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Plugged In

Game developer lets players pick the name of his baby

Plugged In

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Joey and Lauren Nelson

Joey Nelson and his wife Lauren have a problem: They can't agree on a name for their first child.

They've discussed it rationally. They've bounced their favorite names off friends and relatives. They've even narrowed down their initial lists to two each, but they still couldn't agree.

That's when they decided to crowdsource it.

Nelson, conveniently, is one of the founders of MobileFWD, an Arkansas-based app creator. The company's first game, Trivi.al, recently hit the app store and was pulling in a decent number of players -- and that seemed the perfect way for the couple to reach a decision.

"We debated from the day we found out we were pregnant," says Nelson. "We were sitting around right after the product launch and a friend said 'Have you narrowed down the names?' We both had two and they said 'You should make that a question in the app!'"

The next day, players began making the decision for the Nelsons.

To be clear, players have the chance to select only the first name for Baby Girl Nelson — choosing between Hope, Charlie, Sofia and Ellie. Her middle name is a family name that is being passed down.

The question comes up randomly for Trivi.al players, and there's no wrong answer. While Joey and Lauren are both very passionate about their favorite names, they have agreed amongst themselves to go with whatever the crowd decides (though with the scheduled delivery date looming, Joey did note that each spouse had a finalist among the two leading contenders, which were separated by just a few votes).

"We're okay with any of them," he says.

[Related: Great Geeky Wedding Moments]

The naming process is challenging for any first-time parent, but the Nelsons kind of took things to extremes. After they found out they were expecting, the couple went to a bookstore and bought 10-15 baby name books, says Joey. From there, they tried naming exercises, where they both wrote down nearly 100 names and tried to find something they agreed on. That didn't work.

They narrowed their lists to 30-40, but still couldn't decide, so they started polling friends and family.

"After the shower, we started telling people 'this is what we're thinking' and people would respond 'oh no, you're crazy'," says Nelson. "We finally got together one night and said you have to pick two and I have to pick two."

Once that was done, they asked their dog to decide for them.

Really.

Throwing four pieces of paper with the names on the floor, they figured they'd go with the one that dog seemed to be most interested in -- a unique plan that might have worked, had the dog not just eaten the scraps.

A short while later, their friend made the fateful suggestion.

"It was just one of those things, where it was a unique idea," says Nelson. "We didn't want to choose something bland or too common. We wanted to have a good story behind it, so that's why we made it a social thing."

Depending on strangers to name your child might seem a bit unusual, but it's actually not as uncommon as you might think. Pittsburgh resident Jeffrey Inscho put out a call for suggested names on his web site Static Made last month. Newsweek's deputy managing editor asked readers to Tweet suggestions for her imminent baby last December.

Even Facebook is getting into the game. Lexington, Kentucky's Central Baptist Hospital created an app to help mothers-to-be pick a name, which let Facebook friends vote for their favorite suggestion.

The Nelson's daughter, though, will be the first whose name is chosen by gamers. And that makes Joey a proud papa.

"Last week I launched my app," he chuckled. "This week I'm launching my baby."

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