Milfhunter by any other name would smell as sweet.
Cast your mind back to 2009. You’re immersed in an immensely high-stakes game of Call of Duty’s Modern Warfare 2, as you get gatted from behind, your assailant sprints over to your body, to the victor go the spoils: a deft teabag. That’s all that needs to be done, because his gamertag does the rest of the work. Like a Hitman, he slips a business card to you during a farewell handshake. You pull your hand back and through the blood stains you make out “You have been killed by xXLegitWeed420Xx.” Nigh on a decade later, as another Warzone game ends with you departing this world into the great beyond, you stop for a moment to watch DatCush2Nasty’s exploits after the kill, you may reflect on how little has changed.
A gamertag is no small thing. It is an identifier, it is your way of calling out to the world “Here I am, eat shit.” I think, and have thought for some time, that not enough credit is given to those with good gamertags and not enough weight goes into the creation of them. My first venture into online gaming was with a Sony PS3, fresh out the box. I was fresh out my youth and firmly a teenager, with such a well-developed adolescent brain I knew I should steer clear of a name that had any aspirations to be epic because I would come to regret it in a few years time when it was no longer epic and tastes had changed, time and tide wait for no man. A lame gamertag would make me cringe and leave me a prime target for ridicule for years, my friend TERMOWILL is a good example, as is a mate who, in a frenzy of excitement, changed their gamertag to IHateOnNoobs, having to eat a lot of stick and the £10 fee for changing it again within 24 hours. With that in mind, I plumped for the appropriately milquetoast moniker of Cali_G_21, later adapted to CallumRG21 when I moved to the greener pastures of XboxOne. These names were safe, they were steady. My name and a few letters and numbers would do the job of identifying me for years to come. What I failed to see was that, with real maturity and the realisation that you are in control of your image, a name you thought was cringe becomes a badge of pride, that you relish with each log-on. TERMOWILL still wears that iconic tag and takes with it the accolade of best gamertag in the group and, more importantly, my respect. Funny how it goes.
In 2017, when I got into competitive Super Smash Bros. Melee, it was a second chance for me. In the Melee community, when you pick a tag, it is no longer just a faceless name online, you have to walk around in real places around real people and justify that tag to people that may ask, wearing it loud and proud, some people that I met in my time, Nep, Setchi, Jeans, I refer to by their tag over their first name. I realised recently that, in the case of Jeans, who I have known for almost two years now, still follow on Twitter (@LiquidJeans) and would consider a friend, I actually don’t even know his first or last name. In Melee, a tag is as close as most people ever get to creating a new name for themselves. I felt the pressure of this, I had a blank canvas to draw my new persona on, but the tag needed to be cool, it needed to be iconic and memorable, and it needed to have a good backstory behind it. The last requirement was the one that really tripped me up, having not been forged in the fires of early online gaming, I had no legacy name to use, and while others gained their nickname from all sorts of avenues that came naturally, I was stuck. I ummed and ahhed for months over this while I was stuck in the deep west of Wales and only able to go to a 4-man local once a month. When I ventured to the big city for a 60-man tournament, it was time to commit and I became cemented as Hutz (or so I thought, but more on that later). The genesis of this was simply that Lionel Hutz was my favourite Simpsons character and I thought it was simple and cool enough. As I became to get more involved and meet more people in the community, people really started to call me Hutz, it became my name more than I ever thought it would, despite me not really caring. I would always be embarrassed when telling people the reason behind my tag but eventually became numb to it as it stuck. An escape was offered when, in the grips of a tag crisis, a lad from the discord going by the name of Buttnose offered to donate £5 to a charity of my choice if I rocked the tag gorillamaster for a full year. I wore that tag happily for the allotted time and when that year was up, my interest in the Melee community had faded. This brought a new kind of freedom, if I only go to one or two tournaments a year, I could use them as opportunities to express myself and just have a laugh with it. I was freed from the pressure and realised there is nothing in a name, it’s only as important as you let it be. A ranked player in the UK that went by Kid+ dropped that tag to become Beau, I’d long been shouting from the rooftops that Kid+ was the best tag in the country and was willing to die on that hill, so when he dropped it, I picked up the fumble and ran it home for the touchdown. He vacated the tag, it’s legal, it’s mine now, possession is 9/10ths of the law. Haven’t been to any tournaments since this because of the global pandemic but I salivate at the the thought of people getting confused and annoyed thinking they have to play Kid+ only for me to turn up with a smug grin on my face and my terrible Falco ready to get destroyed after they had prepared for a much bigger challenge. This isn’t the end for my Melee tags, after tournaments are back I have many ideas for tags to cycle through at the fastest rate allowable my Smash.gg. I can be whoever I want, for as long as I want, my life is what I make of it.
I credit a part of this thinking about tags to the Ludwig and Slime Show that ran towards the end of my interest in Melee. Their segment of tag ratings for $10, where they brutally reviewed and adapted tags of loyal patrons awoke the realisation that there was so much to tags that I had never considered. A tag that works on a big fat legend might not on a meek, weak-willed child, and that’s just life. I thought Branspeed was such a sick tag until I realised his name was actually Brandon and it wasn’t just a combination of bran-based cereal and speed. One famous part of that show that always stuck with me was that they reviewed the tag of a certain Lukewarmtoast, were fairly scathing in their thoughts on it and suggest he just cut off the “lukew” and he only went and bloody did it. As far as I know, that man is still marauding twitch chats under the name of Armtoast. I’m actually not sure whether it is even a capital A, but that brings me nicely to another point: Tags should have proper grammar (unless they shouldn’t). If you are rocking up with a lower case h in hutz for no reason, you look like an idiot, like who is this fucker that doesn’t even care enough to be a proper noun? But if you embrace that side of your name, it can become glorious, I always insisted on a lower case g for gorillamaster, it just felt so right. There are a few other examples of this where leaning into the Xbox Liveness of it just makes it so perfect. I heard once of a pro gamer in the mists of Scotland who goes by ScrubKilla, which is one of the most boss tags of all time, now imagine if that guy made himself Scrub Killer, no one would even want to know him. The epitome of this is Gym5hark, usually numbers being subbed in for letters is a no go for me, but under the face of a meaty gym lad, that 5 feels right at home.
To round this out, I feel that it’s worth saying, in an era of instant gratification, gamertags are becoming more topical and less permanent. I don’t fucking know who Carole Baskin is, but that week she was in the news, I saw at least a dozen Carole Baskins killing me and my friends on Warzone. The modern landscape of gaming means that gamertags are more fleeting than ever. I can log on to the Activision and change my Warzone name right now for free if I want. But I won’t. Because it’s IOnlyShootPaedos and that feels bad to die to. While there will always be names to be proud of and to fear, I think you should embrace the opportunity that is always there to tear it up and go for a fresh one, what’s in a name?
As a special treat for you for getting to the end, here is a list I have kept of my favourite gamertags I, or my friends, have encountered in online gaming over the past couple of years. Warning, some may only be funny to UK-based readers. And before you read ahead, I want you to imagine someone getting really mad and screaming over the mic that they died to the people below:
Robert McGabe (It is unknown whether this is an intentional or accidental misspelling or Robert Mugabe)
Plus U White
Philmitchell283 & Philmitchell723
Slopy Jimbo (Presumably intended to be Sloppy Jimbo, but pronounced exclusively Slopey Jimbo)
I am Pepsi Cola
RIP Pagy Cake (This one needs a lot of context, watch this lame Superdry advert and remember that this gamertag both gets her name wrong and neglects the fact that she is still alive)
Follow me on Twitter @CallumRG21 in case I ever write again, if not, I always have decent tweets.