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26 Sep 2014

The Name Game: Indie Games and the Names We Give Them

There is a fun post over at Mental Floss that describes how thirteen classic video games got their names. The usual suspects are there: Pac-Man, Donkey Kong, DOOM, Halo, and of course, The Legend of Zelda.

Super Mario Bros. is, oddly enough, missing from the list (don’t worry though, the origin story of the name isn’t that interesting).

One of the things that struck me about the list was how every game in the list had a short name. In fact, two games tie for having the longest name in the list: Grand Theft Auto and The Legend of Zelda (words like ‘the’ don’t add to the word count, in my opinion).

I think there’s something to this. Can you think of any original games that you would deem ‘classic’ that have more than three words in the title? I’m not counting sequels since they rely on the original game’s reputation to sell the product. Rather, I’m talking about new, unproven IPs with more than three words in the title that became instant classics.

I’ve been sitting here for over five minutes, and still, I can’t think of one. The only original IP that popped into my head was The Last of Us, but then again there’s that magic ‘the’ word: it doesn’t count.  I’m scouring through my vintage game collection, and I can’t find any original IP that has a title more than three words long!

I think the verdict is in, folks: the most memorable and classic games have the most simplistic, roll-off-the-tongue titles. Let’s use Destiny as an example. Do you think as many people would be interested in the game if the name of the game was Endless Battle Between Humans and Aliens? Terrible example I know, but it doesn’t have the same mystique to it as Destiny.

Take a look at Myst. Would as many people have played the game if it had been known as Adventures in an Unknown, Mysterious World? I highly doubt it. Myst sounds mysterious and unknown on its own, and it’s much more memorable.

When it comes to naming your indie game, simplicity is king. If you can get away with a one-word title, do it! If you have add two or even three words, that’s fine too. Even if you have to use words like ‘the,’ ‘a,’ or ‘an,’ (e.g. The Infinite Mile) or sometimes even ‘of’ to connect a few words together to form a name that sounds appealing (e.g. Legend of the Drunken Samurai would be appropriate), go for it.

Ensure it’s original too. For example, if you are developing an endless runner starring a runaway kitten, don’t just call it, ‘Yet Another Endless Runner.’ Those types of names stopped being clever years ago (and it’s debatable if they were clever to begin with). Instead, look at your source material. What’s the game about. Oh, a kitten that’s running away? Well then: Runaway Kitten sounds like the perfect, logical choice doesn’t it? Simple, to-the-point, and it tells exactly what your game is about: a kitten that is running.

Finally, make sure the game’s title is actually original. Going back to the Runaway Kitten example, if there is already a game called Runaway Dog or Runaway Cat, you may want to give it a different name. Think harder about the name of the game. For example, if somebody is chasing the kitten, why not name it ‘Stop That Kitten’? It’s as catchy and to-the-point as Runaway Kitten, but it’s now more original.

Finding the perfect name for your indie game isn’t difficult, but then again it is. Keep it simple, never be satisfied with the name of the game until you are truly satisfied, and ensure there isn’t another name out there like it. This will help it rank well in searches and ensure that your indie game is easily found too.

Have a question on how to choose a name for your indie game? Let us know in the comments below!

1 Response

  1. Ed

    My game is a truck 2-d game in a mountain and their are various levels any suggestions , it’s quite mad so the only thing I have is mountain mayhem but many things in the web have this name , thks and I might buy this tool , at the movement I use Gamesalad and have used gamemaker in the past.

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