Skip to main content

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 (opens in new tab).

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 (opens in new tab). The game's expansions, Opposing Force and Blue Shift, also refer to nerd-glasses lingo. The former to Newton'sthird law of motion (opens in new tab)and the latter theDoppler effect (opens in new tab).

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 mostmispronounced game names (opens in new tab)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?

A fomer Executive Editor at GamesRadar, Brett also contributed content to many other Future gaming publications including Nintendo Power, PC Gamer and Official Xbox Magazine. Brett has worked at Capcom in several senior roles, is an experienced podcaster, and now works as a Senior Manager of Content Communications at PlayStation SIE.