As the years have gone by, the Console Wars have continued unabated between the Big 3: Nintendo, Sony, and Microsoft. As online play becomes more and more ubiquitous, so too does the embarrassment and shame of being a trans person whose username does not match who they are now. To many people, this would seem a minor detail; nobody really knows who you are online, so what does it matter if your username is KyleTheRat26? But for those of us who have to look at usernames with the wrong genders, which we cannot change, it is a constant reminder of a past we are usually trying to forget.
Currently, you can change an Xbox gamertag once per account for free, and can purchase more changes should you need them. Nintendo online play is typically based around your Mii, and you can change your Mii and the name associated with your Mii very easily (and, no offense Nintendo, but most of your games offer no real way to connect with players through the game’s interface anyway, so it’s often unlikely anyone but the player in question will even see their username—and thus, it’s largely a moot point). But Sony has yet to grasp onto this relatively simple concept, and offers no way to change your name once you have already created an account. The solution they propose is to just make a new PSN account, but since most PSN online features require you to subscribe to PlayStation Plus, this would mean having to buy a new subscription, having to refriend everyone on your list, and re-earning every trophy and achievement in all of your titles. It would mean having to start over almost every game you own just to get a new name. It’s unlikely that this article will reach Sony, but I felt it was my responsibility to try, on behalf of all of us trans gamers who just want to feel comfortable online. For a lot of us, online is the only place we can even express who we are inside, and it’s hard to do that when you cannot change your username to reflect that. It is difficult enough to get a legal name change processed in the real world, so why must it be so complicated on the net?
A lot of people will probably notice that I’ve only mentioned consoles here, and that’s because PC gaming has had this figured out since basically forever. Steam is the largest and most notable gaming network on PC, and you can change your username, profile picture, biography, gender, and so on at any time, even multiple times a day, with no consequence. Battle.net is the next largest network I can think of, and each account has one free name change, the same as Xbox Live. Perhaps the only PC exception to this rule is most MMOs, but considering the nature of MMOs, where making multiple characters and accounts is commonplace, it feels like they pose less a danger of misgendering than other formats.
But of course, all these platforms are only online games. Singleplayer titles across all systems, be they PC or console or handheld, do not often offer any chance to change your name or gender once you’ve started a game. For some games, this makes little difference—in something like Earthbound, for example, you will always play as the same red-hatted PSI kid, and his canonical name will be the same no matter what name you assign him. But for a game like Pokemon, this can be very frustrating. I’ve been an avid Pokemon player for years—since many years before I came out—and once I was out and tried to get back into Pokemon Black, I had to put the game down again almost immediately. I couldn’t take seeing my deadname and an avatar that reflected someone I wasn’t anymore. Classic Pokemon games didn’t have online content (and thus no way to offload your Pokemon either), but with the advent of Pokemon Bank on the 3DS, I was thankfully at least able to transfer all my years of collected Pokemon and restart the game. But all my progress in the title was lost, and although my avatar and name now reflect who I am, it is still a struggle to get back into the game I lost so much work on. Regardless, I suspect that an appeal to change singleplayer titles would be largely unsuccessful; so many games require you to character-build that developers would probably find it counterproductive to allow gender and name changes later in your quest. But I hope that an appeal to the one online system that hasn’t allowed for name changes will at least accomplish something, even if it just gets more trans gamers together to organize and talk to Sony about this issue.
Art by Jun Joestar.