Names are important. Besides art style, they are people’s first point of contact with your game. Names set expectations, and used well can capture the imagination. People will use it to answer “is this game for me?” Microsoft Flight Simulator is going to attract a different set of people than No Man’s Sky, though both groups may be equally excited about the prospect of their chosen game. A good name should be seamlessly integrated into the core fantasy/setting/story/experience your game offers (along with art, music, narrative style).
That’s not to say you can’t have fun or need to have corporate board meetings over it (I doubt the AaaaaAAaaaAAAaaAAAAaAAAAA!!! designers were particularly meticulous, for example) — but choosing a name is not a design decision to be ignored. On the other hand, it’s hard to start publicizing a game before it has a name (and you should be publicizing it as soon as you have anything to show). Needing a name before I’ve 100% fleshed out the aesthetic design is the problem I’m running up against for my neural circuit game.
So, one of my first steps in any design decision is to look at what’s already out there. Here’s a collection of games I’ve compiled (through other research or just pulled off the front page of Steam) and tried to organize into thematic and functional piles. This isn’t meant to be a thorough and strict classification — I only am trying to better understand different approaches and functions of naming games.
(full disclosure: the ones with links are from people I know)
Exactly What It Says On The Tin
- Kerbal Space Program
- Impossible Creatures
- Artemis Spaceship Bridge Simulator
- Species: Artificial Life, Real Evolution
- Golf With Your Friends
- Don’t Starve
- Keep Talking And Nobody Explodes
- Learn Japanese To Survive
- American Truck Simulator
- Goat Simulator
- Space Engineers
- Monsters Ate My Birthday Cake
Very straightforward, people know *exactly* what their experience will be. Almost all are (or at least started out as) indie games where there’s more leeway for more artistic names like these.
Monsters Ate My Birthday Cake isn’t an explicit instruction to the player like some of the others, but it is super efficient while being fun. It includes protagonists, items, and actions: you control monsters to obtain birthday cake.