Wednesday, September 08, 2010

State of Identification

Seeing names in World of Tanks that I recognise is always a surprise. Here's a game that's been available for weeks only, a couple of months at the most, but even with my fairly sporadic play I'm still seeing gamer names that tug at the brain strings and say "I know you..."

The truth of the matter is that all these people are from EVE. Whether I've flown with them as corp- or alliance-mates, or merely seen them on a killboard or forum, they're recognisably EVE pilots in a different environment, and that got me thinking: why use the same name? Fair enough, if you're playing a new multiplayer game with friends you'll want them to know which spaceship/tank/soldier you are, but these days everyone has a forum, or teamspeak, or even Facebook - some easy way for folks of a like mind to get together and plan some internet shenanigans. There's no specific need for me to have the same identifier in World of Tanks as I do in EVE Online, except that it's also the name I use in countless other games, on forums and message boards, on console and mobile phone profiles. It's my secret identity, the one my non-gamer friends don't know about, or sneer about if they do. I am Jamie McEwan as much as I am mpk (or empeekay or M Piquet, or a variety of other versions).

Why is this? Why the need to be known as something other than plain ol' Jamie? Are the "experts" right - is the internet or, perhaps more specifically, the gaming part of it actually, really full of social misfits who can't operate properly in the Real World? Do we need to have a handle to hide behind to empower us into being the potty-mouthed, evil-minded little shits that comprise 90% of all internet denizens?

I don't think so. At least, I hope not. Because that would mean I was as weak as "they" say we are, someone who has been desensitised to violence and is, quite possibly, able to comfortably handle a gun.

I'm not saying there aren't people out there who wish they could subsume themselves into a completely electronic existence, the kind of social drop-out who is dying for William Gibson's future to hurry up and come true, but for me it's just a nickname. There are people from university who still call me "Gazelle Boy" after I jumped over a table in the refectory one day, and there are people from further back who still call me "Jesus" because I had the gall to be tall and skinny with a beard. Neither of these names define me, and neither does "mpk". It may be an identity, but it's not a personality; mpk isn't cooler than Jamie, he's not funnier or more attractive to women, but he does fly more spaceships and cause more explosions.

I suppose there is an element of wish fulfilment there, but there's no desire in me to be mpk. He's not the cool side of me; he's not even a "he", just me. But still, wherever I go, whatever I play, I use the name mpk to refer to myself. It's a nickname, sure, but it's a name that I share amongst the community of the internet, a community that isn't as large as you may think, given that most people travel in similar circles to their acquaintances. For instance this mpk is not me, nor this, and I definitely have nothing to do with this company, but if you see M Piquet at the to of your killmail, or if mpk destroys your tank, you'll know where to come to complain.


Anonymous said...

"Why is this?"

Perhaps it's just easier to remember one login name, and one login name alone?

Jamie McEwan said...

That would make sense except that login names and profile names are the one thing generally remembered by websites and games etc. Even if the password isnt saved, your user name is. That then negates the need to remember your identifier.