I’m Not As Cool As I Hope I Look
I was playing Mass Effect multiplayer the other night when I had a revelation: most of the people I game with don’t know my real name.
This might not seem like such a big deal; after all, we all go by Twitter handles and gamertags; it’s just the way social networking functions.
The thing is, I consider some of them friends- not just gaming friends, but actual, “I share your problems and you share mine, let’s hold hands and sing Kumbaya” type friends.
You know, the kind of friends that should probably know my goddamn name. After all, I know theirs.
I’d never thought twice about it before. When I’m gaming, I’m simply “Bell”. I answer to it as naturally as I do to my actual name; I kind of prefer it. I like my given name, but the me that wears that name and goes out in public and talks to real people is really bad at socializing. She says the wrong thing to the wrong person at the wrong time; she laughs too loud and takes jokes too far. There is no QA Tester picking those really inappropriate thoughts off the conveyance line between my brain and my mouth.
My best friend calls them “record-scratch” moments- and I’m the Queen of them.
That’s what I like about social networking- when everything is in text, it forces me to take that extra half second to consider whether what I’m about to send into the world really belongs out there. I cancel things before I send them out on a daily basis, simply because once I see them typed out I realize that what I meant isn’t what I said, and what I said makes me look like a total asshole.
“So what exactly is the point of this?” you may be wondering. “You were awkward, you got a keyboard, and now you’re awesome. Have a cookie.” (Thanks. I like cookies.)
The point of this is that now my online life is bleeding over into my real life. My Twitter friends are becoming my XBox friends, my Steam and Origin friends; I’m even planning on meeting some of them in person. I’m starting to actually talk to people instead of typing at them, and it’s kind of terrifying.
I wonder if people will be disappointed when they meet me in person, because I’ll either be too quiet or too loud; I worry that I can’t live up to the picture of myself I’ve painted online, even though the person I am online is more “me” than I usually am in real life.
I’m worried that I’ll accidentally breach some super secret code of Gaming Etiquette that I don’t know exists; that I’ll invite someone to play too many times and look like a creeper or ignore someone’s invitation so many times that I look like an asshole. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve sat staring at my friends list thinking, “Well, I could invite that person to play, but what if they think I’m weird, or what if it’s super awkward and we don’t have anything to talk about but then we’re stuck and the only way I can get out of it is to pretend to go to bed but then I can’t tweet or play games for the rest of the night because I don’t want them to think I ditched them? At that point I might as well actually go to bed. I’m not tired. Fuck.”
I end up not inviting people to play because I don’t want to go to bed. True story.
I kind of view my social skills the same way I do milk that’s been left out for three hours. I know it’s probably going to be okay, but if it’s not okay, it’s going to be REALLY not okay. I might not only embarrass myself; it’s entirely possible that I’ll actually hurt or offend someone without ever meaning to. Looking ridiculous doesn’t really bother me, but the possibility of actually hurting someone because I wasn’t thinking… I’m not okay with that.
I am getting braver, and so far my experiences have been mostly positive. (Although the awkward situations have been damn awkward.)
However, if anyone has a copy of Miss Manner’s Guide to Online Gaming, I’d love to borrow it- and if we play together, don’t be surprised if at first I’m quieter than you expected. It’ll pass, I promise.