Welcome to Susan Arendt's latest column on Pocket Gamer. In 2018 we've recruited the best writers and most experienced gamers in the industry and asked them to inspire us. Today Susan takes a look at Vedah, a simple game that might go unseen thanks to its name...
Names are tricky. The right name can make your game iconic and instantly memorable, but the wrong one can be confusing. Take Vedah, for example, which is a beautiful name from Sanskrit and also the title of an obstacle course game.
Once you play the game, you understand that Vedah is the name of a little girl who's fallen asleep in class, and is dreaming about having to dodge the doodles that she's drawn in her notebook. When you're just browsing the App Store, though? It's not much of a help.
Vedah's simple gameplay and design make it an outstanding time waster to keep on your phone for those short bursts when you need a distraction. You can put it aside for months and pick it right back up without forgetting a single thing.
Guiding your pencil through the pinwheels, erasers, and spider webs requires nothing more than running your finger along the screen; even if you do somehow forget what you're meant to be doing, the game communicates its mechanics clearly and quickly. Bump into one of Vedah's drawings and you're toast, so dodge them while making sure to pick up the gold stars littered around the levels. It's just like being back in grammar school.
Vedah does just about everything right, gradually amping up the challenge while never becoming overwhelming or frustrating, and the pencil-art aesthetics are charming as heck. The odds you'd discover any of that are low, though, because the name - which makes sense in context of the game's backstory - doesn't communicate any of those ideas.
"Notebook Dodge" doesn't have any of the beauty or lyricism of "Vedah", but it presents a more clear vision to the audience who are already drowning in a sea of mobile game choices. It's a lousy situation for developers to be in, forced to weigh artistic vision against marketability.
Depending on which study you believe, you either have four seconds or .4 seconds to capture a customer's attention; when it comes to browsing for a new mobile app, I'm guessing it's more towards the .4. The look of your game's icon and its title have an unbelievable amount of heavy lifting to do. They need to be eye-catching and interesting enough to get would-be players to read the description, but not provide such a wall of text that their eyes glaze over.
This is all doubly true if you dare to charge a fee for your title. In a marketplace swamped by free-to-play games, why would anyone shell out even a couple of bucks? They're spoiled for choice.
I, for one, appreciate that Vedah offers a tiny bit of context for the world it creates. The gameplay is what it is regardless of whether you know it's all taking place in a young schoolgirl's imagination, but knowing that makes it just a tiny bit more special.
Maybe I've been paying attention to games too long, but I'd much rather support someone trying for a bit of individuality than someone just cranking out a bland version of whatever genre happens to be raking in money at the moment. Game development is a business, and I won't shame anyone for trying to make a living, but it's also an art form, so I'm going to do what I can to elevate those with visions beyond paying rent.
So give Vedah a look. Or just poke around your digital distribution platform of choice to find the hidden gems lurking within. It takes some doing, and I'm not going to tell you that everything you'll find is going to blow your mind. But give 'em a chance. They deserve at least five seconds of your time.Read more of Susan Arendt's columns on Pocket Gamer, and find out more about Vedah at the game's official site. If you're looking for more columns, then check out Harry Slater and Jon Jordan, who are always on-hand with sharp, tasty opinions too.