Game overlays are the new pop-up ads

Game overlays have gotten out of control

The first time I experienced an in-game overlay—a 3D interface rendered over the 3D interface of a game—I thought it was great way for accessing information without alt-tabbing out of the game. The second time made me realize I would never remember the complicated Ctrl Backslash Tilde key combo to access the overlay. Skip a few years and in-game overlays has turned into the proverbial pop-up ad of PC gaming, with every vendor trying to outdo the other other.

Don’t believe me? On a “clean” gaming laptop with just Steam loaded, I found no less than four different overlays: Steam’s (Shift+Tab), Ubisoft’s (Shift+F2), Microsoft’s Xbox Game Bar (Windows+G) and of course, Nvidia’s (Alt+Z). That’s pretty insane when you consider all I was doing was testing Ubisoft’s Far Cry 5 on the laptop.

Mind you, I didn’t install any of these game overlays, they’re just included by installing the software. It’s also clear there’s far more out there too. AMD’s default Radeon overlay is a memorable (Alt+R). Discord includes a game overlay (disabled by default but Shift+Tilde when on) and Good Old Games (GOG) Galaxy uses (Shift+Tab). Epic Games also has an overlay for Friends, but only in games that supports it (Shift+F3). If you’re one of the few people still running Electronic Arts’ Origin launcher, you’ve got one too (Shift+F1). While calling game overlays ‘pop up ads’ is probably over the top, they can get that annoying when you have an overlay on top of the overlay, on top of the overlay you’re trying to reach.