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Why esports needs to ditch online aliases

Gaming handles may not be holding esports back now, but it can only harm the scene in the future.

Is it MadLife, Dendi, and HuK? Or is it Hong Min-gi, Danylo Ishutin, and Chris Loranger? Is the Team Solomid filled with Dyrus, TheOddOne, Bjergsen, WildTurtle, and Xpecial? Or do Marcus Hill, Brian Wyllie, Søren Bjerg, Jason Tran, and Alex Chu make up the squad?

It’s time we stopped clinging to our pro player’s online handles and embraced their real names.

Sure, a lot of these players have been using their nicknames for years as they’ve risen to prominence in their respective games. But as the scene continues to grow and become a massive and unstoppable force in the world of video games, the use of real names for professionals will only help it to grow.

Let’s talk about League of Legends. Yes, it’s the biggest esport - and arguably the biggest game - in the world right now. Yes, its competitive scene is more in the limelight than any other game in history. And yet, those who are not familiar with esports know next to nothing about it.

By comparison, take a look at American football, basketball, and baseball. Those of you who aren’t into the more professional sports, think for a second of how many players you can name from those three sports. I guarantee, if you think hard enough, you can probably come up with a dozen or so active players. More if you count more famous, retired players.

Now go ahead and ask a gamer who isn’t into esports how many professional League of Legends, Dota 2, and StarCraft 2 players they can name. I bet they mumble something about an article they read about Ocelote recently and then mention Fatal1ty.

You could write that difference of history. Obviously, esports is incredibly new to the competitive game scene in comparison to those sports. The community is still very much going through its adolescent growing pains stage, while traditional sports have had more or less the entirety of human history to develop.

Have you heard the phrase “Fake it until you make it”? By holding on so desperately to these nicknames, esports isn’t faking anything. It’s holding onto a practice previously necessitated by the need for anonymity on the internet. That need secrecy, for pro players, is obsolete. In fact, it’s detrimental.

Basically, we should be able to get to know our professional players. We know them by aliases, not by their real names. It may seem like a small distinction, but when we’re talking about a player’s personality broadcasting to millions of people, it makes a difference.

When most people are using their real name on social media, they act much more like you would in real life. The same concept applies here. By using gamertags as public names, we’re setting a standard that these names are much more important than real ones. As a result, it becomes culturally acceptable to hide behind these fake names. The message, albeit subtle, is that it’s okay to not take responsibility for your own actions, because it’s not you acting poorly, it’s your online avatar.

Thing of it like this: Much like professional wrestlers, pro esports players have personas. The first public image that people get of that persona is their name. Rather than allowing themselves to speak as a real person, they’re becoming characters. We only get overblown, simplified elements of who these people are. The cockiness of Doublelift. The cold blooded Flash. Scumbag Krepo.

These aren’t people, these are characters. And in order for esports to attain a greater longevity, we need to get to know these guys as human beings. We need to know our players.

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