Hi, my name is Danko, and I’m an avatar.
I’m not sure when I first heard about virtual reality but I first wrote about it in 1991. From time to time I’d bump into an article about it and I hoped it would be something I could touch in my lifetime but otherwise I never gave it much thought unless somebody brought up the topic at a party but that was rare.
I’d heard of Dungeons and Dragons as far back as the 1970s and I knew it had a following but I really didn’t know what it was. I never got involved in roleplay although I did some acting when I was young. I did a lot of improvisational stuff so I had experienced roleplay though I never thought of it that way at the time.
Flash forward to 2005 or so when I would occasionally come across an article on virtual worlds. This interested me but I didn’t have the time to look into it and I figured there was an amount of gaming expertise involved or tech savvy that I just didn’t have and would not have time to develop. Still, I remained curious.
One day in 2007, my local newspaper had an article about an organization I used to be involved with, getting ready to create a virtual place in something called Second Life. I clipped the article and put it aside, saying to myself, “I’ll bet that will take awhile to get off the ground, so I’m going to give it a few months and then I’m going to find out how to see it, go to it, whatever.” I followed through on that promise to myself.
That’s when my addiction began.
One day I sat down at my computer and googled Second Life, not knowing what was going to happen nor what a life-changing moment this was. I clicked on the button to create an account.
Right off, they wanted you to name your avatar. I wasn’t ready for this! In those days – as many reading this will remember – the way the name selection process worked is that they would give you a list of last names, fifty or so. You had to come up with a first name to go with it and hope that it wasn’t already taken. I just wanted to go in and see what the place looked like, I couldn’t make a decision like this right now!
I scrolled through the list. Didn’t like any of them. Some of them were kinda weird. Some were funny. But I didn’t want a name that would be a joke. (Later, when creating alts, I found out how much fun those names could be!) The only last name that seemed acceptable to me was Whitfield. It wasn’t great but it wasn’t bad. Whitfield.
Okay, now the first name. I didn’t even know where to start. Whitfield was a rather conventional last name so maybe I should pick an unconventional first name. “Maybe I can come up with an unusual last name and make it my first name. A famous person’s last name.” Great idea! Yeah!! To this day I have no idea why but the first person who popped into my head was Rick Danko, the singer and bass player for The Band. Danko Whitfield. Yeah, that sounds good. Didn’t it? I think so, yes. But, of course, I couldn’t use the very first name that popped into my head, I didn’t want to rush into this and later regret it. So I kept thinking. Famous last names I can use as a first name. I thought of only two or three more, then stopped. I kept coming back to Danko Whitfield. It’s pretty good, and I want to get going here, I don’t want to spend all day trying to think of a perfect name. It really is good, isn’t it? You know, I really like that name, Danko Whitfield. Yes! Good idea to take a last name and make it a first name. All right, let’s see now…is it available? Yes! An avatar was born.
I went through the orientation process, as noob as noob could be. First I couldn’t move, then I couldn’t fly, then I got griefed, pushed around, followed, and I didn’t know how to tell the guy to go away. Finally I figured out how to get away from him and I did the other things and then I lit the torch. I never did figure out how to drive the car though. Not that day anyway.
I left the orientation area and went to a help area. Walking around, all proud of my unique name and what a brainstorm it was to come up with it and all excited to see this new world. I grabbed some freebies and asked some questions. And then I saw another guy named Danko! Geez. I hadn’t even been here for an hour!
The next day I returned to the help area…and I saw ANOTHER guy named Danko. Man, my unique name is everywhere! However, I’ve never run into another Danko since. Two in two days, none afterward. What are the odds?!!
Back when it was easy to search such things (yes, I use V3) and I learned how to do it, I found there were nearly 300 people with Danko as their first name in SL. Turns out it is a familiar first name to Serbo-Croatian speakers and others in that part of the world. One day, when I was Mayor of Pine Tree Square, I was puttering around the grounds of my town when a woman spoke to me in a language I did not know. Her sentence started, “Danko!! Danko!!…” and she spoke (in text) a mile a minute until I could stop her. Fortunately she spoke English too but she was from eastern Europe and all excited because she thought she had just met someone from her homeland. She’d never heard of Rick Danko or The Band.
I liked the name from the beginning and my fondness for it has grown even greater over time. But I’ve only met one person who knew right off where the name came from (Hi Robyn!). I used to like to create alts for reasons only a writer would appreciate (I’ll tell you about it sometime). And I’ve created a couple other Dankos along the way.
There’s Danko Afterthought, whom I created as soon as the name Afterthought hit the SL lists. It was too funny to pass up. (Robyn, I remember how hard you laughed when you first met Danko Afterthought at Fred’s and saw his name! It was worth the trouble right there.) Mr. Afterthought became my secretary when I was first appointed Winterfell’s Ambassador. He has continued to serve me in that capacity.
Mr. Afterthought’s current SL profile reads in part: “Secretary to the formerly rich and famous. In particular, Mr. Danko Whitfield. Currently assisting him in the writing of his memoirs and other lost causes. Yes, we have the same first name. We have heard all of the jokes, thank you. All of them. Really.”
When I recently opened an account in Avination, I was a bit surprised to find that they use that same old SL name selection process. By this point, I’m used to picking whatever name I want when I create a new av, so here I was again – as I was five years earlier – trying to come up with a good name when I really just wanted to get the account created and get in there and see what the place looked like.
But wait! As I’m looking around the Avination website I see that SLers can keep their SL av’s name. Nice! You have to pick a name from their list first and create the account. Then you follow the instructions on their website and you log into Second Life – really! – and you go to one of the Avination terminals in SL and follow the instructions there.
Sounded too good to be true, so I assumed it was. I assumed that – as has happened to me sooo many times in the world of virtual worlds – I would follow the instructions to the letter but the darn thing wouldn’t work. Even before I started this process I was grumbling to myself about what a waste of time it was going to be.
So, as a precaution, I decided to pick a name from their list that I would be happy with in case I got stuck with it. I recognized this list of last names or at least I thought I did. It seemed like this was an actual list from the old days of SL. Probably it wasn’t but it sure looked familiar. Some popular SL names of the same era were there.
I was definitely going to use Danko as the first name, no matter what. One of the last names on the list was Writer. Danko Writer. That’s perfect! I am a writer and it sounds good too. Okay, if I get stuck with this name, it won’t be so bad. Danko Writer it is!
I followed the process and logged Danko Whitfield into Second Life, keeping the Avination website handy on another window so I could get the slurls for their terminals.
The first two places I visited to make the switch were trouble. No terminal at the spot the slurl left me at. It was obvious the slurls were out of date as one of them delivered me to the inside of a wall. Now I’m looking all around these stores for the Avination terminal, giving up, trying the next one. Finally, bingo! Found one.
I followed the instructions at the terminal. It didn’t work. I knew it. I repeated the process – on the Avination website and at their terminal in SL – and after a few tries, success! The name change showed up on my Avination account page. So I logged Danko Whitfield out of SL and logged Danko Whitfield into Avination. Eureka!
I looked around a bit then left it for the next day. I went back in to SL to chill at my cabin in Winterfell. And then I start thinking what a cool name Danko Writer is. I have too many alts in SL already. No, not gonna do it. No need.
That decision lasted for a day or two. Then, there I was creating Danko Writer in SL. Turns out somebody already had the name though they don’t show up in search. But these days that is not a problem. I made a new SL account and changed his name to Danko Writer. Bought the skin, shape, eyes, hair and a new set of duds. Done. He’s hanging out in my bar as I write this.
As I mentioned above, I used to be the Winterfell Ambassador. Loved that job. Loved the RP involved. Loved being called Ambassador. Then I took a homestead in Winterfell and called it Evergreen. The way the game is played in the Steamlands and related territories, that made me the Duke of Evergreen. I preferred being called Ambassador to Your Grace but it was pretty cool to be addressed as the Duke from time to time.
Writers get silly ideas quite often. It hit me one day that I could create my own griefer for my homestead. An alt who would make fun of the Duke and hang around Evergreen for no good reason. A court jester of sorts. After all, I was living in a castle. So I created an alt whose profile bio read:
“Official Griefer and Court Jester of Winterfell Evergreen and His Grace, The Duke of Evergreen.”
His name? Wanko Dickfield.
I got a lot of mileage out of that, cracking up my friends with the whole bizzare notion of creating your own griefer and then the silly name I gave him. And I wrote a couple pieces for my RP blog about him as well.
Now that I had two alts named after my first one and another who is sort of a parody of my main av, another silly idea hit. I could start a law firm or accounting firm or some kind of agency called: Danko, Danko, Danko & Wanko.
So I did, of course. A group by that name now exists in Second Life. The group charter says they are consultants. Lord help anyone who hires them.
related stories on my RP blog…