That awkward moment when it took you forever to name your character in a video game.
It all starts when you buy that new role-playing video game you’ve been looking forward to for quite a while now. You’re ready to jump in to slay some dragons or shoot some aliens depending on the genre. The game asks you to customize your character’s looks and perhaps even their origin. It takes quite a while as you scrutinize every detail of their appearance or else you would be forced to start a new game if something was off. Just when you think the hard part is over, the game prompts you to name your character and deciding what that would be almost feels like an eternity.
I used to be believe that I was the only one who put too much emphasis on naming my protagonists. Thanks to the Internet, I discovered that people experienced and the same thing. Thus, images and GIFs were created to express this common phenomenon in gamer culture. It’s funny how it matters so much when other characters can’t even say it out loud like it’s taboo a la Voldemort from the Harry Potter series because of technical limitations. Yet, naming my character has always been such an important process to me.
Most RPGs often allow you to customize your protagonist in a myriad of ways. You are pretty much creating your own character and setting them up for the adventure that lies ahead. Their appearance, attributes, labels, and origins are usually up to you. Throughout the game, you shape who they become through the choices you make. Some people would model protagonists after themselves and there are others who would create characters based on the story they want to tell. I fall into the latter category and I personally think that giving your character a name is another way to express the story you want to tell. What if my character’s personality is influenced by where they are from? The name can be used as an additional way to express their heritage. Others would use names with meanings to describe an important trait. It serves as another vehicle for storytelling.
Of course, there are more obvious reasons for taking a long time to name your character. I remember when I found out I was going to have a little sister, I think my mother browsed through every baby name website. It took forever to even come up with a short list. Creating your own character shares some similarities with having a kid. I don’t think you want to name anything you created something horrible. For example, it took us two weeks to come up with the name Gamemoir. It had to fit our theme and it should be something we could relate. The same goes for the characters we make. We want it to reflect who they are or as a way to affectionately acknowledge our creation.
In addition, I remember the days when voice acting was rare in video games. I grew up reading out loud subtitles and constantly pressing “X” on my DualShock controller to read the next bit of dialogue. Games could actually let characters and the story itself use your protagonist’s name during dialogue or what not regardless of how common or obscure the name is. It’s all text anyway so it’s pretty much replaceable.
I remember feeling awkward when characters would address them by the name I chose because it didn’t sound right to me. There were no voice actors except for myself. I would read every line of dialogue back in the day (sometimes in different voices too). If it didn’t fit, then I would reload the game. I pretty much use the early parts of a video game to test run appearances and the name. I remember a friend of mine once told me that she makes her Shepard handsome because she’ll be looking at him the whole time. The same goes with the name. If you’re going to read it all the time, might as well make it something cool. You don’t want to be thinking “Oh, what a stupid name” during a pivotal scene in the game.
There are some games though wherein the naming process really didn’t matter to me at all. In Final Fantasy X, you have the option to rename Tidus. I really didn’t bother to change his name. I feel so disconnected if I did because almost every fan knows him as Tidus. It’s the same with almost every Final Fantasy game wherein the default is always canon. At the same time, I didn’t create these protagonists and I have little influence on how I shape them so there’s not really much investment to begin with.
In the end, you might be lucky if you use the same name for every character you make. Otherwise, you’re just like me and many others caught up in the dilemma of finding the perfect name for a very long time.