How would you like to roam the world for the rest of your existence known as bs_farty09? That name permanently displayed above your head, with no way of changing it?
Wouldn’t having an avatar called John Blackheart, Yanisha Debs, or Ritvik Au be better?
Names hold power; they are inextricably linked to a person’s identity. This is why parents are thoughtful when selecting names for children. Names are important for things as well – ask a company about the process for choosing a new brand name. Have a new puppy? Bet you aren’t planning to call it User_name9999920.
Naming Traditions in Second Life
The people at Linden Labs used to know this. When they started Second Life, Linden developed a method for producing real names for users. Prior to 2010, new users would have a first and last name. They were required to select a Linden last name. The name list changed regularly. Prior to 2006, a name would be retired once there were 150 residents with that name. In 2006, when the popularity of Second Life increased dramatically, it changed to be 1,000 residents before the name was retired. These are now called Heritage Names.
There were some outstanding names. One of my favorite SL friends has the last name Ishi from from the Yana word meaning “man;” he was the last of the Yahi people. Debs of course came from Eugene Debs the political activist. Bogart needs no explanation. Au — probably referring to gold. Wijaya, an Indonesian word for victory. So many names. So many with interesting histories.
I chose my last name Bergamasco from the Linden list because I love Italy, and then of course I had to have an Italian first name to go along. I chose Francesca from Bridges of Madison County. Over the years I have met many SL residents who struck up a conversation with me over my Italian name. In real life, I now travel regularly to Italy. Francesca is close to many things I hold dear.
All Linden Lab employees had the Second Life last name Linden, so residents in-world could tell they were speaking to an employee.
Naming Traditions Change
In 2010, Linden Labs revised naming conventions. All new last names became “Resident.” And then, “Second Life changed from registering new accounts with a ‘first name’ and ‘last name’ to a single-word username, for example: mortimer1980 or jsmith57.” For everyone. It was at a period when concurrent use in Second Life had been dropping for several years. Linden Labs was working on making it easier for new users to sign up and trying to ease the learning curve. I surmise there were focus groups involved. Coincidentally, Philip Rosedale left the CEO position at Linden Labs in 2010. I like to think he protected us from the idiocy of numeric user names for as long as he was in charge, but I truly have no idea.
Once selected, a username in Second Life can never be changed. That has always been true, and it’s not unusual for user names around the Internet. Second Life users are now able to select a “display name” that will display above the username. The display name can be changed as often as once a week. This is a help for poor bs_farty09.Resident. I mean he can now put “Dashing Stranger” as his display text. Of course we will always be able to read his username just below that . . .
Advice for choosing a name?
Think about it, even for just a little bit. My advice would be the same for any online world.
- Pick something you like, that you could see working in many scenarios in-world. Who knows, you may hang out at an in-world exhibition one day, and decide to take on western role play in Tombstone, Arizona next week.
- Capitalization matters! If you go all lowercase, then that is how it will appear.
- Perhaps try a Heritage last name. Longtime SL residents are familiar with the Linden names. Many of us can date an avatar based on their last name, so you’ll probably spark some conversations based on that alone.
- A list of Linden Heritage names (nearly 11,000) is available here.
- I’ve just made a new avatar to test this. Your name must be all one word, so I chose a Heritage last name — Heller, and then Josephine as a first name. I had to type in JosephineHeller. It’s better than a nonsense name with numbers.
Choose one that resonates with you.
This is a really thought provoking read and great advice for those thinking of creating an avatar. I love that you put so much thought into your name and the details of your travels and interests brought the post to life for me.
I have heard of the game, but never tried it. Sounded interesting then. The naming policy … yikes. So many games are doing this now and you are right, names matter.
Unlike my WordPress user name, which was originally to link me anon to my other work, I actually use viable first and last names when involved in an rpg or mmo platform. 🙂
P.S. I do like your header picture!
Hello, I preferred the old naming convention, but I think as long as a new user understands going in that their username is going to be part of their identity, it’s not a huge problem.
Thanks for commenting :-),
I prefer the old naming convention, on a previous avatar I had a legacy name, when i returned after a couple of years, things had changed to the resident last name, which to me is pretty bad. Display names are there but unless everyone has their viewer settings to only see display names its a moot point. Thanks for the great article
Hi John, Yes — I think Linden made a mistake when they changed it. I went to New Resident Island last night for awhile to help newbies, and one ran past me with an all-number name. It makes it hard to know how to address them. I was away from SL for stretches, a couple of different times, and was fortunate not to lose my account.
Thank you for your thoughts!
Names matter! Totally agree. I usually play games and role plays, maybe too much ;), and I think choosing names is as important and funny as choosing the look and personality of an avatar.
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