What game names really mean

Jan 9, 2008

If you want to sell your product, you need a catchy name, something that immediately resonates with your intended audience. This is incredibly true in video games, an industry that began with no-nonsense names like "Combat" and "Pong." Today, with a global marketplace and niches to fill on a daily basis, game names have become increasingly cryptic, nonsensical or double-meaning in-jokes that about five people get.

That's where this list comes in. By compiling information from several reliable sources (our own memory, Wikipedia and some guy in accounting), we think we've nailed down the strangest of the strange. First up, the heavy-hitters:

Orange Box (360, PS3, PC)
Most notably, it's the correct name of an airplane's "black box," the device that records a plane's last moments prior to a crash. Orange stands out in wreckage, black doesn't, so there you go. It also seems to be something that dupes caller ID.

Half-Life (360, PS3, PC, PS2, XB)
This one gets all science-y. A half-life is the time it takes for something to decay to half its original value (to put it in really, really simple terms). It's usually used when talking about exponential decay. The game's expansions, Opposing Force and Blue Shift, also refer to nerd-glasses lingo. The former to Newton's third law of motion and the latter the Doppler effect.

Mass Effect (360)
A medical term for the "effect" a growing "mass" has on your body. So, if we're getting this right, tumors have a certain mass effect on everything else. We thought it was going to be some cool black hole/singularity lingo. Ick.

Deus Ex (PC, PS2, XB)
One of the most mispronounced game names of all time. You might know the phrase "deus ex machina." It more or less means "act of god" in Latin. Usually used today to describe divine intervention or "magical" fixes in a story where everything works out fine despite insurmountable odds.

Syphon Filter (PSOne, PS2, PSP)
A siphon filter, literally, would be something that sifts unwanted objects out. In the game, it's a programmable virus that can target any life form on the planet. Basically, running all living things through the virus and picking off whatever the user doesn't want. And it's spelled with a Y... because someone thinks that's still cool.

Tabula Rasa (PC)
Latin phrase meaning "blank slate." Anyone who took Philosophy 101 knows this. Aristotle asserted that humans are born "blank," with no guidelines or instincts to draw upon. We learn as we go. John Locke (no, not the guy from Lost) is also known for this view. Maybe the game's going for the "your character is empty until you make it" vibe?

Baten Kaitos (GC)
An Arabic phrase meaning "belly of the sea monster." Would you also believe it's a star 260 light years away? Well, you have to. Because it is.

Katamari Damacy (360, PS2, PSP)
Japanese for "bundle of souls" or "clump spirit," kind of in the same way we say "team spirit" to mean a group of people really charged about something. Fits pretty well.

Anachronox (PC)
It allegedly means "poison from the past" in Latin, but almost every root word in the title means something else in a different language, so who knows. We googled for seconds and couldn't take it anymore.

Next page - what the hell do all those crazy-ass shooter names mean?


  • archnite - June 19, 2012 7:38 p.m.

    Revengers of Vengeance oh my god why would someone name their game something so stupid. get that dumd"of" out ah their Revengeancers is where it is at!
  • The4X - February 11, 2010 6:40 a.m.

    Substract heroin & amphetamine from Speedball, add some weed & i'm buying!
  • hamsterdoom360 - January 21, 2010 1:43 a.m.

    I just thought someone should know that HALO is a military maneuver (aka High altitude, low opening) which is used to deploy supplies and/or personnel into an area. Similar to how ODSTs are dropped into a warzone in the Halo series.
  • ulmxn - October 10, 2009 4:06 a.m.

    i skipped through most of the names that i dont recognize but, u can doo eet!
  • LordUberDowzen - October 9, 2009 10:28 p.m.

    Um, not sure if this is a joke or not, but Mass Effect refers to the technology that humans find on mars which allows them to use FTL drives and stuff.
  • HypherionWing - September 3, 2008 8:59 p.m.

    Who said it was supposed to be funny? I found it informative 8) ^^ 8)
  • norcemastero - September 1, 2008 8:51 p.m.

    haha not all too funny
  • swbf69 - September 8, 2009 7:17 p.m.

    I thougt it was a good article and good work with your history knowledge Hinro. Your very accurate.
  • Hinro - September 5, 2009 7:37 p.m.

    A good article but I just want to clear something up about the 300 movie. It is true that 300 spartans went to hold of the Persians while the rest of the Greek armies prepared a battle else where. What is not true is that it was just those 300 spartans that faught. Each Spartan had 3 servants (who were not considered to be Spartan citizens but live in Sparta) with them at the battle of Thermopoli (I know I spelt that wrong sorry to any english majors who happen to read this but this message is about history) meaning that there was actually around 1200 people who were battaling the Persian. I know my response is a little late and it's unlikely that anyone will read it but anyone who does will know the truth of the story behind 300.
  • ZeRo - April 4, 2009 9:01 a.m.

    Revengers of Vengeance????? WTF?
  • linkmaster21 - April 2, 2009 11:42 a.m.

    funnny and imformative but what exactly is a galaga i want to know
  • Resident - April 1, 2009 5:41 a.m.

    Exaaactly , i found it informative too , and we too like to learn some things ;) Let the other features for fun // I love Katamari, it's a nice word and means something
  • Hinro - September 18, 2009 1:14 a.m.

    Thanks Swbf69. I try my best. And good catch on the meaning of Deus Ex Machina sovtek37
  • sovtek37 - September 16, 2009 6:06 p.m.

    Deus Ex Machina does not mean "act of God", it means "God from the machine". It is a storytelling device which originated in Greek theater. With regard to the video Game Deus Ex, the title of the game was a take on the true theater meaning (an inexplicable event is central to the resolution of the plot), and also a take on the literal translation (that technology is enhancing the state of humanity). Wikipedia: Dues Ex Machina
  • sovtek37 - September 16, 2009 5:57 p.m.

    Actually wrong about "Deus Ex Machina". It is NOT an "act of god", it is actually "god from the machine". A completely different meaning and usage that originated in Greek theater.
  • Styrophoamicus - April 2, 2009 3:20 p.m.

    Sol-Feace ftw. Sun poop.
  • musashi1596 - January 30, 2009 8:42 p.m.

    I too found it informative. Keep up the good work!

Showing 1-17 of 17 comments

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