HUD (video gaming)

In video gaming, the HUD (head-up display) or Status Bar is the method by which information is visually relayed to the player as part of a game's user interface.[1] It takes its name from the head-up displays used in modern aircraft.

The HUD is frequently used to simultaneously display several pieces of information including the main character's health, items, and an indication of game progression (such as score or level).

Shown on the HUD

The SuperTuxKart HUD displays the character's speed, position, and amount of nitro, while also displaying the map of the course in the lower-left corner.

While the information that is displayed on the HUD depends greatly on the game, there are many features that players recognize across many games. Most of them are static onscreen so that they stay visible during gameplay. Common features include:

There are also trends common among genres and platforms. Many online games show player names and a chat text box for talking to the other players. RTS games tend to have complex user interfaces, with context-sensitive panels and a full-overview mini-map with fog of war.

How the HUD is displayed

Typically this information is represented numerically, with the health level being a number from 0–100 (percent): 100 representing full health and 0 representing empty, no health or death. However, many other methods of visual representation can be used. For instance, certain games employ a "health bar" which empties as the player becomes hurt such as Tekken, Street Fighter, and many others.

Armour levels are also commonly monitored, either through a separate readout, or as part of the health system. For example, Halo uses one recharging shield bar, acting as the health level. When this is depleted the player can only take a few more hits before his or her death. The same goes in Destroy All Humans!, but in the form of Crypto's shields. Traditionally, games used lives to represent health. Every time the main character was injured he would lose one of his limited lives. Another way to display the life in the HUD is demonstrated in Gears of War, where the characters life is displayed only when he is taking damage, in which case a red cog known as the Crimson Omen appears in the center of the screen. The more visible the Crimson Omen is, the more damage the player has sustained and the closer he is to death. This health system is known as the 'Red Ring' system.

There is also a lot of variance with regards to the display of other information. Some games permanently display all the weapons a character is currently carrying, others rely on a pull up weapon selector. Inventory or storage space may also be permanently overlaid over the screen, or accessed via a menu. Alternatively, only a limited number of items stored in the inventory might be displayed at once, with the rest being rotated into view using the [ and ] keys.

In order to maintain the suspension of disbelief, some games make the HUD look like a real HUD within the context of the game's world. Many first-person vehicle simulation games use this technique, showing instruments and displays that the driver of the vehicle would be expected to see. The displays in the helmet in the first-person adventure game Metroid Prime or Star Wars: Republic Commando also mimic the player's point of view. A similar method is used in Tom Clancy's Ghost Recon Advanced Warfighter and Crysis. In some of these circumstances where the player and character within the game are meant to see the same 'HUD' information, Halo for example, the term HMD (Helmet Mounted Display) would technically be more accurate. This is not to be confused with Head-Up Display.

Some games provide the player with an option to hide part or all of the HUD. This is usually used to create cleaner looking screenshots and videos, which can be essential to producing machinima. Certain games like Pac-Man World and Super Mario Galaxy 2 even keep the HUD elements off-screen without any option. When this method is used, they will only appear when affected. In some games, they can temporarily be displayed all at once with the press of a button. In games where that method is not used, the only way to display them at once is by pausing the game.

A few games give players extensive control over their HUD, such as customizing position, size, color, and opacity. World of Warcraft is notable for allowing players to significantly modify and enhance the user interface through Lua scripting.

Despite the modern dominance of 3D graphics in games, HUDs are frequently rendered with a 2D look, often using sprites.

Reduction of elements

Sometimes, for the sake of realism, information normally displayed in the HUD is instead disguised as part of the scenery or part of the vehicle in which the player is traveling. For example, when the player is driving a car that can sustain a certain number of hits, a smoke trail might appear when the car can take only two more hits, fire might appear from the car to indicate that the next hit will be fatal. Wounds and bloodstains may sometimes appear on injured characters who may also limp, stagger, slouch over or breathe heavily to indicate they are injured, a notable example being Resident Evil 2.

In rare cases, no HUD is used at all, leaving the player to interpret the auditory and visual cues in the gameworld. The elimination of elements has hardly become a trend in game development, but can be witnessed in several titles as of late. Some examples of games without HUDs are Silent Hill 2, Jurassic Park: Trespasser, Ico, The Getaway, Fable III, Another World, Mirror's Edge, King Kong, Dead Space, Call of Cthulhu: Dark Corners of the Earth, Resident Evil, and Tomb Raider (2013).

HUDs and burn-in

Prolonged display (that stays on the screen in a fixed position, remaining static) of HUD elements on certain CRT-based screens may cause permanent damage in the form of burning into the inner coating of the television sets, which is impossible to repair. Players who pause their games for long hours without turning off their television or putting it on standby risk harming their TV sets. Plasma TV screens are also at risk, although the effects are usually not as permanent.

Burn-in can still happen on LCD monitors, but only when the same image is displayed for weeks.

Other uses

The Sega Dreamcast, released in 1998, uses a VMU on many games as a HUD. A notable example is Resident Evil 2, Resident Evil 3: Nemesis and Resident Evil Code: Veronica all using the VMU to show a mini version of the HUD, which displays the protagonists health and ammo. This feature was resurrected with the introduction of the Nintendo Wii U, which uses the Wii U GamePad for some games as a HUD.


  1. "What is a HUD". Webopedia. QuinStreet Inc. Retrieved 15 December 2014.
  2. "HUD". Minecraft. Retrieved 23 July 2015.
  3. Adams, David (2003-12-05). "SEGA Sues Fox and EA". IGN. Retrieved 2007-08-14.
  4. Brown, Mark. "5 video game patents you didn't know existed". Pocket Gamer. Retrieved 26 July 2016.
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