We grow up, but our PSN account can’t: Let us change our names
Markus “Notch” Persson refused to tell me what name he used to use when playing Quake. I pressed him on the issue, as it seemed weird to keep something like that a secret, but he explained his reasoning.
“There are people who know. I’m proud of them for not telling the general public. It’s turned into this stupid thing where I keep it a secret,” he told me. “If I give you the name of who knows it you’re going to find them, so no! I do like it, it’s funny. Sometimes people come up to me and call me that nickname, and I know they knew me from a while ago.”
I think about this conversation every time I’m frustrated by Sony’s decision to keep us from changing our PSN name.
The power of what we’re called
Our names are important things, and for those of us who grew up playing video games our names can anchor us to different points in our history. You may have used a certain tag during your Battlefield days, and an older one while playing Quake online. People on one server know you by a specific name, but your Xbox 360 friends know you as another.
There are still people I meet who call me my old name from the early days of Ars Technica, and it feels good, like a secret handshake. That’s the name I use on my PlayStation Network account and, while I don’t hate it, I’ve outgrown it. I don’t use it on any games if I can help it, and it makes me feel like I’m in high school to see it in use. It’s one thing to hear it from a friend, but it’s quite another to be shackled to it through an online system.
Another person I know gave me his name so we could be PlayStation Network friends, and he admitted that he was embarrassed by the name. A name that he picked a very long time ago. I don’t want to shame him, but it has the word “vomit” in there somewhere.
Sometimes the things that we used to think were funny or silly end up looking a little less so in retrospect, but there’s no way for us to update our identities on Sony’s systems. At least, not without losing all the purchases we’ve made and trophies we’ve earned.
What we could ourselves, and what other people call us, is important. Identify is fluid online, and the ability to change your name is an important part of that. It allows us to change, to grow, to leave the old behind and to celebrate the new. There are tags I’ve used that make me happy when I think of them. There are others that I find troubling. I can’t imagine most of them being stapled to me for this long, immovable, unable to be changed.
Sony wants us to keep our information and purchases and carry it with us from platform to platform, system to system, and that’s great. But if we’re going to be tied to one account for so long, let us change the name. You outgrow so many things in life, and what name you used online is definitely one of them. I don’t really care if I have to pay a few bucks, it’s time to let the people who were early adopters of your platform grow up.