Friday, January 15, 2010

What's in a name?

2K Boston has changed their name back to Irrational Games, the moniker underwhich they released gaming classics like System Shock. This effectively means that the only 2K Boston title ever published will be Bioshock. Kind of like batting a home run in your first at bat and walking away from the game forever.

Obviously, it's not exactly like that, but leaving behind one of the best received original games with a development house name is a bold gesture. In Kotaku's interview with Irrational Games head Ken Levine, the developer reveals that after the purchase of his studio by Take-Two Interactive, corporate branding was something the suits were looking to do:

What brought "Irrational Games" back, Levine explained, was the desire to evoke the studios' legacy. "We heard from the fans that maybe they missed [us] being called Irrational," he said. Internally the team wanted to change back too. "When we were bought, Take Two wanted some alignment in the branding sense. At first we were like, 'Okay, you bought the company. That's fair.'" That turned them into 2K Boston, part of Take-Two's 2K Games family. "As time went on, we wanted to go back to the original name."
I understand why a publisher would want to align a development house with it's brand name, especially when they've spent a lot of money on the talent and the development the team is capable of, but maybe it's better to let developers maintain their own personal identity.

Levine mentions how his team was eager to make the switch back to Irrational Games, and I think it probably has something to do with the personal efforts they make in their games. Video games allow for more creative input than any other medium, especially when you consider the numerous layers of development games require. Having it's own identity, and a unique name, might encourage more personal effort in making something creative, fresh and new, rather than being a corporate factory for Madden or 2K sports games.

Being part of a larger group and relinquishing some creative ability is necessary, kind of like how I need an internship at Game Revolution instead of making the tiny splash I do here at PLAY READ WRITE, but I think that having pride in your work is important too. Maybe having a name of your own inspires you to do better, or to have more ownership over the product of your work. I hope Irrational Games exceeds even the high bar they set with Bioshock as 2K Boston in their next title.

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