Monday, March 30, 2009

How Larísa became Larísa

At least I was sensible enough not to pick one of the main characters from Lord of the Rings. But apart from that, I was pretty much clueless when I made up my character name. It was a jump into an unknown world and I had no idea about name conventions in the MMO world, what to do and not to do.

I wasn’t just clueless, I was also exhausted after making all of those choices of hair, skin, face, not to speak of essentials as class and race. Wasn’t there any end to the decision making process? When was I supposed to start actually playing the game?

I remember clearly how I fumbled, trying to come up with some kind of concept. I wanted something that felt like a name, but still not a name that you see people wearing in your everyday life. It should work in a fantasy inspired environment. The more timeless, the better.

Greek inspiration
My first source of inspiration was Greek Mythology. Yeah, it’s hardly original, but I guess I thought that the youngsters in the game probably hadn’t heard about it. Little did I know. Even the most tiny, insignificant deity had already been discovered and used. I continued to the Egyptian equivalence, but the result was the same. Name not available.

Desperately I picked up an atlas, hoping to get some inspiration from there. For some reason it was Greece again that pulled my attention. I didn’t want to name my character after some spot that everyone knew of, like Crete or Rhodos. And then my eyes fell on a town I’d never heard of called Larisa. By now I had more or less given up on finding a name so I typed it pretty much absentmindedly. And to my astonishment, a pink pigtailed little gnome girl was born.

If I’d known what I know today I would have put the Atlas aside and concentrated on playing round with letters and syllables until I found something completely unique, not referring to anything. Picking names from maps isn’t a great idea. Even though Larisa isn’t well known outside of Greece, it certainly is known to the Greeks. Especially on my former server Kul Tiras, where there was a significant population of Greek players, I had to deal with numerous whispers from enthusiastic Greek players who were happy to see a fellow landsman around. Always in Greek. For a while I considered to make a macro, autoresponding: “Yes, I know that Larisa is a town in Greek, but no, I’m not Greek, I don’t speak Greek, I’m from Sweden, and I just picked the name from a map without any good reason to do so. It was a mistake, I’m sorry about it and I promise I’ll never do it again.”

The strange character
Time has passed and the Greeks seem to have disappeared, or maybe there aren’t that many of them at my current server. People leave me alone nowadays.

Larisa has become an integrated part of my character that I can’t imagine naming her something else. And it’s got some advantages. For instance it’s fairly easy to pronounce and call out on vent. I’ve never ever considered a name change – and especially not after establishing myself as a blogger with the same name as my main.

A year ago, when I switched server, I could have done it for free, if I had wanted to. It turned out that there already was a low level horde character on Stormrage, carrying my name. This came as a complete surprise to me, I hadn’t thought about the possibility.

What to do, what to do? It was in the middle of the night and I just wanted to finish the transferring process as quick as possible. I didn’t want to quit Larisa and I still lacked imagination. So I changed the normal “i” character to one with an accent over it. It wasn’t a great solution, since it effectively prevents people from posting to me and adding me to their friends list – they don’t know how to do this accent and since all keyboards are different I can’t help them. But I just couldn’t come up with anything better. And that was the story about how Larisa turned into Larísa.

Other names
Now Larísa isn’t my only character. I’ve got a bunch of alts, of which I play two. So how did I name those? Did I have another go at the atlas? Actually I did at first! When I created my rogue I started to randomly look around in it once again. I had learned my lesson to avoid WoW populated countries. But what about Indonesia? Maybe I could get some inspiration from some unknown island?

After some looking around I finally gave up the idea. I looked at the blank paper I had in front of me. Without thinking much I wrote down the name I already had: Larisa. Then I started to play around with the letters, moving them, seeing how many ways you could combine them. Many, it turned out. The self-imposed restriction helped me to become more creative. And that’s the origin of the name of my rogue alt: Arisal (to be pronounced Air-e (as in eat)-SAL). The other week I started a new side project, a wanna-be-druid. I repeated the procedure and so Arasil was born.

Larisa, Arisal and Arasil. I like the fact that the names are somewhat connected to each other. It gives a hint to guildies who’s hiding behind an alt name, even if they don’t bother to look at my note.

My names aren’t the most beautiful, original and brilliant ever seen. But they’re not something I suffer from either. They don’t come from a TV series. They’re not trying to be funny. They’re names, not words with a distinct meaning. They’re pretty easy to remember and there aren’t a ton of variations on “Larísa” around on the server. Even though they’re not perfect fantasy names, like something an author could come up with, I think they can pass – at least they don’t destroy the immersion experience for other players.

All in all – they’re good enough for me. And that’s the end of the story about my character names. Thanks to Darraxus for passing the meme to me!


Ixobelle said...

It's actually a girls name over in America, I've known more than one Larisa (or Larissa) in my life. I just assumed you chose it the way someone would choose Blair or Sandra.

The whole greek township thing was totally unknown. Isobel is a Bjork song I've always loved about a spirit that lives alone in the forest "married to herself" and "raising wonderful hell". The original spelling was always taken, so I improvised.

Klepsacovic said...

Ah to be a blessed one and have a name more interesting than Stabbzu or Legolos! Arisal is a beautiful name, at least the way I think you explained it. The way I read it is lazier to say and sounds less nice.

My first name, Klepsacovic, was no problem at all. I already used it all the time in games. It's a modification of my last name which is supposed to sound Russian, but people keep asking if I'm Serbian (I'm not). The real troubles are alt names. How do I give a character a name of mine if I can't use my name?

If you're looking for a way to be friended, tell people to copy-paste from elsewhere, such as a word document. Or perhaps this is how you could introduce your blog to friends? For invites people can do /who Lar, maybe adding in class or level if needed.

Kylofon said...

Living in Poland, I always thought this was a popular name that came from Russia. Reading up on your blog and Wiki it would seem I was terribly wrong. The more you know!

Anya said...

Larisa is a very popular name in Russia. I even thought you were Russian initially :)

Kromus said...

Well im english and have never heard Larisa used, however i think its a lovely name :)- i dont know why i could imagine calling my child Larisa, sounds like a more unique "Mellisa".

This is really intresting post actaully- always itnresting seeing why people name things they do- its intresting physcology.

I dont blame you for trying Greek/Egyptian Mythology, i do that alot in RTS games- and in a recent convosation i remember you comparing my name to the Titan Cronus- although Kromus was pretty random- took me an hour ofc!.

Its good to take greek names as there all very beautiful and im not suprised people beat us to it.

I also once made an Undead Warlock called "Nemphyis"- for her death roots in Egyptian Mythology- its all very inspiring dont you think ;).

Jayhawk said...

Sweet story, I actually knew a girl named Larisa, but never knew it was a Greek town.

Those Greeks are still going strong on Kul Tiras though...

Fulguralis said...


I like this one :-)

Anonymous said...

Its easy to add you as a friend, even with the funky I.

/friend {shift click on name to insert it}

I learned that one not so long ago.

DeftyJames said...

I chose my names entirely differently. For example, for some strange reason in my extended family there are lots of names that either contain the letter combination "El" or "an". So the name of my main has those two letter combinations in them on purpose. I actually thought the name was unique only to discover one day when I found the WoW Armory that there were many people with the same name on other servers.

As I think I mentioned before Arielmi (mage) was inspired by the poem Ariel by Sylvia Plath. Interestingly, there is only one other character by that name in all of US WoW. And my bank alt (my only other character) is a Gnome Rogue name Scorpus. I thought it was a fitting name for a rogue (all the other obvious ones were taken).

Since I play on an RP server what bugs me are people who use real names. There is a character named "Alexduncan" on my server. Really, that was the best they could do, sheesh.

Oh, and I've decided that if I make anymore characters I am going to go Horde; that should be an interesting name challenge.

Green Armadillo said...

I played literally all 9 classes to at least level 11 before settling on my first main (the Pally, not the mage). To save both my creative energy and my guildies confusion, I just named them all Green-noun where the noun implied something about the character (e.g. Greenhammer because I envisioned the pally as swinging a 2-handed mace).

Would I have told myself to get a better name if I'd known I'd still be playing the character four years later? Yeah, probably. But now there is far too much history for me to change it.

Larísa said...

@Ixobelle: really? Ah well. At least I don't know anyone. That helps! I would never ever name my toon something like Christina, Anna or Sandra.

@Klepsacovic: I never actually thought about it that Arisal could be pronounced another way before writing this post. In Swedish you wouldn't think of any other way than I suggest here.
I'm not sure copy-paste will work since they don't know how to make the ´in the first place. And I can't tell them since I don't know how their keyboard works... Yay for standardization!

@Kylofon and Anya: oh dear... Well at least Russians have servers of their own so I won't get any of those whispers.

@Kromus: oh please go ahead! I really wouldn't mind to have your future little gnome kid named after me :)

@Jayhawk: oh you're from Kul Tiras/EU? Cool! It's a nice server. Think it resembles to Stormrage, both are old ones. But there are definetly less Greeks where I am now.

@Fulguralis: thanks!

@Yuripup: really? That sounds handy! Thanks for sharing!

@DeftyJames: I actually think that I uncounsiously was hoping that Larisa would work for RP as well (there is a closet RP:er inside of me waiting to be let out one day). But maybe it wouldn't considering it's a real name in Russia...

@Green Armadillo: yes, if I had known how an MMO works and how many hours I would spend in company with my toon I think I'd been prepared to spend a little more time and effort on making a good one. I don't think I realized the dimension of it until way after I had dinged 70-

Klepsacovic said...

@Larisa I meant that you could tell them "go to this place, the Pink Pigtail Inn, and you can copy-paste my name from there." See, sneaky. :P
My first instinct was to say it ar-ee-sal, so it sounds a bit like "yarr, sea salt."

Drazmor said...

Yeah, I actually know a ton of people named Larisa in RL. (Or a variation of it.)

I used to hate my name. Drazmor seemed so, un-pallyish, not holy and happy enough. But over the years Ive grown so fond of it, my DK is named Zhazmor, and future alts will robably be named in the same fashion.

Jayhawk said...

Yeah, I like Kul Tiras. =) I started out ages ago on Stormreaver (PvP) because a mate of mine was there. A little gnome 'lock name Jayde (which as you can see is a variation on my moniker). She hated PvP and moved on and eventually arrived on Kul Tiras. By the time she got there she had a lot of friends there as I had started playing there with another friend.

The pronounciation bit is funny, and, I think wholly depends on where one is from and where one thinks the name is from. Ah-ree-[b]sal[/b] is what I hear when I saw the name. I like how it sounds in my head ;)

Carra said...

Already discussed this but heck, I like to talk about it:
-> Carra: Comes from my own name. And gave me a few whispers from Irish people. Had no idea it was Irish!
-> Asli: Thought I made it up (small change from my real name) but it's actually quite popular in Turkey. Little did I know, I just like the sound of it.
-> Aphro: Greek! Aphrodite was taken. I'm a bit unhappy with this name.
-> Scia: Had to search for half an hour to get a name for my DK. Again, it's Greek. And stands for shadows. Proper name for a deathknight.
-> Got two placeholders for new characters: Iluna & Kalypso. First one is just a name I like and second one a Greek deity too.