It is my belief that the usernames we all choose when traversing and interacting with the Internet—no matter how seemingly plain or absurd they are—betray important parts of who we are and what has shaped us. At the very least, that’s how it is for the series of nine alphanumeric characters, “RedStripe118,” that has been my calling card the last several years.
Pardon how dramatic it sounds, but there isn’t a much better way to put it; this name is the product of a bit of personal history.
That hasn’t always been my username, however. At the beginning of it all, when I turned thirteen and decided that was the time when I’d finally sign up on some forums, starting with the one for gaming magazine GamePro’s website, the things I had been most into were a bit different than now.
One of the biggest ones: Halo: Combat Evolved, which I wholeheartedly loved. I would constantly replay missions from the campaign, especially the ones where vehicles played a major part. When I came across videos where people would stack bunches of grenades under Warthogs and blow them up, sending the Warthogs flying to absurd heights, I started replicating such feats for shits and giggles.
I was so into it, in fact, that I even read some of the earliest Halo novels, chief among them Eric Nylund’s prequel story The Fall of Reach. That was where I found out that the Spartan supersoldier protagonist known only by his military rank, Master Chief, had a more specific name and designation: John-117.
From here, we enter the inner workings of a budding teenager’s mind, trying to figure out what their GamePro username should be. I’m huge into Halo, so it’s gotta be related to that. And I’ve obviously gotta be a Spartan if that’s where I’m taking things. So what would my number be? Well, it can’t be 117, because that’s Master Chief’s number, and I would not dare steal that from him. So I’ll just go with the next best number!
Hence, my first username: spartan118
That ended up being my online name of choice whenever I signed up for new sites and forums, but eventually, I came upon a site where that name was unavailable for use because someone had already taken it. It was tragic; with my ownership of the name stripped away, what is the point of using it anywhere else anymore?? It bears mentioning, for dignity’s sake, I was still a teen when this happened.
So I rued never to use spartan118 again. My immediate replacement was one of my parents’ nicknames for me, Jaybelluski. Looking back at it in retrospect, I’m not sure if they chose it just because of how it rolled off the tongue, or if it was, in fact, supposed to be a stealthy riff on John Belushi.
In any case, it stayed my username of choice for the next couple of years.
Now it’s 2008. I just moved into a single dormitory as an incoming college freshman, during the week before the fall semester’s classes began. The school called it Welcome Week, chock full of various activities meant to get us newcomers acclimated to the campus and meet some of our fellow students. On one of those nights was the Boardwalk Bash.
It was basically an indoor fair held in the campus’ cafeteria space, with a number of different forms of entertainment, including a few video game stations. The main draw, where I was concerned, was a full-instrument setup for everyone to play Rock Band; this was during the peak of the American music game phenomenon, so it was HUGE at the time. I played it a lot at home on the Playstation 2, but only solo for the most part, so playing with others was something new that I looked forward to.
It hit that spot very well. In fact, my time on the plastic instruments was where I met one of my first and best friends (now girlfriend) at college, Sandra. She hung out a lot at the Rock Band station as well, and based on how she was wearing one of those black-and-white game shirts with the logos for the instruments, this evidently had to be her main reason for being at this not-at-a-Boardwalk Bash as well.
When the event had just about wrapped up, she came up to me, and we gave each other props on our skills. At this moment, I followed my immediate first instinct, and mentioned to her that I had a full Rock Band setup—plus one of the track packs along with the main game—in my dorm as well, and if she wanted, we could play some more songs there. She agreed!
That was where our friendship started, and as freshman year continued onward, Rock Band dorm sessions—both between us as with our larger circle of friends—were a frequent occurrence. Where Sandra and I were concerned, our plastic instrument camaraderie developed to a point where we began joking that we were a musical duo, and we called ourselves White Stripes. Lack of the “The” in “The White Stripes” intentional.
And each of us even went by different pseudonyms! Sandra was White Stripe. I was Red Stripe.
Eventually—most likely when I joined Twitter at the behest of my college friends—I deemed myself in the market for a username to replace Jaybelluski. At that point, there really was only one thing it could be.
And that’s what RedStripe118 is. A crucial piece of my teenage self and his gaming and Internet histories, along with a phrase that most concisely signified the friends and shenanigans that college-aged me cherished.
Just a string of six letters and three numbers, but a string that is mine.