What’s in a Name?

I just saw a post on WoWInsider about themes for character names.  Reading through the article and comments, it got me thinking about how many ways there are to approach this core gaming ritual.  Your name is one of the first decisions you have to make about your character, its also something that defines you throughout your WoW career.  How much time and effort do we put into this process that tells others so much about us?

When I first started playing MMOs, I named my avatars after mythological females (Dyanna was my first EQ character, named after the goddess Diana).  For my first WoW toon I wanted to use Calliope, but of course that name was taken.  So I changed up the spelling by using my own RL initial and a naming convention was born.  I named my first bank alt Koinara (coin.. bank… get it? ;) ) and the theme took off from there.  I also like to match the vibe of the name to the character’s persona, so my gnomes have cutesy names like Kayree and Kixxie, while my night elves have elegant names like Kellwynna or Kaliana.

One of the benefits of following a naming convention is that it makes things easier on folks who know you.  When I was in a small guild of real-life friends, they always knew it was me when a new toon with a ‘K’ name started popping up in chat.  Having all my toons use the same initial also makes it easy for other people to get my attention and for me to recognize when I’m being addressed in guild chat or on Vent.  As it is now, my guild mates can call me “K” and it doesn’t matter which toon I’m on.  If I went by five completely different names, I doubt I’d respond to them all instinctively.  Plus multiple random names can be confusing to guildmates who know you primarily under one name… what do they call you on your alt?  Should they use the name they know or the toon name that you’re playing?

Using a naming convention also helps because guild mates can recognize other players they know without memorizing the guild roster.  Trust me – this can be daunting when your guild has 200-300 “members”.  It may seem irrelevant when you’re level 10, but it’s a valid consideration for anyone who has hopes of moving towards end-game raiding.  It’s much nicer to be recognized by players you know instead of constantly having to tell folks who you are.  It’s also nice for your buddies – they don’t have to feel bad for not remembering that their favorite tank “SuperBonk” is also the gnome mage “PinkPrincess” from last week’s alt Kara run.

Finally, we get to the dark underbelly of names.  Like it or not, your name tells other folks about you.  Just as they do in real life, in WoW people make presumptions about you based on your name.  Brad is cooler than Herbert, Scarlet is sexier than Gertrude, etc.  In WoW this thinking is even more valid, since everyone chooses their own name instead of inheriting a stinker from their delusional parents.  Therefore when you name your rogue ‘IPwnYou’, we make certain assumptions… you’re a teenager with zero imagination and a hack and slash attitude.  You’re less likely to be a courteous team player and more likely to be a damage meter junkie and/or loot whore.  On the other hand, a Holy Paladin named Lancelott is more likely to be invited to a pug group.  We assume he has some dignity and self respect, based on his name and choice of spec.  However a Ret Pally named “Annoyadin” is more likely to be passed over in the same scenario.

And then there’s just the stupidity factor.  People who choose names so awful or pathetic that you have to question what they were ingesting at the time.  My all-time favorite “worst” name is a female gnome on my server that was named “CutePuke”.  Honestly, who could possibly want to think of barfing everytime they log into their account??  Not to mention that “cute” is never a word I would pair with “puke” under any circumstances.

This also includes people who name their hunter “Hunterr” or druid “Drood”, which to me demonstrates the ultimate lack of creativity.  These are names that a 3-year old would pick and feel clever about it.  But since I don’t think a 3-year old could actually level all the way to 70, I’m guessing that’s not the story with the fifteen of you who chose this name (yes, there are actually 15 level 70 toons named “Drood”, thankfully all actual druids, which is more than I can say for other class-oriented names).  It is for these people that Blizzard wisely invented the Name Change service.  Trust me, the 10 bucks is worth it once you reach the end game and everyone is calling you Puke-Breath :P


5 Responses to “What’s in a Name?”

  1. Solidstate Says:

    Almost every character on my server who is from Netherlands, is “Dk”. It’s so consistent it’s funny :) I’m just waiting for a deathknight called “Dkdk” to show up :D

    All of my toons have “solid” in their name, for the reason you specified – to make it easier for people to recognize me. I hate it that I sometimes have to look at the guild roster for the comment on a char to remember who his/her main is.

    Most awful name? Well, there were plenty of “Legolaz/Legolasss” (insert favorite misspelling here) night-elf hunters running around, which is enough to make you, err, barf :)
    There are usually more than one thread on the wowforums about “worst name ever”, you can probably find many examples if you are really interested :)

    But on the subject of imaginative names, here’s one that’s really nice – some clever person rolled a dwarf hunter on my server, called him Fish, then called his pet “Chips”. “Fish & Chips”, get it? rofl :)

  2. ClemSnide Says:

    Worst chara name? Any derivation of “Sephiroth.” And there are millions of them. Someday someone will do a Soundex scan to find out just how many (that’s a computer program which scans for homonyms).

    As for clever names, I had a friend in Clan Lords who was of a cat-man race that the game designer called “the People.” His name was Soylent Green. Yes, Soylent Green is…

    In The Matrix Online, people would often use their favorite character names from the films (or elsewhere) with an “X” prefixed and suffixed. Of course, “xNeox” was taken pretty quickly, so the second goober in line went with “xxNeoxx” and so forth. I parodied this in a piece of fanfic, “The Hitchhikers’ Guide to the Matrix,” but it goes on with other MMORPGs as well.

    I don’t worry so much about people remembering that certain charas belong to me. I prefer that they have their own lives. In any event, most people can pick up on my RP style and are reminded quickly that Haloperidol is also Flutterby.

    I do think of my characters’ personalities when designing them, and have at least a rough idea of what their stories will be when they’re named. Saunders, for example, is based on “Poor Richard” Saunders, and I hope I don’t have to explain further. (Except to say that I portray Saunders in real life, and how good is that– a job where you get paid to role-play?)

    Servility was not what that Dwarf Paladin was named originally; he took on that name when he became a disciple of U, the god of the simple-minded: a joke that grew– of course I used him to poke fun at the keyboard-phobics who abbreviate everything they can, but now he’s the leader of a splinter religious group which proselytizes a single god as opposed to this rather indefinite “the Light” business that all the kids are into these days. They’re based strongly on Presbyterians of the 18th century variety and consider the Scarlet Crusade to be slackers.

    I wanted my horrror chara to have a non-typical name, so I named her “Flutterby.” A Night Elf who married a Human, she was caught up in a forced exodus, trapped in a snowstorm, and… well, her last name is Donner, and again I hope I don’t have to tell the historic reference there! I want her to join a vampire RP guild so she can freak out the bloodsuckers.

    My other Night Elf, a Hunter named Pahukatowah (Siouxan for “Dog who stands in water”), seems to date from the days when there were only four races on Azeroth: Night Elves, Trolls, Earthen, and Tauren. His mother visits their old forest every year, only now Morning Dew shows up on a salt flat that Gnomes and GOblins use to race their cars. His pet (the only one he uses) is a wolf named SpiritGuide, and he has a nifty story about how he got his name.

    Three interlocking charas: Hal of Peridol, Seraquel, and Divalproex, are named after psychoactive medications (I’m a psychologist in real life, among other things). The first two are Gnomes, the last survivros from a cith called Peridol, now the famous “melted city.” And what a disaster, that happened just as Hal was demonstrating his newest Engineering gadget, the Infinite Acid Fountain. Diva is a developmentally disabled Draenei who was adopted by the family (their mother, Hatamari, was an SI:7 agent, but their father is a big softy) after suffering the practice of exposure, which was followed by the Greeks and Romans on which the Draenei are based. She believes herself to be a Gnome.

    Banks/auctioneers? Even then I do some writing! Genericus is an artificial corporate lifeform developed by GeneriCorp, makers of average quality products. He has a black stripe tattooed across his midriff. Even he shows up in the occasional storyline, as this multidimensional trade conglomerate attepts to take over yet another realm using economic leverage.

    And that’s just the ones I play most often.

    Since my days in EQOA I have seen that people prefer using nicknames. Pahukatowah is always called “Pahu.” Saunders escapes this because his name doesn’t easily abbreviate into three or four letters. But I do want to name a chara “Assorbia” just so people have to abbreviate his name… well! No point stating the obvious.

    I generally give people the benefit of the doubt when it comes to names. But I have my limits. Charas named “Jc” or “Mypaladin” are obviously people who (a) hate typing or (b) hate being creative enough to come up with a name that will be their only introduction to others in, say, General chat. Either way I don’t expect much in terms of play ability and even less in terms of RP ability.

    Thanks for sitting through this long diatribe/bragfest. I do like the name Kalliope, and was just unsure whether you were named after the goddess or the asteroid. (Well! You might be an astronomer in RL!) Now, let me ask the readers: Why do you think people who don’t roleplay, who have a disdain for roleplaying, create charas on RP servers? I mean! I’m not paying $15 a month to discuss the Mets game.

  3. Azzaghal Says:

    One of the better articles I have read!

    I had always thought no one could do worse than Frank Zappa when it comes to naming (his daughter’s name is Moonunit; his son’s, Dweezel), but once I started playing WoW I realized I was wrong. Moonunit beats “Jsjsjsjddg” and “AnitaKaffee” (a German coffee brand.) As a matter of fact, I see a lot of food and items used as names such as “JuicyBurger” and “MediumPickle”. (Actual names on my server) Perhaps I need to create a toon named “TemptationCatTreats”. Just an idea…

    For my own toons, they all follow in the vein of Extreme Metal band names. I try to match my characters’ gender, class, and race. Krabathor may be a choice for a male warrior whereas Candelaria would be more fitting for a female warlock, priest or mage.

    To each his own, of course. However, Kaliope hits the nail on the head by saying that a name tells those 1000 stories — and sometimes more…

  4. Wrenzo Says:

    The worst name I’ve ever seen was an app to our guild. “Didurmom” didn’t make it in, shockingly.

    I’ve always hated trying to come up with names. I was happy to see the name Wrenzo pop up in the random generator first time I tried. I created a horde alt and named him Oznerw (don’t pronounce the w and it’s not too bad). Then I started shuffling characters around and came up with Zerown, Reznow and Wozner. I was surprised at the number of combinations I could come up with that were pronounceable!

  5. Valdesta Says:

    Heh, my Priest’s name is Shrimproll.

    I was ordering Vietnamese food when I created the toon.

    Now I get people drooling at me and telling me I make them hungry.

    Oh, I’ve had some people say they love me too, out of the blue.

    It’s fun ;)

    WoWGrrl’s player blog

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