You’ve been planning it for months, getting the right clothing, picking out the correct nursery designs to match your expected child’s gender. You’ve bought the car seat months in advance but there’s still something missing…
That’s right…the name! A name that will forever go down in history, a name to carry on your legacy; you need something strong, something original, something that means business. Hollywood may have Apple and Pilot Inspektor but you wouldn’t dare go that route. No, you need something that will bring you and those around you to tears of joy. They will stand in awe at such a powerful name. How about…Kitana or Link! Sounds familiar?
In the latest trend in video games that has been sweeping the new generation of the parenting nation, baby names aren’t the standard Mary or Tom (no offense to those named Mary or Tom) but babies named after video game characters. They’re unique yet fun and downright nostalgic; and at least it’s not Lemonjello and Orangello, the infamous urban myth of baby names.
Let’s face it, naming your child after Zelda is not that far-fetched, especially after learning Shigeru Miyamoto, the creator of The Legend of Zelda, thought Zelda sounded “pleasant and significant” after he learned it was the name of F. Scott Fitzgerald’s wife. So he picked it for the starring princess in his video game series. In turn it’s well known that popular actor Robin Williams named his daughter Zelda due to the game.
A baby named after a character which was named after a person; it’s really the circle of baby naming life.
This trend is so popular that on May 7th, author Laura Wattenberg released the third edition of her book The Baby Name Wizard: A Magical Method for Finding the Perfect Name for Your Baby where its pages where packed with some 18,000 names; a large portion belonging to that of video game characters. She also highlights a small sampling of the dozens of video game names that were given to five or more American babies in 2012:
- Alucard (M): A half-human, half-vampire of the Castlevania series. His name is that of his father Dracula, backwards.
- Arthas (M): Warcraft’s tragic prince, he was doomed to join the undead army and destroy his native kingdom.
- Cloud (M): Cloud Strife, the mercenary hero of Final Fantasy VII, has a really, really big sword.
- Cortana (F): An artificial intelligence in the Halo series, Cortana takes the form of a scantily clad female hologram.
- Kaileena (F): In Prince of Persia series, Kaileena is killed by the Prince, but then travels through time to have sex with him…or something like that.
- Kratos (M): The brutal antihero of the God of War series, named for the ancient Greek daemon of strength.
- Roxas (M): One of the “Nobodies” of Kingdom Hearts, meaning he’s what’s left over after a person’s heart is consumed.
So why these names? It’s hard to say but Wattenberg explains,
As you can see from just that list, the game-name equation is complicated. It’s not just about heroes, but about memorable characters. And as always, the name itself is key. Names that fit parents’ comfort zones have a leg up, so we see 14 baby Raidens for every Cloud and 5 Clouds for every Arthas. Meanwhile a fabulous title heroine like Bayonetta goes namesake-less, though that one’s probably for the best.
The relationship between player and characters turns out to be key to a game’s baby-naming impact and depends upon the answer of several key important questions:
- How many named characters are there?
- How do you interact with them, and how do they interact with each other?
- Do they grow and change?
- Do you learn more about their back stories?
- Is understanding their backgrounds and motivations key to the gameplay?
- Which defines a character more, his powers or his relationships?
Baby names don’t just stop at choosing your favorite characters, sometimes names are thrust upon you in the most unexpected way. In 2011 Bethesda Games pulled one of the greatest publicity stunts when it announced it would give a lifetime of free games to anyone who named their child Dovahkiin, the name of the protagonist in The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim. On November, 11th 2011 little Dovahkiin Tom Kellermeyer was born (coincidentally on the same day the game was released). True to their word, Bethesda released this statement along with the lifetime guarantee of free games to the new parents:
Be it the real world or the game worlds we create, we wish young Dovahkiin the best in all his adventures. And if Alduin ever reaches this realm, we’ll be in touch.
It looks as if this latest trend might be here to stay for a while.
The baby naming website Nameberry has a list complied with over forty video game names for boys and over twenty names for girls for 2013; which includes the name Bloodrayne, after the hack and slash vampire/human hybrid. Although if you shorten it to just Rayne the neighboring kids and their parents might actually invite you over for a play-date.
While baby video game naming seems to reach an all-time high, if we were to go back in naming history we would see the makings of this trend beginning to form in the late 2000’s. However, the popularity of one video game character’s name goes as far back as 1981 with everyone’s favorite plumber, Mario.
After the president of Nintendo America, Shigeru Miyamoto had a heated argument over warehouse rent with landlord Mario Segale, the Donkey Kong character previously known as Jumpman and Mr. Video became the now-infamous Mario. Currently #198 in the baby naming charts, Mario saw its height of popularity in the US in the early 1981 in the #102 spot when Donkey Kong ruled. Between 1981-2014 there will be a total of 254 video games in which the Mario character has appeared, making it one the most popular video game characters and names in video gaming history.
Enough about the boys, what about one the most unforgettable female names in gaming? Well, while it doesn’t go as far back as 1981, it all started seventeen years ago with our favorite female adventurer Lara Croft.
The adventures of British archaeologist Lara Croft from the Tomb Raider series are legend in video games. In 2006, The Guinness Book of World Records deemed Lara Croft the ”Most Successful Human Videogame Heroine” for “transcending the boundaries of video games and becoming a recognizable figure in mainstream society.” Lara beat the likes of Street Fighter’s Chun Li, Donkey Kong’s Pauline, Dragon’s Lair’s Daphne, and Resident Evil starlets Jill Valentine and Claire Redfield who were also in the running. Like the name for your newest edition to the family? You’re not alone. Lara has been on the US Top 1000 baby names list for girls since the release of the first game in the series and since the release of the rebooted version, the name shows no signs of stopping.
What about the most popular video game names that seem the most cultural? Well…
Parents fall head-over-heels in love with names like Caden, Aiden and Jayden so it’s no wonder that Raiden, a main character in the Mortal Kombat game series would get the same treatment. Raiden—a Japanese god—means “thunder and lightning” and it’s currently thundering up the top baby name charts, breaking in at #944 in 2007 when Mortal Kombat was released, and currently occupying the 670th space. It’s also a popular name in Japan (spelled Raijin).
The main character in the Devil May Cry video game series, Dante, is currently ranked third among the Top Ten Coolest Video Game Characters list. And it’s no wonder— he’s a stylish and dapper slayer of devils and demons; a real modern day knight in shining armor! This may explain why the name Dante ranks in the top 300 names for boys in the US.
As previously mentioned this Japanese name just barely missed hitting the US popularity Top 1000 chart in 2009 but finally broke through in 2010! Kairi—which means sea or sea child—is likely the most popular “video game name,” and its popularity in the US is directly related to the popularity of the character in Kingdom Hearts, a series of action-adventure role-playing games featuring characters from Disney and Final Fantasy. Kairi’s character in the series—voiced by Hayden Panettiere—is the sole reason for the current popularity of the name.
What sparked the sudden popularity of this name? Was it the association with the power pop punkers in Good Charlotte? Was it because women across the world wanted a Steve Madden handbag really, really bad? More likely the name Madden arrived on the Top 1000 scene in 2007 and has continued to climb the popularity charts for one reason: Madden NFL. Fans of sports games have grown up with Madden and the games have consistently been best sellers.
What’s next in our video game baby naming future? Only time will tell but I will say one thing, video games are strongly embedded in our culture; I don’t see this trend ending any time soon. If you happen to be all out of names, Megatron is still available! And if that’s too far out therefore you, there’s always Tron, the name inspired by the 1982 film and video game of the same name. While Madden is a part of the trend at least it’s not football players making the list: just imagine naming your child D’Brickashaw or Lekkerkerker.