The GamerTag Series -- Part 1: Trends in Gamer Identity
- By: CM Boots-Faubert
- Posted 24th Apr 2012
Breaking Into the Persona Business
Over the course of the past six years -- according to Dean ever since she received her Sociology degree from Goldsmith's and began to build the boutique business that paid for the flat that she owns and her lifestyle -- she worked very hard to maintain her position at the top of the game.
That translates to following the current trends in online play and social interaction, pursuing many of the same activities that her clients do -- or pretend to -- and maintaining her knowledge of what is cool -- and what is not -- in the always changing maelstrom of the online realm.
She began her career -- and established her reputation -- prior to finishing school during what she jokingly terms her "Persona Consultant" days, when she worked for considerably lower fees and largely for a less affluent clientele whose reasons for contracting her services were very different than those of her current clients.
Dean avoided accepting clients from her own school -- the University of London -- because of the need to distance herself from the client, who she admits are a lot easier to deal with when there is very little chance that you actually know them socially or are likely to. Mostly the clientele from her first forays into the business came from UAL, the Imperial College, Brunel, and QMU, people who had specific goals in mind when they sought out her skills that, she quickly points out, were largely a set of services that very little resembles what she does today.
In simple terms back then it was a rather crude process; not at all like it is today. But then there is so much today that did not exist then, and it was a pursuit that lacked nuance -- there wasn't even Facebook ot Twitter to be leveraged she points out. "Those were the Dark Ages of persona crafting; nobody even thought of a GamerTag then while today it is the very foundation of what we do; it is where we begin," she explains, a small smile flitting on and then off again -- as if a switch had been lightly brushed, suggesting that in spite of the denigration she aims at those earlier, simpler times, there just might be some elements to them that she misses.
The average fee for a Persona Design package? $1,000 -- but there's an App for that too! Gamer Tag Generator will generate a tag for you for a lot less, but you have to figure out the rest on your own...
Half the Clientele are Just Gamers . . .
When she made the leap to professional Persona Designer a little over five years ago Dean says that almost all of her clients were gamers of varying skill levels who just wanted to be able to control the way that they were perceived online, and enjoy the measure of respect that is paid to established gamers with demonstrated skill.
"Basically you can only tolerate being called a 'newb' so many times before you get sick of it, and that schoolyard mentality that you find online still exists," Dean points out. "Is it really all that surprising to find that gamers who can afford it would rather have a persona built for them that allows them to avoid all of that pettiness and be treated as an equal in the game lobbies that they choose to enter?"
For most of that type of client part of their problem was that, like most gamers, they approached the online world too casually. Perhaps they picked a gaming 'nym (pseudonym) that was to obscure or only meant something to their close friends, or they picked the wrong games to play early on and that forever cast the die on their newbie status...
"In the 90's in MUD's and later in MMO's there was a type of player that you called a 'Twink' who basically got their higher-level mates to power-level them so that they obtained levels that they did not deserve. Getting branded a twink was the kiss-of-death in those social environments," Dean says. "In the world of console gaming the same situation exists, but it is particular game titles that get you branded a Twink -- and if a gamer has already knocked off the 1000 G from games like Peter Jackson's King Kong, Avatar: The Burning Earth, Fight Night: Round 3, some of the Madden games where you could have the game play itself, and a bunch of EA Sports titles -- the list is actually pretty long -- but once you have more than one of those games in your Achievement list and you have it unlocked, you are pretty much a Twink.
"Add to that certain other games or a lot of games with just one or two Achievements unlocked and then it is clear that you gave up, and that is just as bad," Dean points out. "You cannot rehabilitate a persona that has that much negativity stacked up against it; the only solution is to start over fresh, but hire me to make sure you do it right this time!"
. . . The other Half are Somebodies Parents
Today things are a lot different, starting with the fact that half the clientele that seeks out Persona Designers are no longer gamers, but the parents of gamers.
Statistically the likelihood that a significant percentage of her clientele -- particularly the middle-aged mothers whose persona are requested and engineered to permit them to pass freely within the online communities to which their young adult children belong -- are not always honest in stating their reasons for seeking out the services of persona designers is a given in that business.
It is not so much that the people who construct persona out of the whole cloth do not trust their clientele, but rather a simple acknowledgment that total honesty is rare; especially online, and people rarely tell her everything, even when it can help them to better achieve the goals that they are seeking and that brought them to her.
"I have heard that a lot of criminal defense attorneys never actually ask their client if they did it, because knowing the answer can restrict their ability to serve the client. I completely understand that operative protocol," Dean admits.
According to a source that we cultivated to verify much of what we were learning in the process of researching this piece -- a source we will call 'Jackson' from here on and who is professionally engaged in a career as a persona designer and so prefers to remain anonymous -- there is a dark side to their profession that is not openly discussed even among designers and the related professionals who they often refer clients to after they have completed their work with them. It is an open secret if you will -- that designers like Dean try not to closely examine the motives of their clients, because knowing why the client wants to create a new digital persona can often interfere with the process and the doing of it.