In the award-winning video game BioShock, one of the best games of 2007, there was a bar in the game called Sinclair Spirits, named after Scott Sinclair, a staffer of game developer Irrational Games. Now, in the next installment of the video game, BioShock Infinite, the developer will name something in the game after one fan.

It’s a small thing, showing appreciation for the dedication of fans who pour hours of their lives into video games. But it’s happening more and more as video game companies discover new ways to bring users into the games. Call it fan appreciation or crowdsourcing, but it’s bound to make consumers more loyal.

One of the most anticipated titles in the game industry, BioShock Infinite is being developed by Irrational Games, a division of Take-Two Interactive. The winner of its contest will get to be the namesake for a building, a character, a business — or whatever else the artists come up with.

There are plenty of other examples like this. Game maker THQ is going to release a character editor for its Saints Row The Third game, a gang-combat and driving game coming this fall. Users can create their own characters and upload them into the game. THQ will take the best characters and use them inside the game, alleviating its own artists of some of the burden of making cool characters.

Electronic Arts did something similar years ago when it sold a creature creator tool for Spore. The users’ creations wound up in the game as the creatures that populated the worlds in the game’s single-player campaign. This year, EA is also letting fans vote for the cover athlete for its Madden NFL football game. The athlete with the most fan votes gets on the cover.

With the BioShock Infinite Name in the Game promotion, entries are being accepted at until April 12, 11:59 pm Eastern time.

Here’s a link on the topic of crowdsourcing game development.