Saturday, August 24, 2013

Online Identities: Who Are We?

I have recently moved to playing World of Warcraft again and the situation came up that I felt it was finally time to make a server transfer; I wanted to be able to experience the MMO part of the game and at the time that just was not happening. So I packed up my things and decided to move Tarinae away from her 6+ year home.

What this ended up was a journey and discovery that online identities become a major part of a gamer.

When I first rolled Tarinae, I was the only one. It was a name that I drudged up from the creative parts of my brain and I loved it. From the very first moment I rolled her, she was perfect. I also happened to be the only Tarinae in the whole of the game. I took Tarinae a step further and made a Twitter account @TarinaesJournal to have a nerd place to document her progress and her adventures. That quickly evolved into @Tarinae when I decided to start blogging as a WoW blogger and a lot of people knew my name.

I made a couple different iterations of Tarinae across other servers, including a Tiny Tarinae, that I used as a blogging project. When someone said Tarinae, you knew it was me. When I left WoW blogging for something else I changed my Twitter handle and a spam bot that never tweets picked it up, when I went back to use that name again that was my first throw into "Who Am I World" because I didn't know what I wanted anymore. 

By this time, I had created a random assortment of gaming profiles and I had adopted Tarinae across all of them including XBox, Playstation, etc. (Steam is a different story). I even have Tarinae on Gmail! So in my Twitter hassle, it turns out they only release inactive names in batches and there is nothing that I can do about it. So I went with my BattleTag. By this time, this was a thing and everyone's Twitter Name was their tag, I decided to use it as my handle, and so I was @Tarinae1821.

But I digress, allow me to get back to the game. When I decided to move to a new server, this time there were 12 other Tarinaes, none of which were me. There are countless servers, somewhere way over 300. I had a 12/300+ shot at hitting a server with my name and I hit the nail on the head. The most insulting part was that she was only Level 1. She was a name saver, a waste of space, and I was furious

I consulted Twitter, I ranted on Facebook, I rambled on podcasts, I even petitioned to have the name flagged but it didn't work. I am Tarinae. That is MY online identity, it is my gamer identity. She and I are one in the same and I had no idea what to do. And in that moment, my inner sociologist kicked in and I really started to analyze who we are and who we claim to be. This identity meant the world to me and my online presence but to a non-gamer, to a non-geek I was behaving irrationally; this would have been all trivial but in my heart of hearts I felt like someone had stolen my identity. 

Most people would say that it is time to take a break from WoW at that point. But it was more than that. Tarinae is how people know me on Twitter, from communities, from games, from browser interactives, from a lot of things. Being Tarinae is how I have met some of my MOST AMAZING friends. 

And that was where the problem came in.

In the end, I opted for making a special character in the name and circumventing the system (as allowed by the TOS of course) but when I see her name and that it isn't written correctly, I know a part of me is still out there, floating in the limbo of online identity nether. 

I asked this question on Facebook and across Twitter and it has spurred a lot of wonderful conversation but who are you? Do you have an identity that you are attached to? So many of us do. You're in great company.

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