Jenova is not the birth name of thatgamecompany co-founder Jenova Chen. Instead, the creator of Journey drew inspiration from Final Fantasy VII when selecting an English name for himself.
On the latest episode of our monthly interview show IGN Unfiltered, Chen revealed how he settled on the name Jenova. In his high school English class in China, each student was asked to pick their own English name. So when his best friend—and fellow Final Fantasy VII fan—selected Cloud, Chen wanted to one-up him by choosing the name of an even more powerful character from Square’s classic RPG.
“I felt like I can’t be behind Cloud; I have to pick a character that’s better than Cloud,” Chen explained. “Sephiroth is just too difficult to spell and difficult to pronounce. And I was trying to see, out of the entire Final Fantasy VII [roster], if there’s anyone who is better than Cloud?” Since Cloud and Sephiroth both come from the genetic makeup of the genderless motherly figure Jenova, that’s what Chen ultimately decided on.
While he had no intention of making that his legal name, years later when he was in grad school, a college professor had difficulty pronouncing his Chinese name, Xinghan—which means “Milky Way”—so he decided to change it to something easier to pronounce. Since he said his last name, Chen, is so incredibly common, he didn’t want to pick a very common first name, so he went with Jenova.
When asked how he feels about the name choice today, he replied: “I didn’t plan it, but isn’t Jenova the creature coming from the galaxy, which is kind of like my first name anyway in Chinese?”
Alex Osborn is a freelance writer for IGN. Find him on Twitter at @alexcosborn.