What’s in a name?

Your online nickname will help define fellow players’ initial impressions of you and maybe how they interact with you.

Some time ago I started adding people to my friends list who were from Saudi Arabia. I had no idea why but these chaps seemed to warm to me and were great to have a laugh with. While chatting with one of them he was surprised I wasn’t from Saudi too as my player name was the word they use for a little boys penis… I changed my name a short while after.

It’s worth noting that pretty much all online games and games platforms allow you to change your nickname so don’t stress about getting that perfect name…

Here’s a few things to think about when creating an online name for your child:

Avoid anything that may hint at your age, gender, beliefs or sexuality

It is good practice to avoid giving away anything about you as a person. Doing so will avoid others being able to direct unwanted attention to a particular aspect of you as a person. This will also avoid unwanted attention from those looking to interact with certain sexes or age groups.

Avoid anything contentious or related to current trends

Trying to get people to react to your username has been done to death. Current trends also are just as they are, current, and will change like the wind.

Don’t use glyphs (characters/ fonts that look like images)

The overuse of glyphs is usually associated with younger players so it’s good practice not to use them. Also, if someone wants to message you or seek you out to talk to you then these will make it difficult.

Keep punctuation to a minimum

For the same reasons as glyphs, punctuation should be carefully considered if used. Try to keep it limited to hyphens and underscores if you have to use anything at all.

If in doubt go generic or obscure

Early on in your child’s game playing just keep their names generic. As they play with others they might get some ideas for a good name or maybe the way they play might affect their name decision.

Nickname creators

A quick search and you’ll find a few. Be aware that some will ask you to enter your name and, sometimes, other details. This is for the purpose of collecting your personal information. You don’t need to share your information to generate a name… just enter some false information and you’ll find that many of the suggestions are not related to the details you entered. (I’ve not linked to any as I’m not confident in any I’ve found so far).


Children playing online

When to let your children loose on public servers

I reckon young children, under 11, shouldn’t be let loose on public servers. Keep to closed groups/ private servers with their friends from school, relatives or you. At this early stage of development we’re trying to nurture them in a safe environment and give them a healthy attitude towards games. 

Even after 11 I’d be careful about letting them loose on their own in the online world. My 12yo nephew still plays Fortnite on single player or with friends due to not liking random players.

A note on single player games

There are plenty of great single player games to play. While they’re playing the game they can still chat to friends online. Especially good if they’re playing the same game.

Playing online with others

If you or your child play online games on public servers or join public forums there will come a time when you interact with others: they might have a great game and want to express this; spend 6 hours completing a bunch of quests with some good folks and want to add them as friends; someone might say something that they disagree with or something that angers them…

Here’s some tips to help you navigate your child through the social side of gaming:

If it’s negative then don’t bother

If someone says something nasty, belittles their efforts, criticises their methods of play then they need to let it go. Will it matter in an hour’s time? Nope. Will it matter in a week’s time? Nope. Remember, it’s just a game and played for enjoyment or escapism from the stresses of daily life.

The same goes if you find your child doing the above. If they are belittling others online then it’s probably time for them to take a break and time for you to chat to them…

Going down this path of negativity so early on is probably a sign of greater issues. At least you can identify this behaviour early and start addressing it (which is way beyond the scope of this site).

Don’t be quick to add friends

From personal experience I found that I ended up with a large list of people on my friends list that I don’t hear from or interact with after the initial honeymoon period. Also, you may find out very quickly that the person you’ve added has some hidden facets that you don’t want to be associated with…

Here are some questions your child should ask themselves and tips that may help them regarding online friends:

  1. Is the potential friend a similar age? For kids 11 and under I would be asking if you, as a parent, knows this other person. It’s best to stick to the people your child already knows.
  2. Manage friends. Most platforms that allow friend lists will have a delete, mute or block function.
  3. Don’t accept friend requests from people they haven’t talked to! Just because someone played a game with you doesn’t mean you add them. And if they didn’t communicate in game they probably won’t do so in the future.

Use voice communication wisely

Many players rely on hearing the slightest of sounds to give them an edge for their gameplay. Chatting about your day or not setting your microphone up properly is not going to go down well.

Many chat programs will have an option for ‘push to talk’. This means pressing a button to broadcast to the chat group and is excellent for managing what is said and when.

Don’t give away personal information

Minimise the personal information you share! Don’t say your exact age, instead give an age range e.g. teen, under 16, under 18, 20s, 30s, old git (my age range). Don’t ever give away a surname. Maybe consider giving your first name or nickname your friends call you by but only if you’ve known the person for some time.

No gaming devices in the bedroom

Don’t let your kids have any electric devices in their bedroom. This rule came from my brother in law and it works so well through its simplicity, phones stay downstairs along with everything else. This lessens the possibility of bad communication massively. It’s easy for you to keep an eye on your child’s behaviour/ reactions to messages.

The best and worst of gaming online

Thumbs up

One of the things that makes internet gaming so great is the global scope of its players. I’ve met so many people from around the world: Norway, Germany, Saudi Arabia, Lithuania to mention a few. These are people that are on my friend list that I’ve had great times with – past tense as I have little time for gaming any more 🙁

I’ve written a post about the global gaming community: The diversity of the gaming community.

Thumbs down

In gaming online there is nothing as annoying as a fellow player who is an arse. I’ve met every single kind of idiot in my gaming life. From pure shouty hatred idiot to insipid comments about my aim statistics being below par idiot… When you’re happily playing your game, ignoring the stresses of daily existence, having someone stick a spanner in the works is a jolt to the system.

Idiot management

Learning how to deal with idiots is something your child will have to do in real life and online.

Unlike real life, most games with in-game communication will have a mute function, I reach for this the instant I’ve got my doubts about someone. Many games will also have a report function so you can report a player – then mute them… Other than that it’s a case of letting things go.