Feb 17, 2012

Posted by in United We Stand | 3 Comments

United We Stand: What’s In A Name?

United We Stand is an Ask A Jedi series focusing on guilds, groups, and other communities in Star Wars: The Old Republic. By examining the communities that we form, we can create a stronger game for ourselves, build relationships that will last a lifetime, and perhaps even change the world itself.

My name is technically not TwinHits. For unless one has very strange parents, one would expect a more normal name for a person. However this is the internet, and here on the internet we name ourselves.

Not so much in the tribal sense of the word, there is no ceremony where the elders gather around the youth about to venture onto the web for the first time, lay their hands on his shoulders and declare him ‘Starman2000′. Instead, naming is a very personal act. It’s what comes to mind when you stare at the required and empty name field when you are rolling a new character, sign up on a new website, or even name your computer so it’s recognizable to you on your home network.

These names define the cyber-citizen because it is the name that divides the online person and the offline person. With a name comes a personality, completely separate from your real offline identity. These personalities can take on a life of their own making actions of that name entirely different from the actions of your real name, completely unconnected to each other. Separate identities lets one become separate people, different personas for different situations.

This is important because wherever one goes, one builds up a persona, like a reputation, that precedes them into the room. Everyone views them through the lenses of that persona. Moving away, changing schools, or changing jobs allow you to start all over and build up a new persona. However, in the infinite wisdom of my mother, you’ll always end up back where you started. The internet offers a release from this cycle, each name is a new start. With each name you can build up a new persona.

This is anonymity, the very basis of all internet communication. We have the option to reveal who we really are, or continue under a name and persona that we have created. As the internet generation grows up, some will find that their screennames will be just as important than their real names. At which point, it may be wise to draw a line connecting the two names. Someday, I may want everything I have done to not just be TwinHits’, but John’s as well.

However, this is a delicate dynamic. As important as anonymity is, it is constantly under assault. Almost two years ago, Blizzard tried to get rid of it completely with their “ReadlID” and we watched as the entirety of their official forums rose up against it. What they didn’t realize is that our anonymity is our first and last protection, we are aware that the internet has the capacity to be dangerous and the best thing that we can do to protect ourselves to is the create an entirely new identity.

So, I offer a warning to websites around the web. Don’t take away from your usersĀ  the rights to their name, let them be who they want to be and present the side of themselves that they want to present.

My name is technically not TwinHits, but why’s that matter? It’s still me anyway.

  1. I have been Darlgon-Something in six? seven? or more online games. Trust me, people recognize and respect you if you bother with consistancy and good gameplay. Even on Teamspeak, guys I have been playing with for eight years call me Darl. Who really needs to know my given birth name? It disappeared at my adoption at 8 days old.

  2. Anything that puts more of my personal information on the internet is bad and dangerous.

    But anonymous does not mean unauthenticated. E.g., what if Blizzard had posted a hash (e.g. CRC-32, SHA-1) of your email on each post. They are 1-way functions so there is no way to figure out the email address from it’s hash. But you can see that the person supporting the post is actually an alt of the original author because they are the same hash. Or the person recruiting for a guild is the same one who made some bigoted trolls posts last week on an alt.

    In a game with lots of alts that are allowed to post on forums, it would be nice to have some way to authenticate.

  3. The problem with authentication is that the guys you want to spot (f.inst. those posting the same opinions under many names to lend credence by numbers), can easily circumvent the protection. Unless you are hooked into some RL personal data, like a game account with a creditcard attached, the authentication will remain at a level of “provide working email, please don’t lie”, which just takes a throwaway account to get past. MMOs can do this for official forums, but most places do not have that option.

    I’m certainly one that both likes and embraces the online persona. My internet name (GhostBoy, or some variation on that theme if it’s already taken) is, in many respects, as much “me” as my real name. Indeed most of my RL friends call me some nickname or other. Besides being at times slightly more angry than my real life self, there isn’t many differences between GhostBoy and me any longer. They used to be very different personalities, but after I started meeting gaming friends in RL, that had to change. It was a conscious decision, and I am certainly in favor of being allowed to make the decision myself, rather than having it forced upon me by some mandatory sharing of personal trackers, however hard they might be to link to my home adress.

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