In defence of Games Maker

Mike Reed
14 June 2013

More thoughts following the D&AD Awards, where I was lucky enough to be Foreman of the Jury for Writing for Design.

One of the Yellow Pencils in our category went to ‘Games Maker’, the name created by McCann Worldgroup.

The award didn’t meet with universal acclaim, it must be said. On the night, for example, johnson banks tweeted:


They followed up with a blog post that wondered how ‘putting the words “Games” and “Maker” together constituted writing genius’.

(A catty riposte to which might be to wonder how putting the words ‘Just’, ‘Do’ and ‘It’ together constitute a brilliant copy line.)

Designer and Creative Review columnist Daniel Benneworth–Gray was also bemused:

Daniel Gray

Fellow copywriter Nick Asbury has also blogged about the awards, leaving a very clear question mark hanging over this one.

That makes three smart, generous observers of the design world, all with a keen eye for language, all more or less equally unconvinced about the award. No doubt there are others. (Although I should add that I heard the opposite view expressed on awards night, too.)

So why did our jury deem Games Maker worthy of a pencil?

Nick questions the degree of ‘creative insight’ in the name. He compares it with other, similarly brief examples of copywriting: the Everton FC store in the Liverpool One shopping centre, which is called Everton Two; and the famous Channel 4 poster announcing the final episode of Friends.


Both examples are superb, clearly. And both have a very satisfying twist to them that, arguably, Games maker lacks.

But just as it’s only a bargain if you actually want it, so a clever twist is only clever if it’s appropriate. And I’d argue that this is probably not the place for it.

(Someone, probably Nick, will now unveil a brilliant alternative to Games Maker, built around just such a twist.)

Games Maker is not an especially poetic phrase, I concede. But I believe it displays a degree of creative insight that absolutely puts it alongside Nick’s examples.

As a thought, it’s brilliant. It seems so obvious now, as all the best ideas do. But somebody had to (a) have the idea to rename ‘volunteers’ at all, and then (b) to hit upon the insight that these people will be the ones who ‘make the Games’.

Trite? Obvious? I’m sure some would argue so. I’d counter with popular; direct; gutsy.

You won’t just be helping out, the name says: you’ll be making the Games. Making them possible. Making them what they are. Whoever else is involved, however high profile — Seb Coe, Danny Boyle, Mo Farah — you’re the people without whom this thing cannot happen.

Overly literal readers would point out that this applies to all those other people too. But the name elevates the role of volunteer into an honourable, even heroic, position.

And don’t forget, there will have been other ideas. A ‘Team’ route would have been an obvious one, especially with the coining of ‘Team GB’.

It wouldn’t be too hard to come up with some more saccharine or tub–thumpy sort of name.

But for me, Games Maker balances the emotive aspect with a rather attractive practical quality. ‘Maker’ feels solid and real, not just gloopy.

And the name feels properly populist: simple, direct, universal. It works whether you read The Sun or The Guardian. Whether you’re young or old. It’s the opposite, I’d say, of brand consultancy ‘Jubilympic’–style gobbledegook.

As far as I can tell, bearing in mind how bloody hard it is to quantify these things, the name succeeded brilliantly.

Nick is rightly sceptical that its inclusion in the dictionary is a point in its favour. I think that’s rather irrelevant.

Much more importantly, it helped add to the volunteers’ pride; to the sense that this was a unique job, uniquely connected to London 2012. In that sense, it did what all brand writing must: it made its brand distinctive.

Google ‘London 2012 Games Maker blog’: you’ll find dozens of accounts from the volunteers themselves. They embraced the name whole–heartedly. They loved being Games Makers.

Of course they loved the role more than the name. That’s basic branding too: no amount of clever branding hides a bad product.

But the name captured the essence of what they were doing, and why it mattered. That it does so in clear, universal, unsentimental language is a point in its favour, I would say.

It’s undeniably hard to separate the name from the ultimate success of the Games, which casts a retrospective glow over everything associated with it.

Maybe we were swayed by that on the jury. I don’t think so — it was certainly a factor we recognised at the time, so I hope we did our best to see through it.

I can sort of see why some people pulled a face when Games Maker got its pencil. But I smiled. And not just because it was so refreshing to see a two–word phrase win a writing award.

We’d be very interested to hear from others on this, especially the other judges on the jury, if you’re reading this.

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