Who Am I?
“Hey, no name! What’s happening my male Caucasian friend? We’re off to meet blonde hair later, if you fancy it? You can bring blue eyes along too, if you’d like?”
Can you imagine what the world would be like if we didn’t have names? Just try to visualise it for a moment…
You wake up, recognisable only by what your eyes can see before them. As you move in front of the mirror, an unsettling feeling arises. Clearly, you can comprehend that the reflection staring back in the mirror is you; however, it just stands there. Meaningless; nameless; distinct only by visual features instead of a unified umbrella term which encompasses our very being. Then it hits you, “Who am I?”.
Suddenly, the obvious becomes the impossible. What exactly is it that defines us? Is it physical appearance? Our achievements in life? Our job title? Our lineage? Our DNA?
Of course, each individual is inherently unique to others – that’s just genetics – but without a name, nothing truly separates you from a crowd. Without a name, your identity is gone. If you were to remove my name, essentially, I’d become this forgettable chap: “Hi, I’m brown hair, tall man with a beard. Pleased to meet you.”
A terrifying prospect indeed.
The act of naming something is a practice which should be taken very seriously – especially when it comes to naming your gaming characters. Your character’s name can enhance your immersion in the game, or subsequently, detract from it.
Think about it. Your parents probably spent weeks, months, heck even years deciding on which social identifier you should carry and one day this responsibility may be bestowed upon you. If you get into the habit of providing your gaming characters with compelling names now, maybe you can avoid the inevitable fall out when your 12-year-old daughter asks you why the hell you called her “SNiPeRz”. Remember, you won’t be able to pay 800 MS points to change her name once it’s written on the birth certificate.
Admittedly, I too struggle with the art of providing compelling names for my gaming characters. Whilst others enjoyed the scenic ride down to Castle Black in Skyrim, I was frantically scanning my mind for any sort of reasonable name that I could gift my character. (Lizardman’s always a winner? Maybe Cloud?)
In the end, habit dictates that I sit there hopelessly trying to conjure up a name fit to walk side-by-side with Gandalf the Grey and usually, find myself fixated with naming my character Gandalf the bloody Grey. In all honesty, it was worse than that. My first Skyrim character was called… Ned Stark. Oh the shame!
But surely I’m not the only one who suffers from this embarrassing, time-consuming condition. I really don’t want to end up naming my first born Sonic, yet, judging by my track record, that’s exactly the kind of impulse decision I’m likely to make.
Even though some may deem it too late for me to be saved, I thought I’d attempt to coherently surmise how exactly one should go about naming their gaming character. And now that I’ve had time to think about it, it’s really just about avoiding the obvious pitfalls and knowing which areas should become your inspiration.
Enter The Name Game
So where do we begin? Well, the first rule is: never name your gaming character after yourself (unless you’re playing Pokemon. Who doesn’t want to be a Pokemon master?). Although we’re attempting to refine our naming standards, using your own name is just lazy and ultimately, boring. You’ve heard it all your life and depending on what your actual name is, reading that Paul or Sarah is tasked with conquering a mystical land, isn’t all that enticing. The same goes for movie characters. Aragon is Aragon, not a dwarf with +8 for sneaking.
Second, try to avoid using capitalization, symbols or numbers in your name; it’s a sure fire way of making you look like an absolute douche bag online. No one enjoys playing against “[email protected]@w3dUrM0m” and it’s unlikely anyone will befriend you, either, for that matter.
With the ground rules laid, we can now swiftly move on to the actual name creation:
The majority of RPGs now sport a create-a-character option so this should be your first port of call to get the creative juices flowing. Notably, whether your character is male or female will reduce your naming options by around 50% (excluding names which can cross genders such as Alex or Jamie). Unless you’re determined to call your newly formed, chiseled-monster of a warrior Suzzane, then we’ve already made some sort of progress.
Next, carefully craft your character’s appearance. What are his or her’s distinct features? Which class do they represent? Is your character a wizard, a warrior or a thief? Is your character human? Is Magaret really the right name for an orc? Collate this information as you go.
The period setting of the game should also influence your decision. If you’re playing a game based in the Medieval ages, naming a character, “Corey” is probably a bad idea; likewise, naming an assassin from the future, “Edith” just seems plain wrong.
So what will your decision ultimately come down to? In all honesty? Personal preference. The decision is yours and yours alone to make. If you want to call your character spatula, then at the end of the day, that’s your prerogative (please do not call you character spatula!). However, if you’re willing to change and feel that even with the above advice you’re still destined to plague the online servers of Diablo III with an atrocious name more sinister than the demons that roam the dungeons within, certified help is at hand.
“Name generators” such as the one found on wizards.com can provide instant results for the budding adventurer who simply wants to sound respectable, whilst in turn, avoiding the impending eventuality of sitting in the dark, contemplating their hero’s title for over an hour (we’ve all been there).
The generator system isn’t as cold as it seems, in fact, it incorporates many of the elements above. Before randomising a name, the generator first let’s you personalise and customise the outcome by inputting the first and last letters of your first name, as well as entering the first letter of your surname. From there you can select your character’s race, class, profession and even determine whether they are a nobleman or a commoner. Here’s an example of what I ended up with every setting on random:
Wow. I’m sure we can all agree that such an excellent name could have easily been plucked straight from the pages of a novel by George R.R. Martin.
Naturally, not every RPG is based on the lore of wizards, demons and magic. For example, the name “Seahorn Ironhouse” soon looks ridiculous set against the backdrop of a post-apocalyptic wasteland in Fallout 3. Hence, you should always remember the previously discussed points before quickly running to a name generator.
My Last Resort
If you still find yourself stumped when it comes to naming your next gaming character, a quick and painless solution can be found by combining the name of your first pet, and the first word from the address of your first home. Here’s my outcome:
“They call me Huggy Belvedere. Destroyer of evil, saviour of the universe.”
Hmmm… Ok. Well that didn’t work out too great, I guess. Ah well…
“Sonic! Dinner’s ready!”