It has been my experience (from the many blogs and forums I visit) that indie developers often forget about this process of development. So eager and excited are they to create the best game, that they forget, or downplay, the significance of marketing. Thus, I wanted to examine how good copy can effectively communicate the game like graphics communicate the tone.
After three hours of trying to write the perfect description for an upcoming iOS game, I realized just how difficult such a task is. Each and every word needed not only to evoke the theme and tone of the game, but also needed to tell the player what the game was about, and what type of gameplay they could expect. Somewhat deterred, I decided to see how the creators of Valiant Hearts—a game I very much respect and enjoyed—executed their copy. However, before I looked at their one sentence description, I tried to write my own version of their copy. You will just how to trust me that I didn’t look at their copy before I wrote mine.
My Copy below:Follow the tragic tales of X,Y,Z, as they struggle to survive the unimagined horrors of WW1.
Valiant Heart’s Copy:“Immerse yourself in the touching story of four unsung heroes swept up by World War 1 in this unique interactive graphic novel that combines action, puzzles, and adventure.”
Notice how they use the word “immerse”, whereas I used the word “follow.” The word “immerse” implies an active engagement with the game, whereas “follow” is more passive. By “immersing” yourself in the world, you are participating in it, and actually experiencing/effecting the outcome (this is what is implied!!). The next important word, “touching” automatically implies “tragic.” However, “tragic” is a bit melodramatic. The word touching also signals that there is a certain level of compassion shared by the “four unsung heroes.” Furthermore, “touching” relates to “unsung heroes.” Like so many other victims of war, the identities of these heroes is unknown or forgotten. This is “touching,” and also tragic. The next phrase is “swept up.” Similar to “touching”, “swept up” implies tragedy. More specifically, it alludes to the tragic ineluctability of WW1. Families were divided, daughters killed, landscapes destroyed (“swept up” sums up the events that occur in the game). Lastly, the phrase “unique interactive graphic novel combines…” perfectly describes the game. While the gameplay is not overtly “unique”, the fact that the art-style so closely resembles a graphic novel—and is a main selling point of the game—makes the claim justified.
Overall, this one sentence sets the grave/tragic tone of the game without being melodramatic. It places the character in the world automatically; perhaps not diegetically—as if implying you are one of the characters—but making you a witness to the horrors. Furthermore, it details the type of gameplay to be expected.
Had the game perhaps implemented “more realistic” graphics, the copy would have, of course, changed. Perhaps the writers would have used the word “tragic.” Indeed, by using realistic graphics, the developers are implicitly forcing the player to look directly at the “tragic” event of war. To this point, the cartoonish like graphics, like fables, use abstraction to convey the message/theme. Therefore, the developers are justified in their word choices; their word choices reflect how they view the events and how the want to players to witness them.
This analysis was meant to show how significant language is. In my opinion Valiant Hearts’ description perfectly encapsulates how copy can communicate the game’s tone, themes, and what the player can expect.