I just saw a post on WoWInsider about themes for character names. Reading through the article and comments, it got me thinking about how many ways there are to approach this core gaming ritual. Your name is one of the first decisions you have to make about your character, its also something that defines you throughout your WoW career. How much time and effort do we put into this process that tells others so much about us?
When I first started playing MMOs, I named my avatars after mythological females (Dyanna was my first EQ character, named after the goddess Diana). For my first WoW toon I wanted to use Calliope, but of course that name was taken. So I changed up the spelling by using my own RL initial and a naming convention was born. I named my first bank alt Koinara (coin.. bank... get it? ;) ) and the theme took off from there. I also like to match the vibe of the name to the character's persona, so my gnomes have cutesy names like Kayree and Kixxie, while my night elves have elegant names like Kellwynna or Kaliana.
One of the benefits of following a naming convention is that it makes things easier on folks who know you. When I was in a small guild of real-life friends, they always knew it was me when a new toon with a 'K' name started popping up in chat. Having all my toons use the same initial also makes it easy for other people to get my attention and for me to recognize when I'm being addressed in guild chat or on Vent. As it is now, my guild mates can call me "K" and it doesn't matter which toon I'm on. If I went by five completely different names, I doubt I'd respond to them all instinctively. Plus multiple random names can be confusing to guildmates who know you primarily under one name... what do they call you on your alt? Should they use the name they know or the toon name that you're playing?
Using a naming convention also helps because guild mates can recognize other players they know without memorizing the guild roster. Trust me - this can be daunting when your guild has 200-300 "members". It may seem irrelevant when you're level 10, but it's a valid consideration for anyone who has hopes of moving towards end-game raiding. It's much nicer to be recognized by players you know instead of constantly having to tell folks who you are. It's also nice for your buddies - they don't have to feel bad for not remembering that their favorite tank "SuperBonk" is also the gnome mage "PinkPrincess" from last week's alt Kara run.
Finally, we get to the dark underbelly of names. Like it or not, your name tells other folks about you. Just as they do in real life, in WoW people make presumptions about you based on your name. Brad is cooler than Herbert, Scarlet is sexier than Gertrude, etc. In WoW this thinking is even more valid, since everyone chooses their own name instead of inheriting a stinker from their delusional parents. Therefore when you name your rogue 'IPwnYou', we make certain assumptions... you're a teenager with zero imagination and a hack and slash attitude. You're less likely to be a courteous team player and more likely to be a damage meter junkie and/or loot whore. On the other hand, a Holy Paladin named Lancelott is more likely to be invited to a pug group. We assume he has some dignity and self respect, based on his name and choice of spec. However a Ret Pally named "Annoyadin" is more likely to be passed over in the same scenario.
And then there's just the stupidity factor. People who choose names so awful or pathetic that you have to question what they were ingesting at the time. My all-time favorite "worst" name is a female gnome on my server that was named "CutePuke". Honestly, who could possibly want to think of barfing everytime they log into their account?? Not to mention that "cute" is never a word I would pair with "puke" under any circumstances.
This also includes people who name their hunter "Hunterr" or druid "Drood", which to me demonstrates the ultimate lack of creativity. These are names that a 3-year old would pick and feel clever about it. But since I don't think a 3-year old could actually level all the way to 70, I'm guessing that's not the story with the fifteen of you who chose this name (yes, there are actually 15 level 70 toons named "Drood", thankfully all actual druids, which is more than I can say for other class-oriented names). It is for these people that Blizzard wisely invented the Name Change service. Trust me, the 10 bucks is worth it once you reach the end game and everyone is calling you Puke-Breath :P