The first Pokémon game I ever played was Red Version, and I loved the shit out of it. Unfortunately – because it and the Gameboy itself were borrowed (actually bribed) from a friend – it didn’t feel like a very personal experience. It was more like I was living vicariously through his cartridge or something. As such, I didn’t nickname any of my Pokémon – I just didn’t see the point. Aside from my trainer name, I left everything else untouched and played with the defaults. It was a very fun experience and I liked it enough anticipate the release of Gold & Silver some years later, but I didn’t have any kind of personal connection with my monsters. I mean, they were just little pieces of data so why would I?
When I played Pokémon Silver, it was my game bought with my own money. No one could ever take it away from me and the Pokémon that I caught and raised would not be released or deleted later by someone less invested in them as I was. This connection to them (however ridiculous it may sound) is what prompted me to start nicknaming my Pokémon from that point on. It just made them feel more unique, more like they were my friends or pets and not just random animals fighting each other. It’s been so long that I can’t remember any of the nicknames for my Silver team, sadly, but the tradition has lived on.
From Pokémon Silver onward I’ve always made sure to nickname my Pokémon and I often put a lot of thought into them. I don’t name every Pokémon I catch, but I always nickname the ones I plan to have on my team and I always name my starter. The way I look at it, training a Pokémon without giving it a nickname would be like caring for a dog named “Dog” or a cat named “Cat”. It’s kind of funny at first, but it represents a lack of interest and compassion for your animal and it’s not the way I feel about my Pokémon.
When I start a new Pokémon game, I try to think of some kind of theme to work with. I don’t always follow-through with the theme, but it definitely gives me a starting point. My Pokémon Diamond game, for example, started with a theme of character names from my favourite TV shows and moved on from there. I had an Aerodactyl named “Sylar” (from the TV show Heroes), a Torterra named “Dexter” (from TV show Dexter but also the name of my pet bearded-dragon), a Lumineon named “Lumine” (from game MegaMan X8), a Gallade named “Beryl” (from the anime Sailor Moon), and a Frosslass named “Yuriko” (from the anime RockMan.EXE Stream). Unfortunately I couldn’t think of a character to name my Luxray after so I just used the name “Lynx” and went with that.
In my Pokémon HeartGold game I managed to name all my team after characters from TV shows or video games I liked. We have “Midna” the Honchcrow (Zelda : Twilight Princess), “Crusher” the Golem (Star Trek : The Next Generation), “Tron” the Magnezone (MegaMan Legends), “Hiro” the Starmie (Heroes), “Vanille” the Vileplume (Final Fantasy XIII), and “Sisco” the Blaziken (Star Trek : Deep Space 9). I really liked these names and I’m glad I decided to go with them – they just make the entire experience feel more personal.
I fully intend on nicknaming my Pokémon when Black and White hit store shelves in a few weeks but I have no idea what kind of theme I’m going to use this time. How about you? Do you nickname your Pokémon? Where do you get your inspiration? And if you don’t, why not?