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Gaming Identity, Part I

Looking back on my memories of the late 1980s and early 1990s, I remember opening the Nintendo Entertainment System in my grandparents home on Christmas Day. I did not know at the time how much of an impact and bond video games would have on my life and how it would lead to me creating the persona of Dalan Azelas that you know today. For almost the entire length of my childhood, I spent some amount of time on a daily basis sitting in front of the television playing some game console. The time I spent playing was an escape from the painful loneliness I experienced from living in the countryside outside of town and being a subject of bullying.

When I wasn't playing video games, I was outside playing on our 10-acre plot of land that was surrounded by vineyards. The property line to the north was a winding creek to where I would find myself pretending to be Mega Man, Link, Mario, and a Pokémon trainer. By the time I was in high school, I had been introduced to the Final Fantasy series. The ninth installment was my first and I began to take a deeper interest in the lore of the worlds I was playing in. Various fantasy book series also aided in that interest.

After returning from my mission, I found myself at college around the time the Playstation 3 was the hot item. One of my roommates asked me if I played any multiplayer games, especially online. I never had as my Internet at home was still dial-up, so that wouldn't have worked out. But soon I found myself playing Call of Duty with my friends at university under the name of "painted_jewel".

It seemed to be an odd choice, but it was my email address that I had created when I got home from serving the Lord. I was going to school for art and design, and I thought it was unique. I soon didn't like the name for gaming purposes and quickly replaced it with a name based on a naming convention at work.

The company I worked for while going to school thought it would be fun to name our computers on the network after Greek Gods. I wanted something not in the norm, so I landed on the god of the west wind, Zephyrus. With this name and the age at which I started to really get into online gaming, I became zephyrus23.

This worked out well for me as it was unique and I was able to create accounts with no worry about it being taken. This worked for me for a few years, but then I had my first encounter with an MMO in the form of Guild Wars 2. I had never considered the prospect of having one or more characters in a game where I would be spending hundreds of hours in. I suddenly was overwhelmed with an identity complex. It bothered me that I had created several characters with no way for friends and guild-mates to know who was the man behind the character. I felt compelled to take a step back and define a system for myself. My mind kept wandering back to Final Fantasy. The series had such an impact on me that wanted to honor it. And I also wanted to keep to being unique—I had already seen one too many Cloud Strife related users and characters. Final Fantasy XII had one of the best stories that I enjoyed. The character Vossler Azelas was noble and Old Dalan was wise and witty. So I took those and made Dalan Azelas (which to this date has only been recognized in reference by five people).

I set about renaming my characters in game, all with first names of Dalan and then last names of my creative choosing to fit the class of the character. At the same time I also started playing games that were starting to do things that featured more account-wide based game play, so I was prepared to use the "family name" of Azelas (and in the stance that I need to add numbers to the account name, 23 came in handy). It wasn't until the last two years that I began to think a little more deeply about my online persona. I was really starting to get into LDSG and noticed how some of our notable members had a theme going with their name and avatar. Dalan Azelas really didn't mean anything and didn't really have a theme. So I returned the memories of the creek at my childhood home.

The creek was a place of solitude and reflection for me. The sounds of nature; the swaying of the trees along the creek bed. In summer the creek was dry. In winter the waters would often overflow the banks. It was magical. I loved magic. Druids had a connection to nature and magic.

I often found myself playing archer/ranger classes in video games, druids seemed to be a natural fit. The first time I played Dungeons & Dragons, I rolled a druid. And then it dawned on me that druids are usually associated with the British Isles, the land of my ancestors. I had spent a lot of time doing family history the last several years filling in the gaps. Northern Ireland, Scotland, Cornwall, and north-west England. I was beginning to feel a connection to my characters on a deeper level. Their lore was the lore of my heritage (a word that will play a part later).

My roots also can be traced into Germany and Denmark. In fact, my Danish lines are the ones that work with my Northern Ireland lines to find themselves as Mormon pioneers. These same pioneers ended up helping build the Manti temple and now lay in that same temple's shadow waiting for the Second Coming. These same lines also started connecting me to people in LDSG (with Orrin Jello being my 4th cousin!).

Dalan Azelas was starting to become someone with a purpose. And it was when it dawned on me that the Danes were vikings, that my attention turned to runes. The Othalan ethel o, or ᛟ, has the mean of "heritage, estate". It was easy to adopt this runic symbol into a branding element.

I was now at a point where I could put all the pieces together and finish it with the color purple to symbolize royalty, a color with special meaning within my family. Embellishments of lightning came from druidic spells (which also happen to tie-in nicely with Freshbeast). Finally, Dalan Azelas is fully realized and will be an investment for the rest of my life.

In my next article, I plan to share how basic graphic design principles can help you better form your identity and avatar into more than just a gamer tag.

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