written by Flocci
It isn’t hard to guess that my name isn’t actually Flocci. It’s the result of an evolution of names that I’ve used online for years, tailored and shortened as I’ve developed my identity. In fact, most names that you come across in the gaming community are aliases. A well-known tenet of online safety is keeping your full name, age, and location private, and one of the most common ways for people to do that is to use a fake name, also known as a username or ‘tag’.
Usernames are about more than anonymity, though. Many people use them as a way to build an identity for themselves that is entirely of their choosing; they have control over how people address them, how they are perceived, and how they communicate with others. This results in a sense of freedom that we often don’t get to experience in our day-to-day interactions with others. Because you have developed a persona that is separate from your real-life identity, you feel safe to be exactly who you want to be.
Gaming isn’t the only area where this sort of self-identifying occurs. Take, for instance, a woman who is about to become a grandmother. She has many options for what she wants to be called: She could be a ‘Nana’ or a ‘Grandma,’ a ‘MeeMaw’ or a ‘GraMom.’ This new role provides her an opportunity to shape her identity as a grandmother, and it gives her some control over how she is viewed. This isn’t a decision to take lightly – after all, this is the name she’ll be called for as long as she’s filling that role.
Deciding on a username carries a similar weight for some gamers. A name is a powerful thing; not only does it influence how others view you, it also influences how you view yourself. As a result, a lot of gamers take their tag very seriously.
There are several different types of usernames. Some people keep it simple by just using a false name – typically something generic. Others will adopt a word or short phrase to uniquely identify themselves. This type of username will often have some sort of backstory or reason why they would choose it for themselves. Still others choose their username as a form of artistic expression and allow themselves to display certain aspects of their personality through their name. Let’s take a look at some real examples:
ChillyChili: This person’s username is a reference to a funny incident that happened to them a few years ago. They adopted the name and it stuck, often verbally shortened to just ‘Chili’ for convenience.
CircuitBreaker: Some usernames are chosen because they “just sound cool.” While this one does have some personal meaning, the user has admitted that part of their reason for choosing it was the fact that it just sounded awesome.
Fyren: This tag is derivative from a book character that the user liked as a child, Fyrentennimar. This person has had the name for almost 15 years, and it’s developed into his main online persona.
icyflame123: This classic combination of words and numbers is a safe but memorable choice of name. Many usernames include numbers at the end to help make them more distinctive, as multiple people may have similar ideas for names. Someone else may be called ‘icyflame122,’ though it isn’t likely that the two users will meet circumstantially.
Johnson: This username is simple and generic, but versatile. It was given as a nickname and became this person’s main alias. This type of name has multiple benefits: not only does it age well, it can be used in various situations without sounding strange. It’s short, punchy, and easy to remember – all qualities of a good tag!
UnluckyPaladin: This person chose the name after playing a character in Dungeons and Dragons who consistently had bad luck in scenarios that he encountered. Their name is often shortened to ‘Pally’ for convenience.
xXBlu3D3ltaXx: This tag utilizes leetspeak (a combination of letters and numbers) and decorative letters (‘xX’ and ‘Xx’) to create a unique username. It’s important to remember that tags like this are not pronounced exactly as they are written – this one is read as ‘Blue Delta.’
Usernames come in all shapes and sizes. They are a reflection of the person behind them, not only as who they are, but who they want to be. But who are the people behind the names? We will explore that very question next week in Part 3: Who Are You Talking To?