Unusual Naming Conventions Appearing in Single Player Games - An Observation

Some games have characters whose names are set in stone for plot reasons. Others allow you to rename characters, but the change is purely cosmetic. The name will differ in the menu, but there really isn't a reason to bother messing with it. Then there are the games in which you or your party are the protagonists, and you get to name yourself or selves as an added level of personalization.

I remember playing the fourth generation of Pokemon games shortly after they came out. The DS series of Pokemon games added the ability to interact with players all around the globe, so having a Pokemon in your party with another person listed as the original trainer became commonplace. It was at this time that I noticed something - Many Pokemon that I received from the global trading system had original trainers whose names resembled that of an MMO user. Things like "Adam9876" or "xXreaperXx". As anybody who has ever played a single player game knows, you aren't restricted by whether or not another person with the game has given their character the same name as yours. That type of organization and restriction is limited to online accounts where millions could be on at one time.

Several years later, I bought Animal Crossing: New Leaf on release day. Also a single player game with multiplayer features, AC: NL was not bound by naming restrictions for the player or the town. However, I began encountering players whose names were similar to the ones I provided as examples above. It seemed odd to me, and strangely impersonal given the type of game that it is. Obviously not everybody is going to want to name their character after themselves, but to tack on numbers at the end or to throw in 1337 speak everywhere seemed wrong.

After the encounters in these games and many others, I began wondering why this was. I had spoken to my brother about this phenomenon, and he too had seen it and thought it was weird. In some cases he chalked it up to users simply being unaware of the way the naming systems work and choosing numerical characters simply to avoid being told that the name was unavailable. I always thought that while that was a reasonable explanation, it was too simple. Now, after years of studying computer science and a few years studying Psychology, I think I may have finally found the solutions that make the most sense.

We are living in a world where many younger gamers have never encountered a game where their name was available. Most modern games are either tied to your console user account name, your email address, or simply require each and every player to have a different name. These kids and teens have never been able to use their real name, or even one that they wanted to use, so they have simply begun entering names containing strings of numbers or 'X'ing it up without even trying a regular name first. Despite what many hardcore or championship players might tell you, Pokemon is a game where the majority of players are children or young teens. As a result, at the time the series obtained online compatibility, the children of the internet age had already stopped trying to use their own or even just regular names.

Although I can't say I blame them. I remember playing online games like Runescape and Neopets back in the early 2000's (before Nickelodeon/Viacom got their greedy little claws on Neopets), and experiencing the whole dilemma of having to come up with a name that you not only liked but that was easy enough to remember without having to write it down everywhere. But at the same time, the difference between naming your single player character on a console and a username on a website was very clear to me.

Of course that's not the only possible explanation, though I do feel that it is the most likely. There's also the matter of privacy. Most people are leery of using their real name, or even a human name, online. Most games that anticipate a large amount of young players even warn you before entering any information not to use your real name or any personal information (MiiVerse, for example). These days, as hackers have proven time and again, it's possible to find a person in real life using nothing more than their account information or email address. So it's also possible that these players are just adult gamers simply trying to maintain as much privacy as possible, or parents making sure their kids don't use their real names (though I don't think Adam9876 is hiding too well, unless his name is Frank or something).

Those are the two most likely theories that I've managed to come up with. I don't know if this trend bothers everybody else as much as it bothers me, but it just feels really weird encountering players in games where multiplayer is only a secondary aspect and they have these MMO-style names. What I'd like to know is how many other people have seen this and found it odd? I'd hate to see a future where somebody goes and makes an RM or other game with customization and a deep personal journey, only to have players naming themselves things like xXDaddy69Xx and the defining user/fan screenshots of your game looking like an MMO marketplace.