Wednesday, August 11, 2010

EXP Podcast #90: What's In A Name?

My name is Jorge, and sometimes Shen, and other times Arkania. I have also been a variety of strangely named characters in everything from JRPGs to First-Person Shooters. According to Andrew Lynes, whose piece inspired this week's podcast, character name changes may subtly affect our gaming experiences. Join Scott and I while we discuss Link, Pseudonyms, Uno etiquette, and ways to improve the name game. For Andrew's article, check out the show notes. As always, feel free to share your thoughts in the comments section below.

Discussion Starters

- Do you have any favorite names you use in games? Do they make your games more meaningful?
- What character names have you changed in the past and why?

To listen to the podcast:

- Subscribe to the EXP Podcast via iTunes here. Additionally, here is the stand-alone feed.
- Listen to the podcast in your browser by left-clicking the title. Or, right-click and select "save as link" to download the show in MP3 format.
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Show notes:

- Run time: 28 min 4 sec
- "How Character Names Change the Narrative Experience," by Andrew Lynes via Bitmob
- Music provided by Brad Sucks


  1. The Ultima series fit the name change into the premise quite well. You're an accidental dimensional traveler, who was whisked away into the fantasy world of Sosaria/Britannia. Thus it makes sense that your name stands out in that world. Also, it reinforces the narrative that you're supposed to play as yourself and not as someone else who grew up in that world and thus wouldn't think like you and make the same choices as you would.

    The same intention also surfaces in Mass Effect. You're not supposed to follow in the footsteps of the canonical Shepard. Naming something makes it yours. That's why I don't rename my characters in Final Fantasy games. The story is set in stone, so I'd rather play along than to futilely try to shape it.

  2. As a person named Isaac, playing through Dead Space was a far more personal experience. Later in the game, you can hear whispers of Isaac's name as he wanders the corridors of the Ishimura, and that was rather disturbing. Furthermore, when main characters referred to me as "Isaac," I felt like I had a legitimate bond with them.

    This, of course, happened just by chance. Other people named Isaac played Dead Space. However, I think it is an interesting argument for self-named characters.

  3. I'll second Hirvox's observations.

    As for my own experience, I've taken to using "Silveransom" as a name in almost every online game I play because it's a persona that I've laid claim to. It's almost like my blogging/commenting handle; I can present a consistent face to the world as my "online gaming persona" or my online game avatar.

    Of course, that's not my only character. The WoW character I've played most is Padgi, a Tauren Druid that my three year old daughter named. I do play the game differently than if he were named "Killaman" or "Cowzrool". Seeing my daughter's whimsical name reminds me that I'm playing largely to have experiences to share with her, and that does affect what I do in the game. Many times, I've just shifted into cheetah form and let her run around Thunder Bluff or some other town with the UI off. It's a very different game from the raiding treadmill, and a lot of that started with the name.

  4. @ Hirvox

    I'll buy that. My Shepard is undoubtedly mine. If someone else has the same name but choose story elements differently, it would be even more irritating.

    @ Isaac

    I've never bumped into Jorge in a game. Now I'm a bit jealous.

    @ Tesh

    I love the idea of names having importance when someone else is around. If I had named Shepard after my partner, I wonder if I started naming characters after my partner if she would be creeped out or honored. Either way, I think I'd play games much more carefully.

  5. Excellent episode!

    One game that uses a camera taunt feature quite well is Burnout Paradise. In multi-player the camera will snap a photo of a player at various points and send to the opponents. For example, if you manage to make the other player crash the camera will take a photo of your victim shortly after the accident and send it to you. The photos even get saved so you can review your "trophies". It's a fascinating feature because it actually introduces the aspect of acting into a racing game. I had a lot of fun making the most funny, exaggerated faces when other players crashed me. With many multi-player games becoming all about bitter competitiveness, this was a great way to make playing together feel much more humane and personal. I strongly recommend checking it out. It's a unique and mesmerizing feature. Plus, I haven't seen any dicks in my entire racing career there.

    But yes, as you've mentioned, this is a whole different way of introducing the player into the game world and it doesn't necessarily contribute to immersion.

  6. Hey Krystian,

    Your claim that your time with Burnout Paradise's taunt feature has been relatively devoid of genitals gives me cautious hope for the future of the human race. ;-)

    This reminds me a bit of when we were talking about privacy and anonymity. I would hope that actually seeing a human would make people friendlier. I wonder if such a thing would work in an environment as hostile as Modern Warfare or League of Legends?