I sometimes wonder how I would appear in people’s reports, if they wrote about games I’d played with them. “That girl”? “This chick”? “The cute redhead?” (One can hope.) The truth is, a large number of the people with whom I have gamed at the gaming event I’ve been going to weekly for a month don’t seem to know my name. I know all of the names of the people I’ve played with, I think, and I feel fairly certain I’ve told everyone mine at least once, but only two people called me by name last time. Now, this isn’t that big a deal. I’ve only been going a month, and frankly, this is not unusual for gaming groups. What’s interesting to me is why this is not unusual for gaming groups.
On the surface, it seems ludicrous, doesn’t it? Listen:
The other day, I spent three hours with three guys, sitting around one table. We played a game about farming together. None of them knows my name, and at the end of that game, I could only name two of them. We referred to each other as “he” and “she” and addressed each other as “you” with a point of head or finger, and that’s how we got through the game.
That’s just silly. But you’ve probably done it. I’ve done it tons of times. Nearly all of us do it.
Myself, I could go either way. If someone initiates an introduction at some point, I happily participate, and perhaps express embarrassment that I have not already done this. Sometimes I will ask someone’s name, and then give mine, and then turn to others to see if they want to join the process. And other times I happily stick with “her,” and play on. I think it just depends on the mood I’m in. I’m friendly, but shy, and sometimes one takes power over the other. People who are just friendly naturally introduce themselves, as sometimes do people who are eager to make friends at gaming groups. I’m sure many people who prefer to stay mysterious are really just shy, and are putting all their extroversion points into getting out and playing with other people.
The idea I’ve been toying with for a couple of days that I find a little interesting is that for some people, it’s kind of a meta-game. Say Jack has a game. It requires 4 players. Jack really wants to play this game. So he goes out and acquires 3 partners with whom to play the game, and that way he succeeds in his quest to play the game. Really, the other players aren’t people who have dogs at home, or favorite foods, or hometowns, or maybe even names. They’re just intelligent (he hopes) opponents to play his game with him.
Maybe this is cynical. I’m not sure I’m wrong though. As I think back, and think how many times I’ve played games where there was not just nominal anonymity, but a total lack of extraneous conversation before, during, or after the game, when people immediately dispersed, or some dispersed and others stayed, I am more convinced that my humanity has sometimes only been required because it’s more interesting than an AI opponent would be. Again, no big deal. Just interesting.
This is what I want to know now. Are people who participate in forums and blogs and other forms of social connection among gamers more likely to use names? Tell me.