Tonight marks my moment of officially kicking off a significant new phase in my career, moving from enterprise software engineering to independent game development.  The label for this latest adventure of mine:  Experilous.  Here is my tale of how I chose this name.

I’ll be honest, coming up with a company name can be painful.  I of course went through a gigantic list of names, never satisfied.  Some were too long or hard to pronounce.  Some had obvious trademark complications, or the domain name was already taken.  Some just sounded lame.  Ultimately, I recognize that a good name will gain significance as a brand independent of its original meaning, but I wasn’t satisfied just picking something random.  Such whimsy wouldn’t properly convey the company personality that I desired.  It certainly works well for some groups, but it just didn’t feel like a fit for me.

I’ve done a lot of reading this year, and chapter 2 from Jesse Schell’s excellent book The Art of Game Design, A Book of Lenses inspired me greatly.  It is titled, “The Designer Creates an Experience“.  I don’t want to lose sight of that notion; it ought to be at the heart of all I do, whether I’m working on game design, programming, website maintenance, or community interaction.  My job in all things is to create experiences that my audience will appreciate having.  So I considered ways to integrate “experience” into my company name somehow.

Unfortunately, “experience” is already a bit of a long word; combining it with a second word starts to get a bit verbose.  It also has very few synonyms that I can find or think up.  But by doing some quick research into its etymology, I discovered that it essentially derives from “that which emerges out of peril“.  That piqued my interest, and I quickly came up with “experilous” to emphasize “peril”.  Conveniently, that also happens to be a very rarely used sequence of letters, at least according to the internet; in particular, experilous.com was available!  Even better, the more I thought about it, the more depth I kept noticing (or making up).

For one, games almost always present some form of peril (even if usually artificial and not truly perilous), and the enjoyment of games in part comes from facing the challenges presented by that danger and overcoming them.  Secondly, an alternate meaning of the “ex-” prefix to indicate “no longer” ties in well with that artificiality common to most games, where the true dread of uncertainty is removed from the equation, and the fear of loss can be a lighter emotion that adds spice to the experience, rather than pain.

The word “experiment” also has essentially the same origin, and experimentation is definitely an activity I want to encourage in my players.  I plan on focusing most of my design efforts on sandbox-style games, and what better genre is there for enabling experimentation?  I want my players to be eager to try every idea they think of, and not be fearful that if they deviate from what they know works, the game will punish them for it.

Finally, quitting my full time job to become a self-employed game developer is definitely a perilous endeavor for myself and my bank account.  It will also undoubtedly lead to many experiences, hopefully more positive than negative!  This of course will mean less to others (what entrepreneurial undertaking doesn’t involve notable risk?), but the personal significance nonetheless will help me build an emotional connection of ownership to the name, which I suspect could become a valuable motivator down the road.

Given all of these factors (and promising feedback from my friends), I was finally satisfied with a company name.  Now comes the truly hard part:  Imbuing that name with a valuable reputation in the eyes of my target audience.  It most certainly won’t come for free, but I intend to earn it!


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