What’s in a name?

With new versions of existing characters and characters that share a superhero name coming out, there is a decision to be made by the community about how we refer to these different versions. It might not seem important at first blush, but I think it deserves at least a little consideration.

We are soon to have two Black Widow characters and two Spider-Men. When we are discussing rosters, lists or strategies online, there will naturally evolve a shorthand way of referring to them.

Already I’ve seen some players refer to Black Widow, Agent of S.H.I.E.L.D. as Widow2. This is the way that Warmachine and Hordes names their characters. When a newer version of of a character is made, a new number is added. This makes sense in that system as these characters are part of a linear timeline – they get older and gain skills or lose key equipment with a story behind why these changes have happened. Recently they have made some zero versions, of younger lower powered iterations of those characters.

For me, this doesn’t sit well for Marvel: Crisis Protocol. If we adopted a numbering system as standard for Black Widow, that will become the standard used for all new releases, based on release date. Core set characters might be easy to identify as earlier, but what about when we start getting alternates of non-core characters? Thor springs to mind here. Although we have the CP numbers, I think this system is hard for players who come to the game in a year or two’s time to access some of the discussion of the strategy and tactics of the game:

It adds another barrier to entry in to the game that doesn’t need to be there.

I think it is incumbent upon those of us who are passionate about this game to make the community as open and welcoming to new players joining. That does involve thinking about the language we are using, and making it as intuitive as possible for people to grasp.

Too many Spider-Men

We’ve got another conundrum around Spider-Man. When CP10 hits, we will have two identically named characters with different alter egos: Peter Parker and Miles Morales. There will develop am short way to distinguish between them because we will need one. But again, this may set a precedent that will naturally be followed in future as we get more releases, so what we as community fall in to the habit of using may stick.

Possible solutions

I have a few ideas on how we can make this as accessible as possible while retaining clarity. The easiest way is to give characters short nicknames. The new Black Widow, Agent of S.H.I.E.L.D. could be monikered “Agent Widow”, drawing on the subtitle after the comma in her character name. By this way, when we get a new Thor, “Thor, Price of Asgard” would become “Prince Thor”. That does leave the older Black Widow without an obvious name, but “Core Widow” is pretty accessible in my opinion.

With Spider-men, I already tend to refer to Captain Marvel as “Carol”: whenever I’m talking about the game and I hear “Captain” my brain already starts to pencil in “America” as the next word, so I find this less confusing. But it does require an amount of comic book knowledge or character lore that may not be universal. I think I’m on pretty safe ground, but I don’t like to assume. By that, I could see myself referring to CP10 Spider-Man as “Miles”, but it feels odd to refer to CP1 Spider-Man as “Peter”. Maybe “Core Spider-Man” is the way it’ll shake out. Or maybe simply “Spider-Man”.

Ultimately, this is not a decision for any one person to make, seeing as AMG hasn’t created a public shorthand, but one for us as a community. So I guess it’s up to all of us to make sure that the language we are using to refer to this game is not placing more hurdles to be overcome by those just starting to get in to it.

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