In March of this year, to the amusement of my friends, my brother convinced me to start playing World of Warcraft (WoW) with him. Since I left the Baltimore/Washington DC area four years ago, I’ve only had a few chances to see him per year, mostly on holidays or on vacation, and he pitched it to me as a way for us to interact weekly without having to travel. The two of us grew up casually playing video games together, starting with Combat on the Atari 2600, so naturally the idea was immediately appealing. I bought the software, registered and hopped on his server. We’ve been playing ever since. (I have a level 70 BM Hunter, 41/20/0, and a level 65 Elemental Shaman, 41/0/15.)
About a month ago or so, we were looking for more people on our way to a five-man dungeon (Arcatraz or Botanica, I think) and a priest named Empidonax joined our party. I mentioned something to her about recognizing her name as a genus of passerine (I couldn’t remember specifically), and she said that I was the only one that had gotten that close. Empidonax, in fact, is a genus of flycatcher.
It made me wonder. How many other folks playing WoW (it has nine million subscribers or more) decide to name their character (toon) after scientific names for certain organisms?
I hit the WoW Armory, a database of character information pulled directly from the game servers, and started looking up random genus names. I was not surprised that the genus names of animals with a more ferocious reputation were used by players, but there were some obscure references that could only have come from someone with more than just a passing interest in biology, and often these names can be found on dozens of servers (for obvious reasons, you can’t have more than one Empidonax on a server, but there are several Empidonax’s spread across many servers).
These names and the organisms they represent obviously mean enough to people to have their avatars named after them. It says something about the meaning nature holds for us, and I’d like to find a way to honor their choice.
So here’s the plan: Periodically, I’d like to highlight someone’s WoW toon named after the genus designation of an organism (I’m sure animals are much more popular than bacteria, plants or fungi, but we’ll see) and then find an image of a representative of that genus, as well as provide a quick perspective – historical, descriptive, evolutionary, ecological, etc. – on the organism in the spotlight. I don’t really expect it, but I would love to eventually have submissions from the players themselves describing why exactly the genus name was appealing to them, and perhaps a nice screenshot of their toon as well. Based on my initial search, I don’t think I’ll be running out of material anytime soon.
We’ll start up tomorrow with Empidonax, specifically the Willow Flycatcher. Pass the word along, if you would. Hopefully OLGA doesn’t come after me…