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Symbol Drawing Interface

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A Video Game interface (or part of it) based on drawing symbols on the screen with your mouse, controller, or stylus, usually to cast Functional Magic.

A Sub-Trope of Some Dexterity Required. See also Geometric Magic.


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    In Universe 
  • An In-Universe example in Heavy Rain: Although this interface is not used by the player, Norman Jayden's ARI does have a consistent motion-control interface.
  • In Homestuck, Jade uses the Pictionary fetch modus, which means she picks up items by drawing them on a tablet computer.
  • In Simoun, the Ri Maajons are graphical patterns drawn in the air with the eponymous aircraft's mystical gems, which, if drawn correctly, bring forth powerful magic.

  • Castlevania: Dawn of Sorrow required this to finish off defeated bosses.
  • The Harry Potter video games use this method for spell-casting.
  • The Legend of Zelda: Phantom Hourglass and The Legend of Zelda: Spirit Tracks.
  • Ōkami and Ōkamiden: The gameplay revolves primarily around the Celestial Brush Techniques, requiring the player to "paint" symbols on the screen to create various effects such as making the sun rise or set, slashing objects as with a blade, causing dormant plants to bloom, etc. Notably, you can only use those brush techniques once you've 'learned' them in game, even if you're on New Game Plus and already know them.
  • The Wonderful 101 uses drawing gestures mechanic to switch between weapons.
  • Metroid Prime has another in universe example; using the X-Ray visor (or paying attention to the icons on the weapon display) indicates that Samus switches between different functions and fires her Arm Cannon via hand gestures.
  • Pokémon:
    • In the Dream World of the Generation V Pokémon games, there's a minigame where you have to guide a Sableye in a mine cart to collect gems by drawing symbols representing each platform to jump on.
    • Pokémon Ranger: Guardian Signs allows you to draw symbols that summon Pokémon you've encountered, particularly Legendaries.
  • Descension: Depths of De'Mae. You draw rune shapes over an area, and a spell is cast on that area. For Lightning spells, the bottom tip must touch the foe, while foes within the area of a triangle spell will take damage.

  • The PC-version of Fahrenheit replaces control stick motion patterns of the consoles with tracing the same patterns with a mouse, effectively making it this.
  • In Turgor, you do everything except walking and talking by drawing symbols on the screen and feeding them with energy. Even talking to Sisters requires it.
  • In Monty Python's The Meaning of Life the Licensed Game, in the section "Live Organ Transplants" you as a surgeon have to cut into a body. It starts out with simple lines, then gets more complex and the last one you have to do is in the image of Gumby.
  • Myst V had you draw symbols on a special slate in order to command the strange creatures that inhabited the worlds you visited. Noted for being frustratingly buggy; it often took several tries for a symbol to be recognised, and it was easy to accidentally draw the symbol that would take you to the end of the level.

    Casual Games 

    God Games 
  • Black & White uses an interface where you perform miracles by drawing corresponding symbols on the ground.
    • The sequel keeps this but also adds the option of using a more traditional interface.
    Hack And Slash 
    Real Time Strategy 
  • Early versions of Darwinia used this system to summon units. This was replaced by default with a menu-based system in later versions.
  • LostMagic makes you cast spells that way.
  • Sacrifice allowed you to navigate through the tactical menus with this, although clicking or using keyboard shortcuts was usually simpler.
    Role Playing Games 
  • Trauma Center requires players to draw a pentagram in order to activate Derek Stiles' "Healing Touch".
    Non Video Game Examples 
  • Various "Gestures" add-ons for Mozilla Firefox allow you to browse the web with a Symbol Drawing Interface. The Opera browser even supports this natively.