What’s In A Name?

Gordo the Abomination

That bastard stole my name

I can’t play characters that don’t have good names. I don’t know why but it’s just wrong somehow. To me, the name of my avatar embodies his personality, his spirit, his role. Call it roleplaying on a low level nature. I don’t walk around spouting “hail, kind sir” or what-not but I absolutely have to a name that suits my character. Very occasionally comedic, often always serious, the name has to be right because without one, I simply won’t make the character or, worse yet, find myself deleting them after a few hours of play.

So many times I’ve had an itch to try a new class but have put it off for weeks because I just couldn’t come up with a name that felt right. Other times I’ve sat staring at the character creation screen for what felt likes hours on end just trying to come up with a name I liked and wasn’t taken. It’s not as easy as one might think. Thinking up with a suitable name that fits the race, class and my imaginary background for my proposed character can be rather tricky.

Sure, I’ve got a pool of names that I keep coming back to, old favourites that fit most of my character like a stinky old glove. Mantooth for big Ogres or Orcs, Kilgour for big Trolls or Bahmi, Crushinator for when I really can’t think of anything else and the name checker lets it through. Yeah, it’s not like my names are particularly original or witty but they’re mine and they seem suitable and somehow feel right. Often I try to steep them in the familarity of my chosen race – Bruticus for a Roman inspired Aquilonian Conquerer in Age of Conan, Hongjun for a Khitai Dark Templar. I even made a Worgen in Cataclysm when it came out called Grimfang which seemed quite fitting.

I don’t think I could ever go with standard fantasy expectation of just making up random names. Cantarus, Kallibimo, Mogawogadin. There, that’s three new names of the top of the my head –  feel free to use them, I certainly won’t, I just can’t abide them. My names have to have some sort of connection to the lore or background of my character or a link to the real world or at least some sort of other familiarity. Random ‘names’ just don’t sound right to my ears.

Then there’s people like my brother who stick random alphabetic characters onto the end of names or even uses his own initials which is utterly absurd. He’s just plain weird though.

So what’s in a name? Everything. Without a good name, I have nothing.

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33 Comments

  1. Windsoar says:

    I agree. Naming is an integral part of the gaming experience for me, and I sometimes get quite frustrated as I roll up a new toon and draw a complete and utter blank on a new name. Fortunately, I have quite a literary collection, so often a run to “the library” helps me get into the game!

  2. Tesh says:

    Mama Druid used to have a great series of posts on naming. I’m sad that they got lost to the aether.

    I’ve written before that names have power, and that they are important. Words matter.

    I’ve taken to coming up with curious names and checking them against the Armory in WoW. That gives me a bead on how common or unique they are. It’s a sort of personal challenge to find a name that looks good that hasn’t been taken by *anyone* else on record. The more literary or cultural allusions in the name, the better.

  3. bhagpuss says:

    I completely agree on the importance of names. It has to feel right or I just can’t play the character. I’m pretty good at making them up, but I also like to take them from various books that I’ve enjoyed. Since my reading tastes seem to be radically different from most MMOers, I’ve yet to have a single person tell me they’ve recognised any name I’ve taken from a book in almost a dozen years!

    The names that really mystify me are characters that appear to have the same name as the player, or a description of their class and race, like Ogrewarrior or Stephenjthomas. I can’t even begin to imagine why you’d call your character something like that.

  4. Carson says:

    I can’t do stupid names. No way. But I don’t spend an immense amount of time on them – I just want to get something workable, then I’ll grow into it as I play.

    My original WoW main’s name actually came from the game’s random name generator – it offered me “Beliandra”. It stuck and I have since used the same name for similar characters in other games.

    My second WoW main, “Banquetto”, came when I created what was meant to be a bank alt after seeing a performance of Macbeth. I was going to call him “Banquo” but that was taken. Anyway he ended up not being a bank alt after all, so luckily I liked the name!

    My LOTRO main is named “Skyggedans” which is the name of a track by Norwegian metal band Satyricon. I plucked it out of the air because it seemed to work for a dwarf. Apparently it means “shadow dance” in Norsk, which would maybe be more appropriate for something other than a Guardian. :-)

  5. Shai Norton says:

    Oh, good, it’s not just me.

    Seriously, I can’t play with any dolls unless I’ve got a name for them that (at least passingly) looks like the game/story wallpaper.

  6. I agree totally, and blogged about names recently too. My preference is for names that sounds like the might be plausible into the setting. All my character names are unique, although some themes are there.
    My current favorite is Raze, a Warrior. Getting a 4 letter name was lucky, and the meaning is excellent. As a silly one I also had a Tauren Druid called Casserole.
    Cheers,

  7. Lycanthrope says:

    I have often agonized over names and have come up with some really creative ones. Generally it does not have to be directly linked to lore, but sound plausible that someone from that race would have named their child that. I have also broken that rule with my Tauren; and especially with my lone Forsaken. I dare anyone younger than me to guess where the name for my Dranei paladin came from. I will admit that I used a trick for my Druids and based their names on actual famous historic druids.

  8. vortal says:

    The name is the identity of the character, it represent who and what that character is. Most people tend to go for what sounds cool, but personally the names for my particular characters are heavily derived from fantasy, original and unique, and are in the mood of the specific race and class, and the concept I have for it. I make many elven characters, and also many characters of more exotic race (e.g. Goblin, Worgen, Draenei). This has led me to have certain experience with elven nomenclature. The class for me has less to do with it, the name is mostly derived from what I expect that particular race to name themselves. Character nomenclature is one of my favourite activities within any MMO, and I think it really ties me in with the Lore nerd part of me, I’m not a particular role-player, but I would enjoy the opportunity if I got it. I am also one of those people who are heavily inspired by the lore of the game, and that is also a huge part of the MMO experience for me, for without it the game becomes a bit hollow. With these enticing races and backstories to discover and play around with I really enjoy making the character named so that if given the chance they are “Role-Play” ready.

    Also am I the only one who feels compelled to come up with last names for their characters? Is there anyone else out there?

  9. leah says:

    every game, names must have a meaning, even when I never ever roleplay – I cannot just g with a random name, it needs to have some sort of a meaning AND fit the character. sometimes, I name my toons after characters from books of fiction. other times I prowl through the baby naming sites, looking for names with good meanings.sometimes, there’s a theme, other times – there isn’t, but the names have to be good. oh yes >_>

  10. amcl says:

    I always enjoy reading your blog, especially when I get a mention.

    I’ll have you know that my character called Leeroyj (random character alert!) got a lot of recognition in WoW, mostly because he got mistaken for the ‘real’ Mr. Leeroy Jenkins!

  11. Names are absolutely important. Most of the time, I don’t even know what to name my character until it’s created and I’m staring at the empty name field frantically trying to think of one so I can get going into the game world and play.

    It’s definitely a long process for me, sometimes coming up with the name takes even longer than customizing the character. I can’t just come up with one beforehand, because I need to like the name, but it also has to “fit” my character and I won’t know that until I actually get to play around with the character creator.

  12. Rivs says:

    All my toons are based off my real life nicknames, like Riv, Rivs, Riverian, or my other nickname Heatscourge, or a derivitive of that is Frostscourge.

    It makes the toon, well mine sort of.

  13. Rinvan says:

    I named a gnome DK engineer in WOW once “Macgruber” until I realized it was too silly for the RP realm I played on. I deleted him a few days later.

  14. I completely agree with you. I remember spending more than an hour in front of the computer thinking on the name I wanted to use for an online game. It was consumed my time, I know, but as soon as I figured out the name that I wanted everything just felt right.

  15. Pike says:

    I know this feeling all too well. In fact, it got to the point that I started playing exclusively on roleplay servers. Not because I roleplay, but because at least people seem to think about their character as an entity a little more, and you see better names around you. :)

  16. Epiny says:

    Honestly the biggest disappointment I had coming from EQ to WoW was the naming. In EQ you got petitioned on regular servers if your name was l337 speak or anything relating to real life. I got to WoW and my friends had names like LuckyCrit, Iownedu, urabad and so on.

    I never considered myself as someone who played MMOs with roleplaying in mind, but once in awhile in EQ it was fun to joke around as if you were your race or class. We would make jokes about dark elf’s (inkies) or halflings. Real… or content appropriate names helped with this.

    As such up until Cata I had always named my characters realish names. Typically they were named after my first 2 characters but in the last few years I’ve relied primarily on variations of names from the Soldier Son Trilogy.

    When Cata came out I had more or less lost all respect for WoW as a MMO, it was just another online game… thus I created a Worgen Druid named TeamXXJacob as a joke, which ended up being my main for 4 months.

    • Gordon says:

      Hehe.

      Yeah it’s a shame that WoW doesn’t enforce naming conventions more as, yeah, it was a big thing in EQ and I remember a few friends getting caught for having stupid names. I thought it was a good idea as it helped maintain the immersion of the game.

  17. Peter says:

    The way I named one of my characters was I took the name of my friends character which was Lunarclaw and I split it into two parts Lunar & Claw then I used antonyms of the two words to make the name Solarstroke.

  18. Ryan says:

    The names I make for my characters, and the personalities I develop for them as I play the games with my friends, live on long after I’ve put the game down. I think it’s such a fun part of the whole process. My undead warlock was named Koravis, and his somewhat snarky personality is still referenced to this day.

    The brainless names like “xxxslutmama” and “djwuidhiuwhjkad” ruin the immersion for me. I know not everyone has the same ideas in mind as I do, but it’s nice to wander around the world and see names that are believable and fitting to the characters you run across.

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