How to name your game!

When you design a game you face many challenged from the very beginning to the very end. You struggle to find out a good and interesting mechanic that offers something new to the players, you work hard to prepare a fitting theme and figure out the look and feel for your game. You spend countless hours testing your game, circling ideas and iterations to smooth it and perfect its core. There is so much to do and so much to take into consideration, it’s amazing that a single person can handle it! However in such a multitude of tasks, where all are equally important, some things tend to slip away if we don’t steel ourselves with rigour and good planning.

And one of such important thing is the game name.

Yes, as trifle as it seems, game name is hugely important and even long-lived, respected publishers tend to slip on time to time here. And we, beginners on the field of game design, can always fall into a trap with game naming. In fact, we here at Rombo Games know this from our own mistakes, since our kickstarter project – Publish or Perish – did not work out so well, and the name of the game was one of its problems! We learnt late into the campaign that the game seemed too aggressive and competitive for a cooperative game for families and kids, that it was too exclusive in its meaning, restricted mostly to the members of the Academia to see and enjoy the reference. Simply put, we tripped on the basic thing like the game name! Now we ensure proper, deeper research before settling down with a game name.

So what you can do to ensure that your game name works just fine? Well, we are not going to claim that we are big time experts on this, but we learnt and observed the trends... And we believe we can share a few handy tips. Here we go:

Quadropolis title is a great example of an unique yet straightforward title!

-        >>>  Unique and not generic. This one is both the key and the biggest struggle in finding a suitable game name. Tom Vasel said once that the titles of the greatest games yet to come are not taken yet, and that is obviously correct. When you pick up a game you have to ensure that no one else claimed it… And that goes beyond browsing Board Game Geek search. Mostly because you would like to be sure that your game name is not used in a video game or any other popular product! Why? Well, to promote your game you want it to be on top of the search engines listing, and if it happens that a similar or same name is used in a different, more popular product, you’re royally screwed.

Blood Rage. Simple, clean, easy to remember and spell out. Great title.

-       >>>  Simple and easy. Okay. Here we are getting slightly mixed up… So, we need a name that is unique and yet it have to be easy and simple? Well, it is important due to the simple fact of human nature and accessibility to information. Word of mouth is a big marketing thing in the boardgame community, and if you made your game name hard to spell or type down quickly, you’re making it hard for your potential customers to find you, and I hope I don’t have to explain why that is a very bad thing. Avoid stuff like replacing ‘I’ with ‘y’ because it looks cooler. Avoid unreadable fonts and big, robust names. Avoid made-up words as much as you can, and if you do need them, make them nice and simple, and easy on the tongue.
Food Chain Magnate - the title is as clear as it can be. You know what the game is about already.

-       >>> Theme fitting. This one should be obvious! Your name should give people idea what the game is about even if all they will know about it is the title alone. When you hear ‘Robinson Crusoe’ you will get the idea of the theme – lonely island, survival and so on. When you read ‘Power Grid’ it might not tell you that it is an auction game, but you will get the notion it have something to do with the electricity and infrastructure of providing it. Keep that in mind when naming your games – the biggest package of ideas you can put into it that fit your game, the better.

Patchwork simply works - it's short, to the point and fit the theme with a tight knit!

-         >>> Short and with no subtitle. Simple enough, really. If you are a boardgamer, and we believe we all are here, you know how we tend to shorten the names when talking about them. I know of no person who says “Let’s play Settlers of Catan!” but I will hear “Let’s play Settlers.” Because everyone will know which game it is. Same with Ticket to Ride, to give another example. People don’t play Magic: The Gathering, but simply Magic. They don’t play Neuroshima Hex, but Hex or Neuro. There is little reason to make big names, since players will shorten them without hesitation. Same with subtitles. You know the games, like Descent: Journeys in the Dark or Ancient Aliens: Creators of Civilizations. Not only it’s huge but literally no one in entire world will ever spell the entire title, ever. Not to mention it make it looks like these are expansions, and not core games. Which is not such a good idea.

And here you have it. Hopefully with these few hints you’ll get a better idea what bad habits to avoid when figuring out a name for your projects and make it pop out from the throng! And if you think we skipped something or perhaps do not agree with the hints above, be sure to write a comments ;)

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