A great way to ruin a videogame for me and my children is to require us to name the main character.
Five minutes into the game everything stops and we have to type in the name we will use for the rest of the adventure. And this will be the point where my oldest daughter will shut down, completely overcome by indecision. “Just give them a name! Any name!” I’ll find myself yelling, 30 minutes later, still staring at a blinking cursor on the screen.
But she will be curled up in a ball on the couch behind me, mumbling incoherently, looking through one of her mother’s old baby name books. “I can’t! I just can’t! It’s too much pressure! Whatever we name them will be what people in the game will call us for the entire game! There’s no way to change it!”
And I just close my eyes and hover my fingers above the keyboard and wait and wait and wait forever. This is as far as we have gotten in several games.
Her brother and sister, on the other hand, oh they know exactly what to name their characters. And they announce their ridiculous names with a confidence I will never understand.
Gideon, for instance, is very consistent. Every character he ever plays in a videogame has the exact same name. I have no idea where it came from. And I always hope he will forget.
“Oh, okay, so they want us to name the guy with the sword. Let’s name him something cool. What’s a cool name for the sword guy.”
And he stares transfixed on the screen, smiling in a daze and says, “Gerald 2.0.”
And I shake my head and say, “No. Why? Why, every time, Gideon? Why Gerald 2.0? What does the 2.0 even mean?”
And he doesn’t even look away from the screen. “Gerald 2.0, Dad. That’s a cool name. It’s a cool name for a guy with a sword.”
“A guy with a sword?! Last time it was a cool name for an airplane pilot, and before that, it was a wizard. It can’t be a cool name for all of them!”
But he disagrees. “No, it’s a cool name for everyone. Gerald 2.0 is the coolest name there is.”
So, reluctantly I type “Gerald 2.0” and then I am forced to read it out loud every time someone in the game talks to the character. “You have to defeat the dragon and save the city… Gerald 2.0”
I should get used to it because no doubt someday I’ll have a grandson named “Gerald 2.0.”
Lydia is a wildcard, her names are always different, but they always follow a regular pattern of not making any sense at all in the context of the game.
She received a Legend of Zelda game for Christmas this year, and I was helping her get it started and a window, of course, popped up asking for her to name the main character. I sighed. “Okay, it wants us to give the hero a name, but his name’s going to be Link right? Can we just keep his name Link this time, since, you know, that’s his name?”
She wrinkled her nose and thought for a few seconds. “No. Let’s call him Ron.”
“…Ron?” I shook my head. “You want to call the little man that has to save the princess ‘Ron’? Princess Zelda and Ron? How does that make any sense? The Legend of Zelda, a Ron to the Past? Is that what you are really wanting to have happen here?”
“Yes,” but then she seemed unsure. “Okay. Howard.”
“Howard?! Ron Howard? The little boy from The Andy Griffith Show? Can we just call him Opie and get it over with?”
She fidgeted in her seat. “Okay, no, I changed my mind. Let’s just stick with Ron for this one.”
“Oh yeah. Okay… Ron.” I realized I should quit while we were ahead. Painfully I entered the name “Ron”. Now she comes up to me and asks permission to play, “The Ron Game” and I have to pretend that I have no idea what she is talking about. “Oh, you mean the game where you have to direct the movie Apollo 13? We don’t own that game. Maybe next Christmas.”