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What's in a Name?

Dan Fortier Posted:
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MMOWTF - What's in a Name?

Weekly MMORPG Columnist Dan Fortier uses his time this week to gripe about naming policies in MMOs.

Editor's Note: This is an edition of a weekly column by Staff Writer Dan Fortier. The column is called "MMOWTF" and will look at some of the stranger or more frustrating events in MMOs as seen by Mr. Fotier. The opinions expressed are those of the author and not necessarily those of MMORPG.com, its staff or management.

Among all the possible topics lined up in my weekly smorgasbord, this one is perhaps the least likely to get me fired. Why use it right before the holidays you ask? Well unlike some of you hopeless cases out there, I’m hoping Santa will grade me on the curve and cut me some slack if I behave at the end of the year. While it might not be the most radical idea, I do have some serious baggage to sort out on the subject and once again I’m dragging you poor readers along for the ride. This week I focus on the merits of a strong naming policy and the folks who bypass them.

Most MMOs share a pretty similar policy regarding what names players can use for their characters. They typically ban names that are sexually explicit or anything that could be offensive to any breathing human on the planet. While some of them are clever enough to counter some of the obvious alternate spellings or phonetic versions, a good portion of ‘inappropriate’ ones slip through the cracks to be sorted out by GMs and player petitions. In fact, most players consider the activity of bypassing the parser some kind of extra mini-game. This shouldn’t be misinterpreted as an attempt to keep the game free of ridiculous names, but simply as a buffer between the company and possible lawsuits.

We then have the “Roleplaying Servers” that have stricter naming restrictions to make sure that players are pretending to be someone else while inhaling pretzels and Diet Coke. I’m not too sure how disallowing names like “Fartnurface” while allowing a name like “Crash Bandicoot” somehow improves my ability to immerse myself in a computer game though. I guess I’m just jaded, but I think that if you really wanted to allow players to Roleplay in your game you wouldn’t let two hundred players run around with different versions of Legolas and instead give players something useful like quest creation tools.

Personally, it drives me up the wall when I see names with numbers in them. I’m not sure what puritan gene is responsible, but I refuse to even talk to someone named “D1rk D4rkblad3". In fact I’m likely to go out of my way to kill him if given the chance.

“B..but we all pay the same to play the game!” cry the l33t kids “Why shouldn’t we have the freedom to name our toons how we leik?”

You certainly have that right, but if you painted a big cardboard HP and Mana bar with your name on it and wore it outside, would you be surprised if that level 70 bully came over and robbed you of all your unbroken ribs?

I feel that most of the modern rules for naming characters are simply not strict enough. What would be so wrong with only allowing a first, last and perhaps middle name free from numbers or symbols? This wouldn’t prohibit some nub from making “Eie Own Yu”, but at least it would require some kind of creativity and wouldn’t be glaringly obvious unless you were playing attention. There’s nothing wrong with forcing people to be creative when creating a character name. Who knows, maybe those ten extra seconds of brain usage might actually benefit them in the long run.

Looking back, I probably just earned myself a couple lumps of coal for being mean and inept all at the same time. Oh well at least you have the 2007 MMOWTF Awards nominations to look forward to next week right? In the meantime use that keyboard that God gave you and jump into this week’s shallow river. Onward and Upward!


Dan Fortier