Or “what’s in a name” or possibly “How many times will Oz use quotes?” My current WoW guild is filled with people I used to game with in EQ. I find this very comforting, as it’s like going to a new place with people you already know. Hopefully, it’s a feeling that’s reciprocated. When I first applied, I knew who they “were” but I did not immediately disclose who I “was”, although several people including the GM knew. It’s not like I had anything to hide. It was one of those snap decisions. Later, I felt guilty and prominently posted my former avatar names on a few posts. And all was well. The names identified me, and they knew who I was. But what happens if you change your name, leave it behind and become a “new person”? Or, even better, if someone takes “your” name?
I love psychology and sociology and as a manager of many years, you learn to use it without thinking. One of the most powerful motivators there is, is someone’s name. It says, “Look at me!” or “I’m important!” Given a pen to test, the vast majority of people will sign their name, or write part of their name. So in an online game, where your face is not visible, all you have is that name. I’ve used “Oz” as an online moniker for years. It’s far from unique. It’s an abbreviation of my first EQ character, whose name was a misspelling of name in a poem. I have another I use, which, since I’m such a clever bunny, is a childhood nickname written backwards. It’s a pain to say, so I usually go with the much more tongue friendly Oz. But if I was to meet up with another person, also using the nickname Oz, I’d be mad. He took my name! Of course, he’d probably feel the same way. Or, if someone else, in another game, met up with a character using one of my nicknames, he might think it’s me. And base their reactions on that.
Yesterday, I reacted to a comment made by a guildmate that seemed strange based on my memories of the person. I had been guilded with the person for several years, in 3 different games, and the statements seemed weird. So I figured this would be a decent opportunity to get to know the “new him”. From what my dusty memory recalled, he was due to get married a year or so ago, when I’d last chatted with him, so maybe that was the change. But it wasn’t. You see, he wasn’t “him”. It was another person, still from where we used to play, using the name. He had just made it up. I tried to think back if I made any weird comments to them over the past few weeks, since I had assumed (ah, we all know what that does, right?) he was someone else. After an apology in case of anything I said, we moved on. I think he got a laugh out of it. I found another guildmate was yet another person from the days of old, if you will, completely on accident. Did that change how I thought of that person? Of course it did, because now I had history (good history, if you are worried) with them. I immediately went from being indifferent to them to feeling a bond, like old warriors who survived a battle. That name tied is now tied to the other one. Why didn’t he use the old avatar name? Who knows, perhaps for the same reason I didn’t. Perhaps it didn’t fit with his character plan. Perhaps he allowed his cat to walk on the keys and pick out a name. Only he knows, and he’s not telling.
Names have power. Why else would the WoW devs place themselves in game? Furor and Tigole appear in a few spots, and yesterday I did the quest in Searing Gorge with Furor’s old character, Kalaran. This was his first EQ character, but as a WoW developer, he made him a quest giver in WoW. He says nothing to do with his old character (I guarantee he never turned into a dragon in Norrath), but the name is important. You can see this everywhere. Who’s the developer of CoH/V? The guy who plays Positron. The high level loot in EQ is usually named after one of the devs, or a GM. The tutorial is filled with NPCs named for the devs who worked on it (and filled with some in jokes, if you knew them).
So what would you do upon joining your new game-of-the-moment and finding out your favorite online identity is taken? And then, to stir the pot some more, let’s just say you were walking around and there, on the path ahead is the guy with your name. Your name! Yours! What do you do? I know what I’d do.
*Oz rolls for initiative*