What’s in a name?

What’s in a name?

Trip the Ark Fantastic is a weird name at first glance. People ask us, reasonably:

What does the name mean? Is it like a title Trip and subtitle Ark Fantastic? But why isn’t there a comma then, or a separation of some kind? Is it even proper English? You should get a proofreader!

– people

In short, the title is word play with the old English idiom “Trip the light fantastic,” a phrase referring to ballroom dancing. The phrase is not heard around much these days, but it has been in circulation in a some form since the 17th century.

While that might explain what the title is referencing, how we decided on the title is a bit harder to untangle. When a creative decision just “feels right,” like it does to us with our title, it can be difficult to reconstruct the thought process that led to it, but that won’t stop us from trying.

If you are interested in how things like this get decided, we’ve prepared a short history of our thought process below. We can just hope that we won’t, as Keats put it, “unweave the rainbow” for you too much, and that the title will retain some of its mystery and charm.

Initial brainstorming

What we did know from the start is that we wanted something poetic and metaphorical, with a layered meaning that enriches and informs the atmosphere of the game world. Something for the “seasoned connoisseur” to appreciate. It was a long process of brainstorming and back-and-forthing with various ideas before we agreed on the final one.

Some ideas we scraped almost immediately were “A Lions Call” (apart from the animal call connotation it made some sense since the game starts with the lion king calling Charles to the court to give him a mission), “The Kings Gambit” (a reference to a risky plan in chess, which is analogous to what the lion king does by sending Charles on this dubious mission), The Ark Papers (as in a body of work about the Ark, with connotations of conspiracy similar to the Pentagon Papers, etc).

Here are more titles we ditched, which, judging by the titles, were at a certain point “favourites”. The picture is cropped to exclude the (even more) cringeworthy titles.

Unfortunately, all these were rather obvious word plays or references and didn’t really evoke the feeling of fantasy, adventure and the pre-modern fable setting we wanted to make.

Grim Fandango and the dance metaphor

Grim Fandango artwork.jpg
To paraphrase Velasco, they’re as good with names as we are with the fog.

An important reference for us were games we thought had great titles, and one of them was definitely the 1998 adventure game Grim Fandango. Needless to say, nobody dances the fandango in the game. It’s a clever metaphor for a large scale adventure the character undergoes. Using a dance to refer to an adventure seems very poetic and fits a game which strives for deeper themes and nuance.

Also, we like how a strong atmosphere was inherent in the wording (“grim” since the game is about dead people, and “fandango” as a Spanish / Portugese / Mexican dance since the game draws inspiration from Mexican mythology and their Day of the Dead festival.)

So in short, the title sounds great, is memorable, the words it uses encapsulate the atmosphere pretty well and has a poetic metaphor of adventure as dancing attached to it, and is even referenced in-game (it is a verse in an in-game song). If we could achieve a similar level of wholeness with our title, we would be very happy indeed.

Light Fantastic as the core inspiration

That’s the one where they find the Great Computer in the Skies malfunctioning and the architect says “there’s nothing wrong with the software, it’s just the entire universe that’s gone wrong!”

A great title we also liked was from the second novel of Terry Pratchett’s Discworld fantasy series, “The Light Fantastic,” which clearly references the same phrase that our title references.

Several things here work really well, apart from the wordplay itself. First, we found the adjective ‘fantastic’ evokes the atmosphere of fantasy, adventure and wonder. Also, this linguistic inversion of noun and adjective (light fantastic, instead of fantastic light) always gives off an old-timey vibe, and is well suited for pre-modern settings.

Putting the pieces together

After a lot of deliberation, things finally clicked into place and we decided on the name. We took the idiom “Trip the light fantastic” and substituted ‘ark’ for ‘light’, likewise the Mythological Ark (which is the cornerstone of our game) was renamed “The Ark Fantastic” in-game, and the game called “Trip the Ark Fantastic”.

In our view, to those who understand the reference, the title holds connotations of ballroom dancing both as a point of reference for the atmosphere (grounding the work in an era of kings, courts and fancy balls) and also as a metaphor for the whole adventure (in which Charles has to carefully “dance” around various dangerous characters from the lion king to the tiger duke and the anarchic birds, all with their own conflicting agendas and world views).

As an added benefit, it flows nicely off the tongue in a staccato cadence, with the 6 syllables (“feet”) reminiscent of old Greek works written in epic hexameter, which helps ground the work as “out of this world” and make the Ark sound ancient and mythological, which fits the lore in the game.

If you have any comments about the title, or just want to discuss Keats, Milton, and the dactylic hexameter, you are always welcome to our Discord page, as well as our Facebook and Twitter social media accounts.

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