Thursday, July 15, 2010

The Fun of an Online Persona

Recent posts by Ardwulf and Tobold in the aftermath of the RealID fiasco have gotten me thinking about why I maintain an online persona. I've been posting as Yeebo for quite a while, for years on various message boards before I even started blogging. I am certain that when I started out, it just seemed like a cool fun thing to do to make up a name and start posting under it. Much like being known by the name of various characters I've played in different MMOs, it seemed natural to pick a net handle and be known by it in digital space.

I like using this net handle for several reasons. First off, I want things that I write to be judged on what’s there, not who wrote it. Secondly, I use blogging as a way to take a break from the rest of my life. Somehow, having my net handle only weakly connected to my real name makes my blog travels seem like more of an escape. Finally Yeebo is good net index for my MMO writings. If I started blogging about poetry or pastries, I’d likely do it under a different handle. There aren’t a ton of Yeebos on the web, but there are roughly a jillion individuals with my RL name.

While I don't hide the fact that I game, I also have to admit that in the field I work in having a bunch of MMO writings come up before my professional work when you Google my name would not be such a hot idea. To prospective employers the best I can hope for is that the reaction would be neutral, and I know the culture of my field well enough to be certain that in some cases it would not.

Finally though, in the end, what it really comes down to is that I enjoy maintaining this persona. I have had a lot of fun building up his visibility in different online communities. Yeebo is almost like a person I’ve created in digital space. To reduce or elevate him to synonymy with my real persona would feel like a loss.

I do not by any of this mean to imply that there isn’t some crossover between the digital and physical realms. I’ve often had digital friends become RL friends, and vice versa. In fact, as I get older the distinction between the two seems to get fuzzier.


  1. I'm pretty much on board with all that. Further, as I've gone on blogging and doing other things under the Ardwulf 'persona', I've noticed that it tends to have developed something of a personality of its own. Ardwulf might feel compelled to comment on something that Gary doesn't care about. It's kind of weird, actually.

  2. That's funny. I think that sort of thing tends to happen more often to those of us that grew up playing PnP RPGs. Certainly when I play MMOs, I base a lot of my decisions on what I think my character would do.

  3. Well JayeDub thinks the world should be his playground and be able to drive over pedestrians in cars and leap tall buildings in a single bound.

    But that's certianly not what Jason thinks!

  4. Same thing for me, Sente is an online persona in the realm of MMOs for me. He takes care of that game stuff.

    I have also thought about nicknames - in some groups of friends I have different nickname than with others.

    Also, one of my hobbies is magic (the rabbit-out-of-a-hat kind). As a magician it is close to a necessity to have a separate persona on stage.
    A magician is an actor who plays the part of a magician.

  5. Interesting read...I was hoping you'd go into more about why you chose the handle "Yeebo" as I think that's a pretty unique name :) But yeah, I agree with you and what some of the others have said, having an online persona helps keep my gaming and other life separate. For me, I wish I had started off with an actual name, but I guess MMOGC or "geecee" works too.

  6. I've been hacking away at a scarily similar post, which is to say I totally agree.

  7. @Jayedub: Apart from being a bit calmer and hippyish than me, I wouldn't say Yeebo is all that different.

    @Adingworld: now I'm curios about your stage name.

    @Mmogamerchick: it's a pretty boring story. I had rolled up a hobbit druid with green hair on his head and his feet in EQOA (of all games). He looked like a Yeebo, and I've been using that name ever since.

    @BlueKae: great minds think alike . . .and also those with similar psychoses :-)

  8. Lots of good comments already, but I still wanted to drop by. think you've elucidated the entire argument perfectly. I can understand why some people would be happy to put their lives online, there are a great amount of us who desire a clean separation between the two.

  9. I agree entirely. I've used Ysharros as a net handle for nigh on 15 years -- I have RL friends who call me Ysh even though they know what my "real" name is.

    Ysh *is* me. The idea that the only me is the one with my first and last name on Facebook is imbecilic.

    Where the name comes from is also pretty well documented, and one of the reasons I'm still using it is that it's extremely unlikely to be used by anyone else. That said, I've been half-flattered, half-peeved to note the name being used here and there in MMOs when I try to make a character... but I don't own the rights to it and I can think of a handful of RL people who could quite legitimately use it. (Long story short, I wrote the character, other people played it (freeform/live RP).)

  10. Oh and ack, sorry Yeebo! I just noticed your link at my place had an extra Y in it. Fixed. ;)

    Name discussion is good for blogroll accuracy, at any rate.

  11. @Anjin: Thanks. During the real ID drama the conclusion of some commentators, that anyone opposed to Real ID is some sort of troll, irked me a bit.

    @Ysharros: I have a few different character names I recycle among games. It's a bit exasperating to me when one of the completely made up ones is already taken, those are kind of my backups when my favorites from mythology are taken.

    Oh yeah and thanks for fixing the link. No worries at all :-)

  12. "Tesh" is purely my blogging handle. I tend to come up with unique names for games... though "Silveransom" is one I've decided to use at least once in each game.

    And yes, the "tabletop RP" mindset is valuable, as is the "magician actor". We each wear a series of masks in our life; it's a survival trait. We simply don't act the same way with some people as we do with others, and that's normal and even wise. (In addition to being fun!)

    Wanting control over those identities is almost a human right; it's like wanting control over how you present yourself in any given company. Whether or not those faces or identities are "real" or "false" should be up to the individual, not the State.