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The Origins of Video Game Names 121

Posted by Soulskill
from the a-plumber-by-any-other-name dept.
Blogger Drew Mackie has posted a lengthy analysis of the etymology of dozens of names from popular video game characters. It examines the real-life and mythological roots of names from Final Fantasy, Zelda, Mario Bros., Street Fighter, and many other prominent franchises, complete with citations where appropriate. Quoting: "It's speculated that Street Fighter's Russian wrestler Zangief takes his name from a real-life Russian wrestler, Victor Zangiev. More interesting to me is that the working name for this character was Vodka Gobalsky. This is notable for two reasons — for one, that this name is amazing [and] deserves to enter into the public consciousness and, for another, that it bears a striking resemblance to the name of a Russian boxer in Nintendo's Punch-Out!! series, Vodka Drunkenski. I'm sure this says something about Japanese perception of Russian people. The latter Vodka, by the way, goes by the name Soda Popinski in US translations of the game, presumably because Nintendo of America didn't allow references to booze."
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The Origins of Video Game Names

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  • by Anonymous Coward

    I speculate that Nintendo was named after Chintendo, a well known Chinese manufacturer.

  • by Anonymous Coward

    The blogger writes in the style of the Onion or Cracked. Clearly this is not to be taken seriously.

  • Perception (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward

    this says something about Japanese perception of Russian people

    I think it says that they're much in line with the rest of the world on that one.

    • by rarel (697734)
      Yeah, as immortalized in Deus Ex.

      "I spil my trink!"

      ;)

      • Now I know what I missed in GTA IV's story-line.

        Sure, I was shocked, and laughed my ass off, at the same time, when...
        I came out of a bar, and thought what was being drunk, would be one of the many (many) bugs of the game,
        and because of that tried to press some button to get it going again, fell on the ground, accidentally pressed the shoot button,
        and shot my girlfriend in the head. She was dead on the place.

        Needless to say, that I am very happy that this wasn't real life, and that virtual worlds exist. :D

        • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

          by Anonymous Coward

          Now I know what I missed in GTA IV's story-line.

          Sure, I was shocked, and laughed my ass off, at the same time, when...
          I came out of a bar, and thought what was being drunk, would be one of the many (many) bugs of the game,
          and because of that tried to press some button to get it going again, fell on the ground, accidentally pressed the shoot button,
          and shot my girlfriend in the head. She was dead on the place.

          Needless to say, that I am very happy that this wasn't real life, and that virtual worlds exist. :D

          At least you had a girlfriend, dude.

      • Strange, then, how in Team Fortress 2, the Heavy (Russian accent) isn't portrayed in the vodka-loving stereotype of other games. Granted, he IS portrayed as a large, slow, violent person homicidally protective of his minigun, but not so much on the vodka.

        Of course, the Demoman (Scotsman) IS portrayed as quite the drinking man, so I guess Valve's not entirely innocent. Funny as hell, though. :-)

  • Oddly enough... (Score:3, Insightful)

    by minvaren (854254) on Saturday June 20, 2009 @11:59AM (#28402353)
    ...they left out the origin of the "Jack" character in Jack Attack [powweb.com].

    (I appear to be showing my age here... Hold on, there's some pesky kids out front...)
  • AKA Russia Armisky.
  • by uxbn_kuribo (1146975) on Saturday June 20, 2009 @12:24PM (#28402477)
    But my GOD. TLDR, much? And half of it is either pointless speculation, or stuff like "I don't actually KNOW the origin of..." Must be a slow news day in IT.
    • I stopped reading at his very first suggestion that "Zelda" comes from "dhelta" (Gk. for "delta") katakanized into Japanese. The problem is that the delta symbol in Japanese is "deruta," which a quick wikipediaing reveals. First, you go to the English delta [wikipedia.org], then click the Japanese link on the left to get to deruta [wikipedia.org].

    • TLDR which doesn't happen that often for me,the last TLDR i had was a pdf of federal law
  • Donkey (Score:4, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Saturday June 20, 2009 @12:31PM (#28402505)

    FTA:

    "His last name seems likes a clear reference to King Kong, but the Donkey part doesn't. Contrary to many other urban legends that say otherwise, Donkey Kong earned his first name as a result of Miyamoto wanting to call the villain something that conveyed a sense of stubbornness and stupidity, though he later found out that the English-speaking world doesn't interpret the word donkey in this way."

    Wrong. Of course we do. From the OED:

    donkey
    1. a. A familiar name for the ass.
    2. a. A stupid or silly person.

    Why do you think Gordon Ramsay keeps using the word to describe the chefs who work under him? He didn't just pull it out of his ass.

    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by Joe Snipe (224958)

      I see what you did there.

      Out of his ass indeed.

    • by Morlark (814687)

      Yeah, I read that section and was left puzzled at how the author was making such authoritative-sounding statements about a language with which he is so obviously unfamiliar. And then later in the article he claims to be an English major... Uh, yeah, good luck with that.

  • by HimajinX (660666) on Saturday June 20, 2009 @12:51PM (#28402599)
    Working in Japanese to English game localization, I'm often assigned the task of coming up with English names for characters. Usually this is just a transliteration, but in some cases a completely new name is required. The publisher makes the final call, and I've had to fight hard sometimes to get names that just won't work in English changed. Japanese developers often go to great lengths to research meaningful names for their characters, but not understanding how differently names can be interpreted in other languages, they can get attached to some really ridiculous ones. The only way I could deter one developer from using "Milla" for the name of a huge, ugly dragon boss was by telling them that most players would associate the name with a supermodel...
  • Don't forget the names that truly boggle the mind. What about clever, obscure titles like "Madden NFL 09"?
  • Russia-Japan issue (Score:5, Informative)

    by SailorSpork (1080153) on Saturday June 20, 2009 @12:54PM (#28402619) Homepage

    http://geography.about.com/library/weekly/aa021400a.htm [about.com]

    Anyone familiar with Japanese history would understand Japanese poking constant fun of the Russians, their neighbors. Russia is a bit of a sore spot to Japan since they are still disputing sovereignty of mineral rich islands that Russia claimed as a results of Japan losing WWII. It doesn't help that Japanese culture has been known [wikipedia.org] as being a bit on the racist [ipsnews.net] and xenophobic [atimes.com] side.

    • In all fairness, racism is a human condition prevalent in many cultures. I remember a Swedish gentleman suggesting that Swedes have never been racist. So I pointed him to a history book, and the term serf from the fact that they took slaves from other lands they conquered.

      • by kramerd (1227006)

        In all fairness, racism is a human condition prevalent in many cultures. I remember a Swedish gentleman suggesting that Swedes have never been racist. So I pointed him to a history book, and the term serf from the fact that they took slaves from other lands they conquered.

        ...How exactly is or was that racism? They took slaves from other lands they conquered, but not based on race. Serf, by the way, means indentured servant, which is distinguishable from slave in that indenture servents could earn their freedom in return for working off a debt.

        Thats like calling someone an anti-semite because they buy a loaf of white bread at the grocery store.

        • by Enderandrew (866215) <{moc.liamg} {ta} {werdnaredne}> on Saturday June 20, 2009 @01:43PM (#28402997) Homepage Journal

          In context, he kept suggesting to me that all Americans fit the stereotypes of southern rednecks, and he kept quoting the fact that Americans held slaves, and that some Americans fought a war to protect slavery.

          I countered that we are the only country to arguably fight a war to end slavery. Either way, he was adamant that Swedes never had slaves, when in fact, they did. American slave-owners in the South sometimes allowed their slaves to earn money and buy their way out of slavery as well, so the American slave concept wasn't completely removed from the concept of a serf. Especially given that many serfs lived their entire lives in servitude with no real hope of escaping their situation.

          I also countered that his hatred and stereotyping for all Americans could be construed as racism. He was adamant that he wasn't racist, but rather that all Americans were horrible, evil, Imperialists with no education or respect for human life.

          In talking to other Europeans they tell me that their perception is that America is a very racist country, and that Europeans aren't racist. Which I find odd, because in England I hear a lot of anti-French sentiments, and vice-versa. I was refused service in a restaurant for being American, and racist epithets are common at soccer/football matches in Europe, where as that behavior isn't tolerated in American stadiums.

          My point is that judgment and stereotyping is a very human condition. Sadly, it comes quite naturally, and I think it requires conscious effort to combat racism and cast aside racist judgments.

          • Racism and Nationalism are often confused. Not as much as say, Nationalism and Patriotism.

            Stereotyping is a byproduct of brains pattern recognition skills; it is not all bad, merely our nature and a fundamentally important one.

            An island of clones would differentiate somehow and create some sort of class / status system eventually leading to multiple systems that are not aligned which promote conflict (leaving out explanations of the unknown forming religions which would complicate such an experiment.)

          • by kramerd (1227006)

            In sweden's defense, they outlawed slavery and slave trade as a matter of nationalism, not racism. England was outlawing slave trade and sweden worried that other countries would expand into their territories, so they outlawed it altogether in 1813 (even though they allowed slavery until 1847). Race, however, was not a factor.

            The civil war was fought not over the right to own slaves, but rather for the right for states to make laws that were not explicitly federal laws. You may note that powers not explicit

            • Hatred/stereotyping of Americans cannot be construed as racism, because Americans are not a race.

              Definition of race:

              1 A local geographic or global human population distinguished as a more or less distinct group by genetically transmitted physical characteristics.
              2 A group of people united or classified together on the basis of common history, nationality, or geographic distribution: the German race.
              3 A genealogical line; a lineage.
              4 Humans considered as a group.

              Its futbol, not football.

              Spelling is different in different countries. For instance, England's Premier League spells football as football. As a native English speaker,

            • by kamapuaa (555446)
              The civil war was fought not over the right to own slaves, but rather for the right for states to make laws that were not explicitly federal laws.

              The Southern States withdrew from the Union specifically because Lincoln was elected, and Lincoln was regarded as an antislavery candidate, being of a political party that was basically a single-issue anti-slavery party.

              The Civil War started as a natural response to the Southern withdrawal. On the most basic level, Civil Wars don't start as a result of states m

          • by X-chan (782883)
            You seem to confuse "racism" with "xenophobia". Also seems like you're exagerating a lot, because living and having traveled in Europe, I didn't hear that many insults against other countries or stuff like that. I'm not saying you're a liar when restaurants refused to service you, but it's most likely a very, very rare occurence. Unless there was another reason than being american that you're not telling or not aware of.
            • I've spent a whopping two weeks in Europe. And I'm not suggesting that racism is extremely prevalent there, or more prevalent that anywhere else. I'm suggesting it isn't completely absent.

              You can't suggest that one part of the world is racist, and that others aren't because racism is a human condition.

              That is merely what I was trying to express.

              As far as racism vs xenophobia, racism is judgment on the basis of race. Race is a group of humans based upon a number of factors, such as common ancestry, or living

          • Everytime someone argues with a generalized statement or "all X is Y" or similar: Just stop the conversation, and move on.
            Except for some real physical laws of course.
            You can maybe point out his failure. But usually it will not help much.

            First he will drag you down to his level. And then he will beat you with experience.

          • by xaxa (988988)

            White English vs. white French, or white European vs. white American isn't racism. The people are part of the same race. Also, Europeans and Americans are a mixture of races, so it's not possible to tell someone's nationality based on skin colour. "Nationalism" could be a better word, but in some countries nationalism is seen as positive (eg USA) and some negative (eg UK).

            English people who "hate" French people are happy to go to France, or have French people visit England. They aren't happy when France bea

          • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

            When talking to other Europeans they tell me that their perception is that America is a very racist country,

            Hey, that's not fair. In the year 2000 the good folk of Alabama even voted 59% in favour of allowing black and white people to marry each other (changing their state constitution)! That's a majority of forward thinking people!

          • by mqduck (232646)

            I countered that we are the only country to arguably fight a war to end slavery.

            Well, Haiti had a successful revolution to end slavery, by the slaves themselves (which was part of the reason the ruling classes in the US started to feel like ending slavery was necessary [particularly those who didn't own any, of course]).

        • They took slaves from other lands they conquered, but not based on race.

          "Race" is a flexible concept in human history. These days we usually take it solely to mean skin color, but really it can be any group of people who define themselves, or are defined by others, according to their (real or imagined) heritage. It was not unusual, up to less than a century ago, to hear Europeans talking about "the Swedish race," "the English race," "the French race," etc.

          Serf, by the way, means indentured servant,

          No it d

          • by kramerd (1227006)

            Up to less than a century ago, we didnt have computers, the hair dryer, the horseless carriage, or q-tips. We live in the present, where race has a different meaning than nation.

            Your definition of serfdom misses part of the definition. While indentured servitude was a specified time period contract with a specific owner and a serf was a form of indentured servitude with ties to the land, neither was by default a lifelong condition. Only slavery has that distinction. A land-based serf worked in exchange for

            • You are simply wrong about serfdom being a form of payable debt. I don't know where you're getting this idea, and if you have any citations I'll be glad to read them, but serfdom throughout medieval Europe (and in eastern Europe, up into the early modern period) was lifelong and heritable, exactly like slavery. Serfs were sometimes set free as payment for a particular service rendered to their masters, sure, but so were slaves. It wasn't a normal or expected part of the institution.

              My examples of "race"

              • by kramerd (1227006)

                If you insist, these examples are also not races.

                The concept of a Jewish race is absurd, as Judaism is a religion, not a hereditary function. You can be Israeli but not Jewish and vice-versa.

                The anglo-saxons refer to people in germanic tribes in part of Britain in the middle ages. The anglo-saxon period is dead, and no one alive can reasonably claim to decend from the anglo-saxons, thanks to the norman conquest of 1066.

                I'll let you do your own research on celtics and slavs, which are also nations (even if t

                • You may not consider Anglo-Saxons, or Celts, or Slavs, or Jews, to be races; the point is that all of these groups have in fact at various times been considered to be races, and subject to exactly the same sort of division and discrimination based on heritage rather than geography or nationhood, as have those groups which we consider to be distinct races today. Absurd? Of course it's absurd. That doesn't keep people from doing it, and the basis on which they do it is and has always been arbitrary. There

                • The anglo-saxon period is dead, and no one alive can reasonably claim to decend from the anglo-saxons, thanks to the norman conquest of 1066.

                  I wasn't aware that the Normans killed off all the previously existing inhabitants.

                  I also find it odd that the victors and their descendants chose to adopt the language of the people they'd just wiped out, rather than continuing to speak French. Perhaps you can also explain how they learned it, since according to you they'd just killed all the people who spoke it and

                  • by kramerd (1227006)

                    Well, retard, following the norman conquest of 1066, we had the period of Anglo-Normand England, as opposed to Anglo-Saxon. I'm guessing here, but they probably didnt need to speak French in England, since Anglo-Saxon refers to germanic tribes of Britain.

                    Silly me on that one. I forgot that French was spoken in England in the 6th and 7th centuries as the national language.

                    Maybe they learned it through Rosetta Stone?

                    • by kramerd (1227006)

                      I apologize, that should say 11-12th centuries, not 6th to 7th.

                    • Silly me

                      You got something right at last.

                      I forgot that French was spoken in England in the 6th and 7th centuries as the national language.

                      By everybody? So when and why (and how) did they all switch back to a Germanic one?

                      I'm guessing here

                      Aren't you always?

                      but they probably didnt need to speak French in England, since Anglo-Saxon refers to germanic tribes of Britain.

                      Of course they needed to speak French. That's what language the Normans spoke to each other.

                      And whatever the Saxons spoke is irelevant. They

                    • by kramerd (1227006)

                      I don't know why I bother to respond to this ignorance, but fine, here goes:

                      The norman conquest, lead by William the Bastard, began with the Battle of Hastings. The victory replaced the ruling class and thus changed the nationalism of England for the next 8 centuries. This change was somewhere between 5k-8k of the population in number, so the Anglo-Normans most certainly did not speak french as the language of england. The germanic language spoken prior and by the masses continuing was of course english.

                      The

                • I'll let you do your own research on celtics and slavs, which are also nations

                  There was never, ever, a nation called Celtland or Celtia.

                  There was Gaul, but it was all divided in three parts. But even that wasn't a nation in any sense we'd recognise.

      • by genner (694963)

        In all fairness, racism is a human condition prevalent in many cultures. I remember a Swedish gentleman suggesting that Swedes have never been racist. So I pointed him to a history book, and the term serf from the fact that they took slaves from other lands they conquered.

        Soooo....the white slave market is being run by self hating caucasians?
        I didn't know slavery had anything to do with race.

    • by oldhack (1037484)

      "It doesn't help that Japanese culture has been known as being a bit on the racist and xenophobic side."

      As does Russia.

  • Zangief takes "Vodka Gobalsky" and does a spinning piledriver.
  • Anyone know what Starcraft means? Galactic warfare? Space-land-for-battle? It kinda reminds me of Chevy Starcraft, too...
  • Zelda Fitzgerald (Score:3, Interesting)

    by dpbsmith (263124) on Saturday June 20, 2009 @06:52PM (#28405125) Homepage

    When I first heard of "The Legend of Zelda," the first thing I thought of was Zelda Fitzgerald, mostly because there are so few women I've ever heard of who were named Zelda. I assumed that was just a coincidence. It's very nice to discover that it wasn't: "The game's creator, Shigeru Miyamoto, has said that he took the character's name from Zelda Fitzgerald. "[Zelda Fitzgerald] was a famous and beautiful woman from all accounts, and I liked the sound of her name. So I took the liberty of using her name for the very first Zelda title."

    Zelda was famous, yes, and beautiful yes, and for a while the Fitzgeralds were a "glamorous" and lionized couple. She also had a stormy marriage with F. Scot Fitzgerald, and was the fictionalized subject of some of his novels and stories. Zelda was famous for her unconventional behavior, and I've never been able to read between the lines to understand for sure just what this behavior consisted of; was jumping into a fountain in New York just youthful high spirits, or was there more to it than that? Every account talks of her "flirting" with men other than Fitzgerald, and famously saying that she wanted to "kiss" a thousand men; was it just flirting and just kissing? Some of what made her interesting was perhaps the prelude to her mental illness.

    By all accounts, they were a sad, tragic, and unlucky couple.

  • And I have no idea why Nintendo chose to switch his name from Gannon, as itâ(TM)s stated in the first game, to Ganon in Zelda II: Adventure of Link, and then to Ganondorf in Link to the Past onwards. It seems that now Ganon â" one âoeNâ â" refers to his more hulking, monster form and Ganondorf to his human form.

    Actually, that last bit was true from the very first game in which Ganondorf was his name. In A Link to the Past, a character calls his something like "Ganondorf, the Master of Thieves - no, Ganon, the King of Darkness".

  • The Sino-Japanese War, the Russo-Japanese War, and again in WWII... yeah, I could see the two countries having some bad blood left.

Fools ignore complexity. Pragmatists suffer it. Some can avoid it. Geniuses remove it. -- Perlis's Programming Proverb #58, SIGPLAN Notices, Sept. 1982

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