I decided to boot up Guild Wars last night to take a look around, see what had changed in the months since I last played. After downloading a metric ton of updates, I finally made it to the character screen, where Vigor Mortis was waiting to head back into the fray. I paused for a moment, proud of my clever name. “Vigor Mortis” is my necromancer. Necromancers deal with death, corpses and the reanimation of said corpses. Rigor mortis is when a dead body becomes stiff, due to chemical reactions in the muscles. Vigor, on the otherhand, evokes thoughts of strength and well being. The melding of the two, Vigor Mortis, is a sly play on words that I am quite fond of. I am evoking the black arts to give the dead “new life.” Vigor, if you will.
It got me thinking, what’s in a name? More specifically, why do we use the nicknames we use? As I was thinking of a name for my first ship in EVE, I blogged that the hardest part of playing a video game (particularly an MMORPG) is coming up with a character name. It has to be catchy, clever, and something that won’t embarass you. I eventually settled on the name “Broken Butterfly” for my ship. Again, I was proud of yet another clever name. The Broken Butterfly is my favorite weapon from Resident Evil 4, the .45 revolver that packed quite a wallop. Yet the butterfly is a nimble creature. So my ship, nimble yet potent, was aptly named.
I’ve been thinking lately of other names (handles) I’ve used. Back in my BBS days, I went by the handle “The Hitman.” A kid I played football with was already nicknamed “The Hitman” on the team, so I was “The Hitman” in cyber-space. Whenever I played BBS doors (the equivalent of an online text-based game) like Barren Realms Elite or Trade Wars 2002, I used titles from Metallica songs (I was going through a huge Metallica phase). My kingdoms in BRE were always called “Dyers Eve” and my guy in TW2002 was called the Phantom Lord and his ships were always “Ride the Lightning.”
Later, when I started running around with guys on the MSN Gaming Zone, playing Age of Empires, I was going by the moniker of “Tonester”. My buddy Bob was “Bobster_0” so why not go with the theme? Later, at his cousin’s house, during a round of AoE LAN gaming, I saw his cousin’s name — “I aint yer Pa”. I inquired of the origin of the name (it’s from a Clint Eastwood movie) and I really liked it. For a long time, I was “I aint yer Pa” in most of my games. My whole Diablo 2 phase was a string of “I aint yer…” names. My sorceress was “I aint yer Granny.” My Amazon, “I aint yer Sis” and of course my Whirlwinding Barbarian, “I aint yer Pa.”
I guess I was in a naming funk for a while. Funny thing is, after a couple of years, I went back to I aint yer Pa for my Xbox Live account name and have been happy with it ever since. It’s original (even if I wasn’t the originator), it is memorable, and it always evokes a laugh. You may not remember playing a round of Halo 2 with M4st3r_Ch1eF but you’ll remember the dude named “I aint yer Pa”.
I’d like to hear about the names you guys are fond of. What are some of the stories behind names you’ve used? I’m sure some aren’t as thoughtful as others but I know there’s some good ones out there. I’ve been on Xbox Live long enough to see a hundred different people work “420” into their name, so I know originality isn’t something that’s really common or respected in the online gaming community, but I know a lot of people are thoughtful and have thoughtful character names.
I’d love to hear some of the stories behind them.