Living Simply

What’s In A (Sur)Name?

It would seem that the Jira asking to Bring Back Last Names Options! has struck a nerve on many residents of Second Life, including me. The issue becomes more convoluted due to many points of view (and to me, nearly all of them quite valid), depending on individual needs and ways of looking at Second Life. My own comment to the Jira was this:

In a world of our own contrivance, I feel that history and continuity are important components in adding depth and richness to our chosen virtual existence. Amazing sims come and go constantly, but with luck, we avatars have a longer lifespan. The ability to choose a fitting surname means a lot. I also like the legacy system in which names were retired after a span of time. My surname (Writer) is one of those. I take a sense of pride in the years I have given to Second Life, and hope that I help make it a more meaningful place.

If we are to fully immerse in Second Life in a positive way, I feel that our shared cultural history and experiences are a big part of the process. Surnames are one facet of that. Please consider allowing new residents to choose a name they can be proud of – and perhaps they will carry that pride towards their Second Life accomplishments.

This being my own blog, I will only speak for myself, please take it as such and know that I respect your viewpoint too!

On St. Patrick’s Day, 2007, rather than drinking green beer, apparently I was more interested in creating my first avatar. I browsed the list of available surnames, thought of a few amusing plays on words to go with some of them, but eventually settled on “Writer”, as this describes what I aspire to be. For many years, I had answered to an online nickname of CJ, a shortened version of CocoaJava, which is the name of my own website and domain. So, I plumped that nickname up and it became Ceejay.

Later than year, I discovered the Steampunk City/State of New Babbage. It overwhelmed my senses, and I joyfully explored this amazing place built by what I saw as impossibly talented mysterious people well out of my league. My admiration was detached, I did not feel I was worthy of bothering these artists. Then one day I found a Babbage shop called, I believe, Writer Steamworks (I may be off on the shop name, it has been gone a while). And something happened. Something really nice! I realized that another Writer had helped create New Babbage. The name Writer had been retired (that’s how it worked back then, after some months, names were retired and became ‘legacy’ names) and I recall distinctly feeling a burst of pride that one of my ‘family’ had done so well.

And with that realization that New Babbage was not built by some mysterious engineer-gods hiding in the clouds, I formed a new bond with the city. I moved in shortly thereafter, and got brave enough to contribute in my own way to the city I’d grown to love.

Now and then I meet another Writer, and we always say hello. It’s a happy thing. We share a history, having rezzed in during the same time period, and probably share many of the same memories of watching Second Life grow. It is not an elitist or clique-ish feeling, just one of a comfortable ease of talking with someone your same age.

Fast-forward up to yesterday. I have a quiet, friendless worker alt who’s last name is “Resident”. For my purposes, that’s okay, she’s not meant to socialize at all, she just produces work. But as she was running around the grid trying to quickly collect landmarks for a project, apparently she was noticed by the owner of one of the businesses she’d made a stop in. This worker alt does have a cutsie display name, added for my own amusement, but her underlying name of Resident will always brand her as a ‘newbie’. The shop owner IM’d her with this (And I quote exactly) “dontr know why u were here. u give me a bad vibe. Ibanned you”

Maybe she was having a bad day. Maybe she’s just a jerk. And just maybe that newbish ‘Resident’ name unnerved her, as we all live in a world where copybotting and other forms of theft exist. Would I have been banned had Miss Writer paid that short visit? I’ll never know. But I’ll wonder.

I realize that there’s more important things to fix in Second Life. Chat, lag, mesh, viewers, a plethora of to-do’s are constantly on the Linden Lab workpile. But consider this: If the people behind the avatars do not feel a sense of connection, community and pride in their virtual self, are they as likely to contribute in positive ways to our overall experience? How will it feel to forever be a member of Clan Resident – never aging in others eyes, always and forever a newbie, giving off that ‘bad vibe’ to older avatars who may be suspect of their intentions.

All the upgrades in the world can’t give one the sense of pride and belonging that their own name can. Names are powerful, in any reality.

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Lori Alden Holuta lives between the cornfields of Mid-Michigan, where she grows vegetables and herbs when she’s not writing, editing, or playing games with a cat named Chives.


  • GM Nikolaidis

    I could not agree more. My plurk only scratched the surface. You gave a rich and full account of how I feel about resident names. Well said Ceejay 🙂

  • Seraphine

    i was a little disappointed when i had to choose from a list of available last names instead of being able to create my own.
    but having to accept a random name sounds immensely worse.
    i wonder if some people generate successive avatars until they get a name they can live with?

  • xXBryonyXx

    A great post.
    Last names give our avatars character and personality.
    It was fun to have a good range of last names to choose from when I first joined.
    No matter what viewer you use, to me, those poor newer folks don't look as realistic as those of us with two full names.
    It's a shame that the Lindens don't seem to understand these basic concepts.

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