Names are Hard: The Trouble with Fat Cat
What’s in a name? Something about roses, right? In the case of Good Kitties, our fearless felines have descriptive monikers rather than actual names. Few people actually name their cat Boss Cat, although perhaps I’ll start a trend.
I take a lot of joy in naming cats. Autumn was adopted as Kaitlyn and Nox was originally Gretl in the shelter. It was fun to spend some time with the kitties and try a couple of things out before settling on a name. But the cats in my game are components that will likely go through many iterations. I was hesitant to invest emotional energy into creating perfect names given that things would almost certainly change.
The first name that popped into my mind was Fat Cat. That’s a phrase! It means something! And it just sorta snowballed from there, with the exception of Mouser. Mouser Cat just didn’t roll off the tongue the way the others did.
But I’ve had some trouble with Fat Cat. When I playtest, I often call people by their character name, as in “Ok Fat Cat, you’re up” (as an aside, what I really need to do is get better at learning people’s names, but that’s a different problem). The first time I did it, I realized I didn’t feel comfortable calling someone Fat Cat. I didn’t know how they would take it - for some people, that might pull them right out of the game. The word “fat” is really loaded for some people. Perhaps some people would avoid Fat Cat as a character. Overall, that feeling of discomfort told me something was wrong.
So I've got a new working name: Strong Cat. And that's leading me to imagine new character art. Strong cat can carry two things but we’ve never established how. In fact, I've had playtesters ask me to explain how being a Fat Cat was enabling this Kitty to increase carrying capacity. So perhaps Strong Cat is always wearing saddlebags. Or maybe Strong Cat is a giant Maine Coon with 6 toes on each paw :-) The options are endless.
While we're talking about names, there's an additional naming snafu that I’m still embarrassed to bring up. Zoomie Cat was originally named Spaz Cat :-( I started working on this game just a few weeks before I learned about the origins of the term “spaz” and that it’s an ableist slur, via articles about Beyonce and Lizzo changing song lyrics. I had no idea and wish I had known. I immediately changed that kitty’s name and haven’t used the pictures I took of the game in that form because you could see the character card. I guess the point here is that sometimes we mess up but we learn, own the mistake, fix it, and press on. You’re here for the ups and downs, so I thought I'd share.
All of this might be solved by giving them actual names. Perhaps Boss Cat should just be Princess Snuffleboots. But I’ve landed on the idea of leaving that for much later. I really like the idea of crowdsourcing names for the kitties from backers in the event of a Kickstarter. And perhaps there’s a stretch goal that includes a second set of character cards where you can name the kitties for your household! So for now, they remain in their (mostly) original forms.
Lastly, I'm sure that some of you asking the obvious question. The game is called Good Kitties but the cats are all “Cat.” I actually have no idea why I’ve done this, it probably relates to latching on to Fat Cat as a starting point. But somehow Tough Kitty feels like it’s pushed too far on the “cuteness” scale. The harshness of sound and shortness of the word cat feels like a better fit for these diabolical personalities.
Sending you cuddles and mouse bits,
Boss Cat, Tough Cat, Zoomie Cat, Strong Cat, Mouser, and Smart Cat