GDC 2019: Put Your Name on Your Game, a Talk by Bennett Foddy and Zach Gage

Speaker: Bennett Foddy and Zach Gage

Talk link here

The thing to understand about this talk is that these guys come from a line of academia which I love because their talks turn into a lecture that remind me of my days studying art history in college. So most of this is not about what to do but links to examples that you should look at because it traces back the history of the games and art.

They started out looking at all the games that are in the 2019 IGF and none of them actually put their name on the splash screen. It is all company names. In fact fewer than half of the games even featured their names in Metadata, on their trailer, or even on a splash screen. 

In the other arts names are very common: Slash, Helen Miren, even the game designer Cactus.

It can be hard putting names in game because there can be multiple people. But if you have multiple putt No names, nobody gets credit.

They think that maybe why people don’t put names in their games because of the idea of “dress for the job you want not the game you have.” Like maybe just maybe your company will be the next Blizzard. But really over half of all companies release no more than 1 game. So if you assign all the work building a brand gets assigned to a single company then if your company folds then you lose all that credit that went to the company.

So few people are actually going to release more than 1 game.

So how to credit your game if you don’t like it. Zach Gage thinks “Gage Solitaire” sounds gross but “Sage Solitaire, a game by Zach Gage” sounds way better. And that is how he does it now. 

And we should do this Because for too long video game companies have been trying to suppress us designers: 

For instance they hid the designer names for Sonic the Hedgehog so the designers added an easter eg if you press down and the ABC buttons you can see them.

Famously the first video game Easter Egg was created by Warren Robinett for his Atari game adventure games. He had to do that because Atari would strip designer names.

Taito would hide engineer names so that they didn’t get better offers from other companies. 

Hideo Kojima’s name was stripped from the box so he added credits to every single level.

The weird thing is Community Mods put their names on their mods. 

So why Zach Puts his name on his games

  • In the arts you sign your paintings 
  • He did it accidentally because the App Store has it if you don’t list a company
  • It leans into your humanity, you are not just some dumb company
  • People think of games as disposable toys but by putting his name it adds more credibility.

But by accidentally adding his name to the game he found it caused more press and journalists reached out to him.

The other thing that Zach did was to add a little heart button to his games. When you click that it opens a dialog that shows who he is and a link to his mailing list. Doing this tippled the size of his mailing lis. 

CZ Side note: imagine if he did this with a lead magnet.

Bennett Foddy’s first put his name on the game speed chess

  • He added that as a joke on Sid Meyer’s use of his name on Civilization.
  • He was inspired by Lord British added an intro video when you installed Ultima 9. It introduced you to the game.

Other reasons why this isn’t so weird

  • Art games put their names into games much more commonly. Look at Mary Flannigan who created art Unreal mods for example.
  • The creator of Sexy Hiking put himself in the game for when you beat the game.
  • Nina Freedman + Ciebel was a huge inspiration to Bennett Foddy
  • Beginners Guide – This game has the creators speaking into your ear.

The lack of names could be hard right now because there is a toxic culture of review bombing and death threats. But the adversarial relationship melts away when you are talking to a person. Sometimes once folks hear that it is one person making the game, people dissolve their shitty behavior

The Goal of Getting Over It was an attempt at overt humanization. Bennett Foddy narrates through the game and as the player gets further and further he has built a relationship with that player.

Bennett considered but did not implement a feature for when you beat the game you could see a webcam of him working at his computer so he could say hi. But instead if you beat the game he links them to a chat room where he can talk to Bennett directly. It blew players minds.

Side note:

 I have always put my names on my games. 

Here is my App Store Page.

Here is my trailer for my very fist game City Tuesday

Also in my first game, if you hung out on the first screen for 2 minutes an NPC with my name came walking out of the bathroom and if the player clicked on me I said hi and gave them my email address. I got several responses from this to my inbox. 

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