Saturday, 14 November 2009

The name of the gamer

This post was originally written (by me) and published on February 10, 2007 here.

This post was originally going to be about flamethrowers, but it got me thinking about something else, so that'll have to wait. What it got me thinking about was the various different types of names (or nicks, or tags, or whatever you want to call them) you see people using online, in both games and on sites like Gamespot.

Some people use the same name all the time, while others change it every time they log onto a new game or site. Sometimes this is just because they don't attach any importance to their online name, sometimes it's because they are someone who is annoying or stupid enough that they can't afford to let anyone know who they are.

There seems to be five main name types, although probably not all names fall into one of these categories.

The first is the totally made up, like Faitron (I just made that up then), which has the advantage of probably being unique which means you won't have to stick numbers or random characters at the end of your name to avoid conflicts online. I'd also include the almost totally made up name (like metagnome) in this category, where you take a prefix or suffix and jam it on a word that doesn't normally use it.

Second and probably among the most common names are those where people use their name or initials all but unchanged. These names make it easier for people who know you to find you online, are easy to come up with, and quite sensible. The downside is if your name is something like Tim, you might have to start adding all sorts of crazy appendices to your name so it doesn't conflict, and end up as Tim13H4.

Thirdly is the random word or phrase, such as Tachyon or NuclearHamster. The advantage of these names is that there are some awesome sounding words out there, and other people will be able to pronounce it if you're playing games with voice chat. The downside is that you're more likely to have to rename yourself with something like Tachyon384 to make sure nobody else is using your name.

Fourthly is the eponym, where the person uses an existing character from a film, book, or game, for their character name. This is different from the random word for two reasons. Firstly, you're almost guaranteed to have a name clash with someone else at some point. Just think of all of the people you've seen online called DarthVader or MasterChief. The second downside is that your setting yourself up for fanboy attack. Try taking a name like Samus64 and jump into an onlilne game of Halo 2. It'll be hilarious if you enjoy listening to Xbox fanboys scream profanities about Nintendo and Metroid for an hour.

Finally, there's the "hardcore" gamer names. These are names like KillDeathMaster2000 or FragLord. For some reason, 2000 is the most common number to see after these names. The advantage of these names is that, um, if you are in fact really good at a game you don't come across as a tool? The downside should be obvious; every time you don't win a game, your very name itself sets you up to be mercilessly mocked.

I've been using metagnome consistently for about eight or nine years, and probably will use it for the forseeable future. Basically at the time I had an interest in gnomes (no, I don't know why, and yes I know it sounds odd) and thought metagnome sounded kind of cool. I have since discovered two problems with metagnome as a name. Firstly, I discovered a couple of years ago that it's a word used by French psychics to describe a psychic medium. This is only a problem because I thought I'd made the word up up, and it might make people think I have any interest whatsoever in psychics. The second problem is a more immediate one: a lot of games, especially older ones, limit character names to eight letters, and metagnome is nine. As a result, I've had to adopt meta as a secondary name.

I guess this isn't really about anything in particular, I was more just wondering how people came up with their online names, whether or not they use the same name in all games or on all sites, that kind of thing. Feel free to add a comment about yours.

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