Posted by: Montola | December 4, 2009

The Name of the Game

The Wednesday’s story on SecretCPH again brought up an old pet peeve: How hard can it be to come up with names for pervasive games?

I mean — Ludic Nation calls the game SecretCPH in most places, but after the game the registration site now calls it Secret Copenhagen: The Spies, while their Ning community site has the heading Secret: Copenhagen. Of course, they walk solidly in the footsteps of the ARG genre, following the nameless thing that the very creators call both The Beast and The A.I. Web Game, and fans with many more names. Remember — those guys who created I Love Bees / ilovebees? The game that for some reason has the Wikipedia URL as Haunted Apiary?

Reminds me of Alias Online Adventure, Alias Web Puzzle and Alias Web Game, and their various seasons whatever they were called before the sites went down. Funnily, the fan-produced Omnifam (or Alias: Omnifam?) is a bit more consistent with its name than the official Alias ARGs, even though those fans managed put up a credits page without putting a label to the thing they claim credit for.

I understand that often the names are created by players and fans during runtime; the designers didn’t create the Wikipedia page that remains undecided between The Art of the Heist and Art of the H3ist, but I suppose fans would know if the creators were consistent. McKinney’s excellent presentation on the game is posted as Art of The Heist, but opens up with a title The Art of The H3ist. This undecided approach might be one reason why Motor Trend News also called the game The Art Of The H3ist and The Art of the H3ist. With four moving parts, there are at some 23 ways to spell that name wrong.

I’ll forgive Stolen A3 since I believe that was a fan-created derivative of a website url. Heroes Evolutions is also forgiven, since they apparently were explicit about changing their name from Heroes 360 Experience. Seasons and iterations are complicated, I’m not even going to get started on Nokia Game — or on wondering whether Nokia 20Lives was a Nokia Game or not.

If you engage in funny spelling, make sure you know what you are doing. I don’t think the creators of vQuest can agree whether it’s actually VQuest or not. The same goes, I think, with PacManhattan, Pac-Manhattan and Pacmanhattan.

In our own IPerG project (funnily spelled as iPerG in all too many slidesets) we had skills too. Only after writing two papers and a bit more on a game called Prosopopeia, I first heard the complete name having been Prosopopeia Bardo 1: Där vi föll. Well, the game documentation website remains solid on the original name. Having learned from our experiences, we determinedly poked our book case authors for precision, as only the designer could tell that the correct name for the 212box game was Mystery on Fifth Avenue, not In These Rooms of Wood and Stone as we had thought (which is the correct name of the book  that came with the mystery).

Some of this stuff has budgets upwards from one million eurodollars. Wouldn’t it also benefit the business to establish clear brand names for the stuff you’ll put into your portfolios?




  1. I’m not going to claim to know what the official title is for I Love Bees, but I do know that the ‘Haunted Apiary (Let Op!)’ title was a player generated name that really only stuck around on the UF forums and the online guide that I wrote. Sure there’s a Wikipedia entry for “Haunted Apiary” but that actually redirects back to the more widely accepted ‘I Love Bees’ name.

  2. You forgot the old shamanistic mobile phone game The Songs of the North, which became Songs of North on the phone as the screen was so small that it made sense to get rid of the silly prepositions.

    And let’s not even talk about all the games called The Game.

  3. Another one is the ritualistic social play that you call ‘Werewolf’ in the book (p.153). The original game is called “Mafia” and is created by Dimma (or Dimitry?) Davidoff. I recently played the same game with a new name ‘Murder’. The overall game mechanic is the same but with different stories about werewolf’s, Mafiosi’s or murders.

    Maybe we need an IPGDb (Internet Pervasive Game Database). Just like but for Pervasive Games. A similar idea has been discussed in the ARG community.

  4. Yeah, Werewolf is re-skinned Mafia (which I think we did say in the ludography).

    The Games is an insane mess too, especially when you start mixing the movie with the Luskin games, the Stanford games and the whatever other games.

    Speaking of murders, Jakob, there’s also the game Steve Jackson published as Killer: The Game of Assassination, which is also known as Killer, Circle of Death, Deathgame and most usually, perhaps, Assassin…

    – M

  5. I tell you – it’s awful!

    You get a name: SecretCPH. And that’s all well and good. But then you get your teams.

    Which need names. And then you think “Maybe I want to use that website again…”

    But – it all depends on what the Brand is.
    SecretCPH can be (rather – will be) an umbrella title for games set in a Secret Copenhagen.

    And while this doesn’t solve the issue – no one ever complains that Dr. Who has an episode called The Water of Mars, or that Fringe has an episode called August.

    Perhaps the issue isn’t with naming conventions – but the brand “Pervasive Games” as a whole.

    I mean, we cling to “this is not a game” so there is no need to name. Why would we name it? It’s not like this is anything important.

    Following that – most games are fire and forget. There _is_ no brand.

    That said – the logical steps of the post are absolutely right. If we are to move Pervasive Gaming from mere adver-games, into a space where they can be self sustaining, then we HAVE to make them brand friendly.

  6. Good points, Adam.

    And of course it’s complicated: It’s stupid to call something Prosopopeia 1 unless you know there will be Prosopopeia 2, and since Prosopopeia 2 is not very sexy name, you start to add up stuff to the names, coming up with stuff like Prosopopeia Bardo 2: Momentum and Secret Copenhagen: The Spies.

    The easy thing with TV is that they have definable units that are used to measure them: Series, season, episode. Having basic units makes even exception handling easier: You have convenions for families of series (C.S.I.: Miami) and two-part episodes.

    Also, as long as we piggyback on bigger brand names, it’s always going to be a trouble: The good name is reserved for the main product. Or if the product is a interactive-slash-drama family of things like Sanningen om Marika, you end up having ten different things under your transmedia umbrella.

    It’s not supposed to be easy, but it wouldn’t need to be this difficult.

    – M

  7. Nodnod. Absolutely. As I always say “If it was easy, everyone would be doing it – and where would the fun in that be.”

    I totally agree that we should be better. In fact, i think it became “Spies” when we realised we could do something else with it.

    I don’t mind a big Umbrella. I’d rather a wide audience look at something they may not have otherwise done because of the name. I think…

    But the TV analogy is great. I used to try and push for that when I was in computer/console games. No one sits down to watch a 10 hour movie, but we all understand a TV show with seasons, story arcs, recurring characters.

    As a model that is readily identifiable to an audience and less threatening. It also allows for “jumping on” points late into a game.

    Which – I think – is a different conversation :)

  8. Adam,

    I’d be happy to publish a guest post on that TV metaphor, to open up that discussion. :-)

    – M

  9. […] (The name of the game might be EVOKE, Urgent Evoke or even URGENT EVOKE. Beats me.) […]

  10. […] that anyone notices or cares about this, but we are completely obsessed by it. (Markus has actually blogged about this name once before.) Anyhoo, it seems that in the main headers we will capitalize all words (since this is a book in […]

  11. […] was in London last weekend taking a look at Conspiracy for Good (by the way, that is the official name of the thing, the creative director confirmed it). I had a good time playing, but won’t get […]

  12. Conspiracy for Good or Conspiracy For Good? Jury is out.

  13. […] pervasive games: another place to get […]

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s


%d bloggers like this: