In the world of roleplaying games, knowing someone’s name can potentially grant you power over them. Knowing someone’s True Name, as in the name that touches on their inmost being and personal identity, can grant you immense control over them. Names are a powerful component of our connection to a character we portray in a game. I spend an immense amount of time stressing over character names in games I play, even though I do tend to lean on a few favorite stand buys (I’m looking at you: Ugarth and Joryn).
Names communicate something deep about identity and about purpose. Whether as simple as adamah the man made of red earth always to be reminded of his origins in the base substances of the earth, or as transformative as abraam becoming abraham implying that the promise that he will become the father of nations, names carry a weight. There are numerous stories throughout the Old Testament that speak to the meaning and power behind names. Joseph, my own namesake’s, name means “God-will-prosper,” which is a huge part of his story. The names attributed to God hold special meaning as well. So many of those names speak to who He is or something about His character. In the New Testament, this use of names continues.
“‘But what about you?’ he asked. ‘Who do you say I am?’ Simon Peter answered, ‘You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God.’ Jesus replied, ‘Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah, for this was not revealed to you by flesh and blood, but by my Father in heaven. And I tell you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of Hades will not overcome it. I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven; whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven.’ Then he ordered his disciples not to tell anyone that he was the Messiah.” (Matthew 16:15-20 NIV)
The disciple Peter was originally named Simon (there are actually two Simons in his group of followers, the other one was a Zealot, just wait for letter Z,) and the name was fairly common place. It literally means, “he-has-heard,” which is a perfectly fine name. Jesus says, “you are Peter.” He essentially gives Simon the nickname Petros (the Greek name used here) which literally means Rocky. There is a nice little double meaning behind His words here as Jesus calls Simon a rock while also acknowledging His confession about Jesus as the bedrock foundation of belief in Him. Peter isn’t always known as being he most firm foundation kind of guy, or even being all that stable, but his new name is calling something new out of him. It’s a statement of something he hasn’t yet realized in himself and it’s pretty beautiful that he is called to step in to it.
When you use names on your game, are they simply labels to take the place of your pronouns in a sentence or are you evoking something on a deeper level? There is ripe potential within the names that exist in the games we play that allow us to engage on a deeper level and communicate something subtle, even if only to ourselves. It can be a call to live up to, a vision of what could be, or even a statement of intent in the direction you want to go. So why not give a little attention and put the extra effort into the character name you choose next time?