over the front seats.
Watch the video above to learn exactly why having a reticle keeps you from losing your lunch.