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The Evolution of an Indie Game Name

Over the course of 18 months, the name of our game changed seven times and Oointah finally landed on Death by Game Show. Was it the right decision? Find out all the other possible names that were considered.

My name is Malcolm Michaels and I am a the founder (and pin monkey) for Oointah Games and I’d like to take you on a journey that starts with a simple question...

I Love Boom Boom
I Like Money
iLikeMoney (or, How I Almost Died on a Game Show)
Death by Game Show

What are the above?

Judge not, lest ye be judged
Are they safe words in Madam Oooooh’s House of Pleasure? No, they are the evolution of Oointah’s first game, not just in naming but high concept.  

With every journey there is an origin, for us it was Plunder. I believe a name is a first impression. How often do people say “he looks like a Richard?” A name can often describe how someone acts, how something works or a product's quality. The name Plunder instantly delivered meaning that matched our high concept of plundering. It was good, but bland!  

If Plunder was in a list on Steam would it grab you? It didn’t grab us. It didn’t have the comedy value and needed a hint of Mike Judge zaniness for flavor. So without much hesitation Plunder became Plunder/p. “Derp” being a common internet term that fit the bizzarro quality of our games Universe. To us, it was the perfect dictionary and urban dictionary combination. Or so we thought.  

As quickly as we found the perfect title, our prototyping led us down an alternative path.Plunder/p no longer fit. We were back at square one in terms of finding a title that matched our gameplay and humor. We returned to our influences.

Welcome to Costco. I Love You.
One of our main influences is the movie “Idiocracy”. We love its humor and wanted to pay homage in as many ways as possible. As we prototyped our structure was being shaped by a theme very popular in futuristic movies including Running Man, The Hunger Games, Battle Royale and Idiocracy - The Game Show. With this in mind, we began exploring new titles.  

Our first effort “I Love Boom Boom” was pure gimmick, but it definitely sounded like a game show catchphrase. It just had too much innuendo and trying to build a reputation on that is unwise. Eventually one of the famed Idiocracy lines, “I like money” was decided upon. It fit the game show structure and was quirky enough to be interesting but it looked awful as text.  

We worked on a logo for I Like Money several times over until it finally became “iLikeMoney”. Using the small ‘i’ looked great on screen but added a huge question, does the small ‘i’ make it instantly considered as a mobile game by passing eyes? Additionally, iLikeMoney sounded fun but it also sounded (and our logo looked) casual. So from Plunder/p which had an aggressive and comedic quality, we become mobile casual? That wasn’t the game we were making… 

You can't fight in here! This is the War Room.
As time progressed our concern about iLikeMoney grew more and more up to the point where we was close to launching on Steam Greenlight. It was only a few weeks beforehand that our next iteration of title took root. We wanted either more edginess to bring back that aggressive comedy or more quirk to distance it from mobile casual. Step forth a new influence - “Dr. Strangelove, or How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb”...  

Who in their right mind would call a game “iLikeMoney (or, How I Almost Died on a Game Show)"? We would and did! In all honesty, this title is great. It’s fun, it’s unique and there is so much of it that the consideration that it’s casual falls away - at least in my opinion. We ran with it via Greenlight and got through in 37 days (average) after a disaster of a start (more on that another time perhaps).  

During Greenlight we thought it was our media which was the problem but the game looked fun and interesting. In hindsight and looking at it analytically - if you don’t have people looking in the first place it’s not the media but the initial catchment. Had our title evolved too far from the game itself? Was it not appealing to the masses who still vote on Greenlight?

Internally we felt the problems we tried to hide with the Dr. Strangelove tribute didn’t work. We needed to scrap the title and start fresh based on the game we had made, not influences or origins. It was ironic that throughout development there was a sentence in the intro which constantly felt right. It matched the difficulty of our game and after months and months of chopping and changing we turned to what felt right - “Death by Game Show!"

Was it too literal? Was it too obvious? Is it boring? None of that mattered, it fit and felt right. I guess the moral of this story is, if it feels right it feels right. That said, if someone tells you they are going to take you on a journey, say “no thanks” and walk away.  

What do you think? Is Death by Game Show the right name, or should have it been iLikeMoney or Plunder/p?

Death by Game Show is now available on Steam and other fine digital retailers in Windows, Mac, and Linux flavors.

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