Sunday, July 25, 2010

A rose by any other name...

So there was a recent Unity game revealed, "Pirates of New Horizons," and it looks pretty sweet but over at Mapcore we started being jerks and picking away at the awful, awkward-sounding title.

That got me thinking -- in contrast, "Sins of a Solar Empire" is one of the greatest video game titles ever. Here's why:

It just sounds awesome. The "S" of Sins and Solar together, the "aa" in "a" and "sol-A-r", and the "RR" in "Sola-R" and "Empi-R-e" -- in literature we call this effect "sibilance" (sss), "assonance" (vowels), and "consonance" (consonants) respectively. These combined effects make the title roll off the tongue nicely, at least with fluent American English speakers.

It has a lovely rhythm. "Sins of a Solar Empire" has a lot of strong syllables, specifically positioned at the beginning of the 3 most important words in the title. Using metrical notation, we could render the rhythm like this:
 \     x     x     \  x    \  \    x
SINS   of    a    SOL ar   EM PI  re
There's three different kinds of metrical feet there -- and that variety in rhythm makes the title seem more dynamic, like you're announcing the title every time you say it aloud.

Lastly, the title has great connotations. "Sins" invokes a religious component, and "Empire" that of imperialism and conquest. Coining "Solar Empire" is unorthodox, thus foregrounding that combination of words, emphasizing that this is a science fiction game. So basically the title recasts the typical 4X genre in terms of religion, crime and imperialism. Which is incredibly interesting and thought-provoking.

Unfortunately the narrative of Sins doesn't really hold-up to the ambitious themes implied by its title. ("What narrative?" you're asking... exactly.)

See? An English literature degree is worth something. Not much, maybe, but something.