What’s in a gamer tag? That which we call a rose by any other name would smell just as sweet.
Quoting dumb Shakespeare characters aside, sometimes I can’t help but find our online names fascinating. Gamer tags, screennames, usernames, handles – whatever you want to call them, the pseudonyms that most of us use as we play our games or comment on our YouTube videos have a very unique quality to them.
One of the things that I think is so special about our usernames is that they are really the only names that we can easily give ourselves. Most of us are named by our parents before we ever are given to us by our friends or families. Our only other real option is to have our names legally changed, but I can only imagine the kind of awkward explanations we’d have to give our parents as we tell them how terrible they are at naming us. Handles, on the other hand, are almost always chosen by ourselves, giving us the first real opportunity to give ourselves our own identities.
Which is kind of funny, considering most of us create these names to hide our real identities in the first place.
I think gamers are especially aware of this, because we are the ones who are most often actually called by our screennames. In online games, other players have no choice but to call you by what you’ve named yourself. Many other situations in which you have a username, such as an email account or company ID’s, act more like addresses rather than identities. Maybe there’s a difference. Perhaps while an address describes you, your gamer tag is you. It, well, identifies you.
It’s all very confusing, really. I’m starting to realize that even as I type. Maybe some examples will help.
Over the course of the last 5-8 years, the concept of internet celebrities has begun to rise, due mostly to services like YouTube, Twitch.tv, and the rise of e-sports. Since most of these celebrities started out as normal gamers or hobbyists like us, they gave themselves virtual names the same way we do. This is how we’ve come to revere names like TotalBiscuit, PewDiePie, Dyrus, and Balls.
Have you ever watched some of these people get interviewed face-to-face and still get called by their screenname? It just seems so bizarre to think about thousands of people cheering you on in a video game tournament, chanting a moniker you came up with one day on the spot.
While I’m certainly no internet celebrity, I do faithfully go by the name Junambo wherever I go on the internet, including most games. As such, I’ve occasionally found a friend here and there who knows me by that name first. It’s a little jarring at first when you meet someone face-to-face for the first time and are introduced by the name you’ve been playing as for years.
That’s how usernames can become as much a part of our identities as our given names are. To me, Junambo isn’t just a series of letters I type to log into League of Legends. Junambo simply is me. It’s my name – or at least one of them – and I’m not so sure I’d be the same without it. It’s gotten to the point where I sometimes simply introduce myself to new people as Jun, even outside of the virtual world.
So no matter whether I smell sweet as a rose or foul as a rafflesia, a Junambo by any other name just wouldn’t be the same.