When replaying Chrono Trigger, will you name the hero Chrono? How about Jack, John or Achmed? Maybe you'll name him Derpster or something a little more profound which I'll leave nameless for the younger readers. My character's name is always Wim. Because that's my name. Chrono Trigger's Wim grew up in the year 1000, has an inventor, a princess, a cursed frog, a robot, a cavewomen and a dark lord for friends. His character is my own though. The silent protagonist sure talked a lot during his adventure. Sadly nobody really reacted to Wim during his adventure, but he was used to it. Or rather I was used to it.
I play games to be part of worlds that aren't (and shouldn't be) possible in real life. The possibility is what made me love RPG's with a passion that has admittedly waned over the years. During what may be the peak of my RPG love, a new RPG came out for the Nintendo Gamecube. I pounced on it as this would be another RPG world that I could take part of. Having played and extremely loved Tales of Phantasia for SNES through fan translation, i knew i was getting something awesome.
I bought a USA import with a freeloader disc just because Tales of Symphonia launched half a year earlier than in Europe. Gleefully i popped the game in my Gamecube and was about to embark on a journey that I would never forget afterwards. By now Tales of Symphonia is one of my all-time favourites, BUT, when I popped in that game, pressed a at the new game option and started game I noticed a glaring omission: No name entry screen.
The lack of name entry screen bugged me. It took me a few hours before just settling into the game. I just imagined I was Kratos (because I loved the sword and shield combo). *Tales of Symphonia spoilers ensue for the rest of this paragraph.* Kratos however, disappeared halfway through the game. In other words, I was gone. It even seemed I was the bad guy. Mind blown. I learned to enjoy an RPG with no name entry. But I still wanted to be a part of the world. Needless to say, the ending with Kratos was very satisfying. But the disconnect had already taken root.
The RPG i played after Tales of Symphonia on Gamecube would be Baten Kaitos. Baten Kaitos is an awesome game and it allowed you to enter your name. I was thrilled and promptly entered Wim. Plus-point: this game had voice acting, which was still quite novel at the time. The players would utter sentences like: "what do you think Wim?" There was just one problem. There was an awkward silence anytime "Wim" would enter in the text boxes, which slowed the pace of the conversations. In hindsight, the voice acting isn't up to snuff anyway, but for the time I just relished in the novelty of it. And I got to be a character in this story.
Baten Kaitos was an example of voice acting and name entry not meshing. And to date, I haven't found a game that did this right. Funnily enough, it seems that Tomodachi Life will bridge that gap to a robotic extent. But I don't think roleplaying Tomodachi Life will make me feel as if I'm on an epic adventure. I will get Tomodachi Life when I've the funds to do so though, it looks downright awesome.
RPG's after Baten Kaitos. like Golden Sun had the characters named Wim anyway, because I still love the immersion. Golden Sun to me was an RPG that could sit with the SNES' greatest. I loved the immersion and the story. One last problem with naming characters that I'd like to close off with: Pokemon.
I started playing Pokemon with Pokemon Yellow. My character was named Wim. He was the greatest trainer. His team of Pikachu, Blastoise, Charizard, Venusaur, Primeape and Mewtwo would lead him/me to become the champion and catch all Pokemon including Mew. He would later venture into Johto with his team (cheating device on Pokemon Gold) and move onto Hoen (another cheating device).
Rushing through new games with level 100 to start out with wasn't very fun though, so to enjoy the games normally, the narrative would continue by saying that from Shinnoh (Diamond) onwards. I'd take the regional challenge first with local pokemon, before transferring my original team (with Pikachu evolved) and completing the local dex. There is just one problem with this ongoing story; I can't be the best online. There are people online with weird names like: B4ckS1d3W1p3r90x0x. 733t skilZ 4L, and they'd have shiny mewtwo's and arceus's. This din't fit the narrative. Besides that, how could I as the trainer that traveled all over the world and catch all Pokemon, lose to a trainer that for some reason looks exactly like me, and have Pokemon which are technically impossible to get.
With Pokemon X&Y, getting into competitive battling has been made accessible to players like me. Super training and XP share makes it easy to build a sound team. But it hasn't been made accessible to my narrative. Losing online would not fit the narrative of a trainer who'd beat the champion whit a level 100 team without taking a single hit.
Something hit me after watching some snafu battles on youtube. Having a character that doesn't have your name distances yourself just right to tackle the challenges from other players. Success is 99% failure after all. And if you want to win, you have to be able to lose. It's easier to take your losses if you don't make them so personal.
And all of a sudden I have the urge to go through old RPG's and name the characters something just to see if having a different character than myself be the silent protagonist would change the perspective on the story.
Still, I love roleplaying in single player games. So the next Zelda will have the long eared hero be called Wim once again. But maybe, Pokemon Omega Sapphire will see the game started with a character named Blue, I've been through Hoen before after all.
Games with name entry have dwindled to a few. Most RPG's don't take name entries anymore. Which to me loses the RP in RPG. In that sense, The legend of Zelda games may be the definitive RPG's of the last and current gen.
But what about you? Do you have naming conventions. Take the standards, enter your own or a specific nickname? Sound of in the comments and let's talk amongst ourselves. This may be your window of opportunity for your own role playing confessions.