The absurdity of online usernames

I apologize for the rather long and bloggish nature of this post, but hopefully you wont feel your time wasted reading it.

I’m a very casual Path of Exile player. I play a bit each league (similar to seasons in Diablo 3 where you start a fresh character), but never really get through the campaign before I eventually abandon it. I probably want to like the game more than I actually do, but still I like it enough to give it a new go every few months.

A new League is starting soon, so I looked up a build I would like to aim for this time. The skill tree in PoE is rather daunting, so unless you’re and avid player you’ll quickly feel overwhelmed without a build guide to follow.
I’ve always liked ice themes, so I landed on a build the creator called The Blinding Blizzard for the Scion class.

Upon going through the guide I came to an item called Fertile Mind. Not being familiar with this item, I looked it up in the PoE wiki. It’s a gem that converts your dexterity stat points and adds them to the intelligence stat. Very important for this builds effectiveness apparently. “Well this seems important” I thought to my self and figured I should find out how best to acquire this gem in this random loot game.
It turns out there are 3 unreliable sources, which gives a random gem of that rarity, and one reliable source. Not being one for gambling, especially when my time is on the line, I decided on the reliable source. A collection of 6 random drop cards that are farmable in an area of the game I reach fairly early on.

Now this is where I’m getting to the point of this post.

These 6 cards gives you a “divination card” you trade in to and NPC for a reward, in this case the Fertile Mind gem. This specific divination card is called A Mother’s Parting Gift, and the wiki post is rather touching (linked at the bottom).
The cards art is that of a smiling woman in a beautiful dress, she’s surrounded by flowers and hummingbirds. And there is a poem on the card:

“Nature was her domain, Love was her song, Family was her devotion, Knowledge was her gift.”

The card is a tribute to a supporter of the game (this was when the developer Grinding Gear Games were indie). His mother had recently passed and GGG made this card with her likeness on it and surrounded her with things she adored. And of course the poem on the card was about her as well.
This was a beautiful tribute and a nice gesture from GGG. But one thing made me sit back and just stare at the page for several minutes as I chuckled and and shook my head at the beauty of this card and the absurdity of the username of the supporter who had created it.

As I sat there I realized this put in to context a struggle I have had ever since the first time I encountered the ability to choose names in games (not counting games with named protagonists whose name you can change, like Link). While I have long known vaguely why, this was a perfect example of the reason a simple name caused me so much agony in the past. “What if I become known for something? What if I do something in this video game that somehow people all over the world will know?”
If that were to happen I needed a cool name! And every time I created a new character in a new game, the old name I had decided on was no longer good enough, and the agony started all over again as I scoured the internet for names of old celtic gods I could base my name off of.

I have stopped worrying about names and have a few go-to that I use depending on the character, whether it’s the deadly Kouriku, Cynodia the Huntress, the Assassin Sinclaire or just plain old Hachuu, my wow name that I picked because I was listening to the song Reptile by Nine Inch Nails when I created my character and in 2005 google told me that Hachuu was japanese for reptile. It might be true, I haven’t checked, I have made my peace with names.

But this wiki entry made me feel good about the silly names I picked, and regret for the gaming time lost to conjuring up a name that would inspire an awe or encapsulate a coolness I could never hope to achieve as a person in real life or in any game.

So here’s to you Fartjoke, the touching tribute to your love for your mother juxtaposed by the absurdity of your username was the punctuation I didn’t know I needed to close a chapter of my life.

If anyone has had a similar experience where a chance encounter closed a book you already thought you had put behind you, I’d love to hear about it.
Here is a link to the wiki for those that wish to see the card.


To be honest, this is part of the reason I have such a hard time trying to play MMOs. With games I’m often there in large part for the narrative, and even in online games where they nail that like SWTOR it just kills it for me when I have to run around constantly seeing players with names like RoseanneForever420. And then there’s genchat. Ugh.

I mean, look, I get it…I love absurdity in a lot of areas of my life and I have no problem with anyone who wants to go this route if it’s no big deal to them. I just personally don’t want to run an instanced dungeon with really interesting lore alongside Fartjoke and friends.

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Oh I absolutely get that. You really need two separate parts of your brain in situations like that, one that is just chugging along with Blazelord69 and one where it’s just your character and the lore that is unaware of the actual experience of playing with certain types of people you encounter in an online game.

There is something lost in the experience by compartmentalizing like that however, which might be the reason singleplayer content has gotten more and more sought after in mmo’s over the years.

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im glad this post is so long, because it made skipping to the bottom and starting with “so here’s to you, Fartjoke,” so much more impactful


Not an online username, but the emotional impact of Final Fantasy VII is altered when Aeris is called Spider-Man


I don’t know what you all are talking about my name is very serious


So one of the things I’m wondering about the development of (as social stuff matures in spaces where, as noted above, there is an immersion cost to any UGC like visible usernames) is default-hidden names. Here’s the start of a quick thread of a Daniel Cook talk about tiered social experiences:

Here’s my quick outline. You bring in a friends list (and can grow it) but beyond those players you see in the game then other players (the not-yet-friends) either:

  • aren’t really there beyond a few people in the “room” who have no names unless you promote them to the next tier of association (see talk linked above);
  • are there but with AIs that run simplified versions of their “intent” (“player X moves to region A and interacts with set of equipment B” acted out by a basic AI rather than actually showing exactly what players do - removing the ability for expressive but distracting play in the shared spaces by default);
  • are possibly able to “say” a few things (eg Hearthstone chat system) but don’t allow any UGC (eg usernames) unless you opt in or promote them.

You’d also be able to do it slightly more finely than just friends and relationship tiers. Friends of friends is a good way of building social linkage without ending up with everyone as isolated pockets looking at no UGC at all in the social spaces. Always with lots of controls for people to promote (opting into easier or more expressive communication) or block other players from their version of the social instance.

While we’re currently used to social spaces being filled with usernames, it may be something we look back at in 20 years as extremely weird. We don’t all walk around with name tags in the streets on the assumption that it’s easier to randomly befriend each other that way. It probably doesn’t need to be the norm for online social spaces to offer default expressivity in unique identifiers attached to our avatars.


so I have come full-circle on this dilemma. my first major online presence in games was in Counter-Strike, and I only played dedicated servers, so I chose a pseudonym and stuck with it for roughly a decade so as to be recognized by other server ‘locals’. It was a dumb “gamer name”, and I brought it with me across platforms and games for the sake of consistency. Several years ago, I decided I’d stop with the silly name and go “real name”, so what I have here and now is what I tended to use for my online presence whenever I’d register a new account.

Now, though, I’m wanting a change. I want to be someone new and interesting, not just me. I want to be fuck_scholar69. I want to be FatherSonAndTheHolyShit. I want to be xboobsnbluntsx or pope_pud. I want people to see my name on their screen when I beat them and be frustrated by how absurdly fucking stupid it is


this thread actually made me realize that most of my usernames for games are pretty simple – my overwatch and guild wars 2 are usually pretty simple things like catpaws or french verb conjugations.

my professional twitter username that i chose very deliberately, on the other hand, is Fuckronomicon


this is one of the main reasons i love FFXIV so much. forcing the playerbase into a capitalized Firstname Lastname format makes walking around the world a lot less absurd, even when half the names are shit like Clouddd Strife’kirito


Yes! It’s probably the MMORPG I’ve most enjoyed (of those I’ve tried in the last decade or so) for that very reason. Of course, it doesn’t help that I can never find a likeminded group to play with…none of my friends do the MMO thing so that’s always been part of the struggle for me.

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my original username online had my deadname in it, so I mega regret it (it was also corny but that aspect is fine) but I’m pretty happy with the gendernihilist/agendernihilist/gendernihilistanarchocommunist Web Brand™ since it inspires some people to search online for what those things mean (or inspires them to try and use me like a search engine to explain myself) and I like the idea of people learning about gender nihilism and anarchocommunism because of my handles/user names/urls but the idea of people who don’t bother looking it up but still type it or click it to communicate with me tickles me just right too so it’s win/win/win


I firmly believe that all of my virtual avatars would be terrible SoundCloud rappers if they were not the #ChocsenOne/LiberatedFromThe Matrix/NewKidOnTheBlock and so I name them one of my dumb rapper names (since I can’t rap all my rapper pseudonyms are automatically terrible) like ChuckNa$ty.

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I also have a decent amount of accounts using my deadname, which is rough.

I think the anonymity of the internet paired with the ability to curate what parts of your identity come across online has a pretty unique affect on building identity. Usernames can say a lot about someone. :slight_smile:


Wait… people are using fake names here?


Oh wow are you actually Anime? I love your shows.


Anime, you’re not as cool as you used to be.


I saw the name “Live Fast. Eat Ass.” and while I’m not daring enough to have a name like that, I appreciate that they put their life philosophy so front and center when online.


Guild Wars 2 was one of the first MMO’s i spent any major time with, and i like to think that it was partly because the very first human player i saw was called Dog Liker.

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