As I dinked around in Black Desert this week, trying to make my Corsair to take the class for a spin, I hit a wall in the character creation screen. It’s a wall I’m sure we’re all familiar with: name selection.
Naming a character is one of the more important things you can do, especially in a genre that is meant to be as social as MMOs are. Naming your character gives them identity. It’s how your friends will know you in-game, or how you’ll be listed when the raid leader starts assigning roles during the next major boss fight.
A name gives your character history – how did that name come to be? Does it mean anything specific? Why did they choose to surround the name on both sides with “Xx xX”?
For me, I have a specific name I’ve used in every MMO since I started playing The Lord of the Rings Online in 2007: Eldalye. The name was never meant to become my catch-all for every game, instead it was rooted in the lore of Middle-earth. Eldalië is Quenya meaning “people of the Eldar.” My character is an Elf Hunter hailing from the line of the Noldor, who would have spoken Quenya in the world (for those unaware, the Elvish tongue you hear mostly in the movies is Sindarin, the tongue of the Gray Elves, Quenya is more “High Elven”).
The name Eldalye was derived from the Quenya term, but the meaning was meant to be the same. In fact, I took it a step further and gave my surname meaning too: Ancalima, or “brightest” in Quenya. So in a round about way, I was trying to convey that my Elf hunter was the Brightest of the Elven-folk.
But somewhere along the lines, Eldalye itself became the name I would use in Guild Wars 2, and then Star Wars: The Old Republic. Eventually Eldalye would find his way to Azeroth, taking the role of a Pandaren Monk during the Battle for Azeroth expansion. Eldalye is also a pilot in one of Goonswarm's PvE corporations in EVE Online. It became not simply the identity of the Elven hunter in LotRO, but my gaming identity as well. Kinmates who I’ve met in real life and even spent a day in New Zealand at The Shire movie set don’t even call me Joe or Joseph, instead it’s “Eld.”
Funnily enough, our first time meeting was here in my hometown of Las Vegas, and we snapped a picture at a brewery downtown, dubbing it the Council of Eldalye.
It's not just Eldalye for me. Every time I make a female character, the first one is always named Cystara, the name of a main character in a book I wrote in high school. My Final Fantasy XIV character is named Noel, after my daughter. But my alt? Eldalye.
It got me thinking: are other players like this too? Are the names we choose for our characters more attached to us ourselves, or just the character and world they come from. Do you find yourself going back to the same name over again when you start a new game, or do you try to find something that fits better in that world?