names

Reading Seamus Heaney’s translation of Beowulf made me think again about names. People using original fantasy names has to be one of my pet peeves, when I see one at best I don’t like it and at worst I just can’t stand it. When I check out a mud for the first time sometimes it’s the one thing that turns me off, I have to think the mud is really good to get past the weirdo fantasy name hurdle.

What does this have to do with Beowulf? OK, just look at that name and say it to yourself. It just sounds so good and it looks good to me. Yes, partly this is because the name is familar and has imprinted itself in my subconscious, but this is exactly my point. When I see a fantasy name like T’lreth, or Suren Aldanor, it doesn’t do anything for me. Beowulf is from the land of the Geats. Geats, another name I just like. Crazy.

On the other hand some muds have names I do like, but I suspect the creators of those muds chose or modified names from human cultures.

Is there something to be said for names created fresh out of the blue? It’s inevitable that the names mud creators invent will have some basis in cultural history but the influence might be so buried that for all practical purposes it doesn’t matter at all. Maybe if your game uses only ‘original’ names you can psychologically influence your players to immerse themselves in your world to an extent not possible if you use ‘real-life’ or culturally-derived names. This is probably the sticking point for me. I’m not the type of player to identify so completely with a game world. So these original names are always an obstacle for me. It’s like when a mud bans the choice of ‘real-life’ names for new characters. A turn-off.

Our human culture is so varied and rich that if I had the choice I would always use names from or modified from the real world. The benefits of subconscious resonance and linguistic consistency outweigh for me any imagined benefit of creating a more ‘original’ game world.

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