Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Codenames, aliases, and call-signs

Sandlot recently tweeted that her codename in militarized alphabet would be Tango Tango. This got me thinking about all the codenames I'd taken over the years. No, I'm not a super-spy, just a hardcore gamer.

Growing up on games in the 90's, it was typical to use an alias of some kind for multiplay. I think it was somewhat built into geek culture to have some kind of alternate online persona. Hackers did it. ZModem text-based RPG players did it. My brother and I did it.

The popularity of aliases is not just rooted in anonymity - it's also rooted in pop culture. First of all, there is a kind of distinct power in being branded with an alternate persona. Think of Dwayne Johnson of WWF, popularly known only as "The Rock." There is a legitimate coolness and intimidation factor to being known only by a forceful alias.

Secondly, gamers like to take on the mantle of the fighter and the hero. Oftentimes, this is done so under the allure of a military or fantasy setting. Military order is exciting. Military culture is cool. Enter then the concept of the "call-sign." Call-signs are aliases used by pilots in the air force and in numerous fictional settings. Take for instance the 1986 classic Top Gun. Tom Cruise's "Maverick" butting horns with Val Kilmer's "Iceman" while the comical wingman "Goose" provided witty banter. Every little boy imagined having their own call-sign emblazoned on their helmet, and every little boy was inspired by the fast-flying fighter jets and military honour code. Heck, I'll never leave my wingman behind.

Thirdly, aliases are an outlet for imagination and expression. My brother, for as long as I can remember has run under the alias of Peregrine. Oh, the years I spent being blown to bits, fragged, and gunned down by this very name. Peregrine refers to a type of falcon, and falcon is a raptor - a bird of prey. My brother was a predator. There was something mystical about this deep and hidden meaning behind the name. When Peregrine was not available, my brother occasionally defaulted to Merlin as a call-sign. This referred not to the mystical wizard of Arthurian lore, but rather another type of falcon.


My own childhood was much more schizophrenic. I settled not on a single alias, but constantly invented new personas: Neon, Cateye, White Griffin, Bloodline - each tackier than the last. They were, in many ways, the evolution of my creative juices.

Neon was the first name that stuck with me, and was used throughout the majority of my youth. It was not an invention, but stolen from the Chrysler vehicle of the same name. This didn't stop me from making it my own. In elementary school, I produced an entire backstory to the Neon persona including short stories, drawings, comics, and even a supporting cast.

Cateye was a short lived title, inspired by a sticker set from the bicycle headlight brand of the same name. I used it in video games around the time that I was into physical forms of play such as mock sword-fighting with plastic swords. I would go out into the backyard and find sword or dagger-shaped sticks, painting them with elaborate decor including the name Cateye. I guess I was very tribal at this age.

White Griffin was a long and cumbersome name I used around the time that Transformers: Beast Wars first began airing. I really liked the white tiger character and played around with a variety of aliases that involved white animals, such as White Siberian and White Griffin. In many ways this was my attempt to emulate my brother's animalistic Peregrine alias. I was, as a child, quite envious of it. I also used White Griffin as a springboard to create a "secret club" of sorts in which I enlisted my next door neighbour and best friends. I even made little ID cards with our aliases on them. That didn't last long.

Bloodline was a return of my original Neon character, probably around Grade 7-8. He was the sequel, and I actually drew up a fairly nice looking set of mock trading cards featuring him and his enemies. Again, short lived.


As an adult, I've finally settled into a gaming persona with some permanence. It's not stolen off a car brand or a sticker or inspired by sibling rivalry. Warden, the final iteration of my gaming alias is a rearrangement of the letters in my first name, Andrew. It's also intended to carry with it the imagery of a guardian or warrior.

When I first started gaming with J-Rock, he recoiled at the codename Warden. He pictured it to be some mundane station, like a park ranger or prison guard. This reaction surprised me, as I had not stopped to consider that these would be the most common images conjured by the average person's mind.

Warden, to me, was a powerful image. It's an oft used term in fantasy games to portray an order of powerful guardians. For instance the Night Elf wardens in the Warcraft universe or the Grey Wardens in Dragon Age. Additionally, I could recall the term being portrayed similarly in military fiction or science fiction settings. Finally, wardens in real life (and outside of the prison) are often persons of supervisory or governing roles - an elite and aristocratic terminology.

So remember the next time you're fragged by Tango Tango and Warden - the Warden is an elite warrior, not a park official.


Jerry said...

Darn, your post makes me want to make up a permanent call-sign for myself.

I just can't think of one that portrays who I am, and who I want to be. I want it to have a sci-fi/fantasy reference too, from something like Star Trek, Star Wars or LOTR. Hmm, next time we meet up we'll definitely discuss possibilities. (e.g. Grand Master Gandalf, Tertiary Adjunct of Unimatrix Zero-One lol)

Now that you have explained Warden a bit more, I now see a bit of what you see. For the record, the very very first thought I had when you told me your alias was Warden was...why are you naming yourself off of a street? (i.e. Warden Avenue). Then i remembered that Warden can also be a the head of a prison, like a prison warden lol.

I think it is pretty cool that Warden is an anagram of your name. Shoulda told me that sooner lol, then I woulda liked it sooner :D

Anyways keep posting buddy!

sandlot said...

My call-sign is Taminator.

Prepared to be Taminated. Brup Brup.

Michael said...

Pinky and the Brain
Season 1, Episode 13.
Megavideo link (at 2:17)

Pinky: Troz!
Brain: What is Troz?
Pinky: Why it's "Zort" in the mirror! Troz!

And so trozman was born. =)

a_ndy said...

I totally missed the, "and so trozman was born."

I was like, "Why is he linking us to this Pinky and the Brain video?"

We should game sometime. Trozman and Warden head-to-head. No homo.