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June 10, 2005 ・ Blog

A few months ago I played Pokémon Ruby on the GBA. I never finished it because I got stuck on the final marathon of a battle. But until that point it was a horrendously compulsive experience, eating my hour+ journeys between work and home. The excitement of finding, catching and then training new Pokémon is still hard to beat.

A really important part of the whole process was naming. On capturing each new Pokémon you can give it a name, an essential part of producing a sense of ownership over the little guy, giving it a degree of personalisation beyond its skill sets and stats.

But while many games allow you to name the main characters, I dont always find it important. When I played Final Fantasy VII, Cloud remained Cloud and Tifa remained Tifa. Their strong game personalities meant that personalising them felt redundant.

Games like Pokémon have player-characters that don’t have actually have any personality beyond their picture and statistics. Their in-game actions are entirely defined by me, the player. They’re avatars on which I can place my own personality.

And when I come across a game with such a “blank” character I tend to rename it Link. Why? It’s short and easy, but I chose it mainly because it’s the name of the player character in the Zelda series, the epitome of the blank character. He is not given words to say, his past is usually merely hinted at, and there is no narrative continuum to link each game in the series in an order. Little Link, in all his guises, ends up an important binding constant. It’s a rather beautiful way of acknowledging how important the player is in forming the legend in the Legend of Zelda.

So my characterless character in Pokémon is called Link. And so is my Animal Crossing one. And my Final Fantasy Tactics Advance one. It just seems right.