Has this ever happened to you? You decide to roll (or reroll) a new character in an MMORPG, and after you get done choosing just the right hair coif and length of beard stubble, you find your mind freezing at what to call this perfect creation. Parents generally get nine months to come up with a name for their baby, but you have just minutes before you start feeling foolish.
Even worse is when you have a name — but it’s taken. After sending out a string of strongly worded curses at the player (probably a nine-year-old kid who thinks as you do), you are forced to come up with a replacement. Because heaven forbid that a virtual world have two characters with the same name. That’s why we have so much conflict here on earth, with all of the Jens and Ryans romping around.
Fortunately for you, I am here to help. With a decade and a half of MMO gaming experience behind me and a zombie uprising’s worth of alts, I have a few tips to share on how to name your next character. If you act today and get a new character name out, I’ll even throw in a vowel, free of charge!
1. Break from the crowd
Because you’re trying to come up with a name that is (a) not already taken and (b) will help distinguish you from the rest of the server’s community, you’re going to want to be constantly asking yourself, “Is this name something everyone else is going for?” And if so, don’t.
I know, that character from a popular movie, game, or TV show is practically an embodiment of your soul, but unless it’s pretty obscure, chances are there are lots of others thinking the exact same way. Please don’t get so stubborn about trying to secure it that you torture and twist the name spelling so that you can have some sort of variation on it. Trust me when I say that I roll my eyes so hard that you can hear the squishy judgmentalism when I see players who toss in those impossible-to-spell alt key code letters just so that they can be “Kå╤Ñ¡§§.”
2. Prefix away!
One of the best tricks (and by no means an original one) is to latch on to a particular prefix that you can use to create a host of names. I’ve long gone with “Syp” as my pseudonym, which can be easily turned into Syppi, Sypster, Sype, and my current favorite, Syperstar.
The prefix trick helps to head off the whole “name taken” syndrome because you can just figure out something else to put after it while retaining your identity. It also is a boon to your friends and guildies, as it aids them in keeping track of you while you swap alts left and right.
3. Jam two words together
Don’t stop at one word when two will do. A single cool-sounding word has a high chance of being taken, but it’s not hard at all to mix-and-match pairs of words to find unique combinations on that server. Plus, jammed-together words kind of sound awesome and have been used all over the place in fantasy fiction.
I like to imagine that J.R.R. Tolkien named Gandalf’s horse after looking around in his home office and taking the first two things he saw — a fax machine and his own shadow — as inspiration. What, they didn’t have fax machines back then? Shows how much you know of the One Ring’s true power. It can order off of Skymall in any decade.
4. Add “Y”
It never ceases to surprise me how often I can reclaim my wanted name by simply tossing a Y onto the end of it. A cool word? Cricket. But good luck, me, getting Cricket as a character name in an MMO. Crickety, however, is almost never taken and I love how that Y gives it a neat spin.
5. Keep a file of cool words
Don’t leave name creation up to the moment that you’re logging into the game for the first time. I’ve long had a text file where I toss in various words and names that I like when I come across them. Maybe I’ll never use it, I don’t know. But when I’m casting around for naming inspiration, more often than not I can delve into this file and find at least a handful of words that haven’t been claimed yet.
6. Come up with a cool theme
Another naming convention is to center your gaming characters around a theme instead of a word (and variations on that word). In one game, I used to name my spaceships after battles in the Revolutionary War (which had me frequently consulting a list of those battles and learning more about them). I’ve often thought that a great theme would be names of rivers.
For example, here are a few from Arizona rivers: Hassayampa, Brawley, Pantano, Big Sandy, Kanab, Puerco, Zuni, and Yaqui. I’d like to think that Big Sandy would be a hulking Gnome fighter.
7. Don’t get hung up on a single name
I get that often we get incredibly attached to a certain name and want to use it universally in MMOs. It helps with identification and promoting our YouTube channels, but it also can be limiting. There is a world of other names out there and you have the freedom to explore them. So why not do just that?
While I frequently use Syp as my character names, more and more I’ve gotten away from strictly sticking to that convention. Instead, I’ve embraced the thought that novelists will give new characters their own identity and unique names instead of rehashing the same one over and over again, so why not in game? Sometimes a different name simply fits better, particularly after you’ve had a little while to get used to it.
8. Remember the Rule of Three
A long time ago I came up with a rule of thumb that said that no matter what you name your character, most players are going to only type out the first three or four letters of it when addressing you. Ain’t nobody got time for “Aeriellbella” no matter how pretty it looks. So keep that in mind, especially if you name your character Butford or Assylia.
9. Make the most out of surnames
I’m a big supporter of MMOs that allow players to create first and last names for characters. Not only does this pretty much eliminate name squatting, but it can allow for some really nice interplay between the two names. It’s the chance to come up with two great names, just make sure that they go well together.
10. Respect the puns
If someone ever tells you that you’ve wasted your life because you spent the extra time to come up with a groan-worthy, clever pun for a name, do not listen to him. You are awesome and make me smile. Pun it up, MMO community!