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My 16 year old son and his friends play a lot of video games and being a parent who has always liked to know what my kids are into, I pay attention. Sometimes this is painful, but I endure what I must in the pursuit of good parenting skills. In my experience, occasional pain is often the MO of parenting anyway.
My son and his friends frequently play their games online, hooked into a server that brings together a huge community of gamers (some of them people you would never imagine would be doing it) and allows them to play their games together, with and against each other. All these gamers, largely teenage boys, have names that they use when they play, called gamer tags. Some of these names are utterly ridiculous and obvious, and you don't have to be Sigmund Freud to figure out where they are coming from and what how they hope to portray themselves. Any teenage boy calling himself WarriorXtreme56 is definitely not big into subtlety. Some of them are silly, some of them are clever, and some of them are outright hilarious.
There are gamer tags that are obviously the attempt by some boy to make himself sound dangerous and intimidating, things like; SuperSniper, GrimReaper44, KillZone11, and FearMe101. These names always make me imagine some pencil thin, or hopelessly chubby, boy, sitting on his mother's couch with a package of Oreos and a glass of milk trying to be James Bond or Rambo. This image is usually blown immediately if they have a microphone and can talk to anyone and they have a voice that squeaks like a badly played clarinet. It's hard to be intimidating when your voice is breaking.
Some gamer tags are completely incomprehensible and silly like; Zogpuppy, Lk4r 69h2, (whatever that means), King34llt68, (really?), and bits&666. These kinds of names are not only silly but also impossible to recall. Most gamers call each other by their tags or some shortened version of it. Tags like these make it awfully difficult to decide what to call someone in a game. If you are playing on a team and need someone to reinforce your position, it isn't easy to ask for assistance when you can't remember anyone's name. By the time you say, “Lk4r 69h2, I could use some help over here”, you are usually dead.
Some guys, of course, use names that are incredibly rude or just outright crude if a gaming system allows it. Generally, they have filters that look for obscenities and hateful words, but some kids find sneaky ways to mess with spelling or use symbols to get around it. I'm sure that they think they are being terribly clever. Mostly, they are just being morons.
Back in the day when my oldest son was into gaming there were almost no girls playing at all. There were also very few games outside of the fantasy genre that even had female characters. The game Tomb Raider, with the tough and gorgeous Laura Croft was the only real exception, and the way she was rendered in the game made her very popular with young men. The games that were designated as First Person Shooters, those that involved various combat scenarios, never had female characters. Now, there are options to fight as a girl and more and more girls are playing. There was one game my oldest used to play that gave you the option to have pink or purple battle armor when you played online. He used to deliberately wear pink armor because it so enraged the guys in the game, who obviously saw their world as male-exclusive and absolutely hated the idea of some girl beating them. Many of them would deliberately seek him out in gangs to kill him. He found it amusing. In the newest combat games they have female characters and offer the option to wear a uniform or armor that is just like the stuff the guys have, just a little smaller and curvier. There are still guys who obviously hate their little combat video world being invaded by girls, but that is an attitude that seems to be changing. Girls don't have to be so careful to give themselves guy names to disguise who they are so they can actually play without being singled out for massive onslaught by offended virtual manhood.
Some of the best gamer tags are the funny ones, like; FatManwithaDonut, Pleasedonthurtme, Idateurmother, TheDarkSidehasnoCookies, IreallySuckatThis, IamYourDog, BlessMeISinned, and IhaveNoStyle. My son pointed one out to me the other day that was, IamnotWhite. We couldn't decide if this were something the gamer felt we all needed to know, or if it was a tongue and cheek statement about the majority of people playing these games online. It was a puzzle. In the end it is all very anonymous and virtual, which was expressed excellently by a name I saw just recently, GetaRealLIFE.
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