It hardly seems relevant now, but that’s never stopped me in the past – one of the key elements I totally forgot to refer to in the Arcade Gaming story was the 3-letter-nicknames thing! As with most computer games, arcade games always had a High Score table – the difference between the modern setup and the games I was reminiscing about is that whilst nowadays you’re accommodated with lots of space to write your name in, back in The Old Days you were afforded a fairly mean 3 character limit. The philosophy was obviously that you were meant to put your initials in, no doubt geared on by the limited RAM storage space available in those days, and also the fact that – given the mentality of your target audience – it would have been suicide to offer four letters.
Some of the bowling kids actually used their initials – Tristan always put TJH, Kirsty was KJM, Daniel cunningly used DAN. There was a dude called Serge whose dad used to run the trophy shop up the road (if you’re gonna run a trophy shop – put it near a sporting venue or 2. Good business practice) who eschewed initials and went straight for GOD. This seemed a little bit too self-glorifying for my taste.
The earliest 3 letter sobriquet I remember adopting was ACE – at the tender age of 8 or 9 this seemed to make perfect sense, as my Dad and several of his mates (unofficial uncles, I guess) called me “Jase the Ace”. So ACE I was for a fair while, until one day at the bowling alley I was watching one of the Big Kids playing… errm… Bombjack, maybe?… when he finished up by putting ACE into the score table. In order to clear up any misunderstandings, I piped up and said “But, I always put ACE in when I get a high score” – however the lad was quite swift to set me straight on who was who around here: “No. I’M ACE”.
I knew that ZOZ and BIT were out of the question, having previously been claimed by my mate Alex B and his brother Andrew. In fact, having just googled ZOZ out of curiosity, it seems that he’s still very much known as ZOZ. We’d also proven on many arcade consoles that BUM was out of the question – second-guessed by prudish game producers this Forbidden Code was often set back to AAA, with an accompanying ticking off message. Equally unsuccessfull was ASS, although for some reason to the Australian adolescent this lacked the sophistication and draw of BUM.
You could contrive other swearwords too, such as KOK, NOB, DIC, etc. but it provided me with all the satisfaction of making up words in Scrabble. I mean, you might get a good score with a word like “coomy”, but ultimately you know you’ve cheated.
For a while I tried ZAX, but it never seemed to fit right. Sticking with infrequently used letters I briefly gave TYX a shot – but again, not being a real word lent the whole thing an air of trying too hard.
I might add that my brother Tim had had the foresight to have a 3 letter name to start with, so that was a bit of a no brainer. And an odd source for fraternal jealousy.
I thought I’d hit paydirt one day whilst playing Wizball on the Commodore 64 at home one day, realising that WIZ was a pretty cool contraction which was a widely-recognised and therefore not too wanky sounding construction. Unfortunately this moniker was disputed too by my mate Alex S, who started claiming WIZ as his own (I still maintain that he hadn’t, as I’d have bloody well seen him do it).
Having gotten to this point I briefly struggled to remember what it was I settled on, but it’s just come back to me: DOC. The whole concept’s a bit stupid now I think of it, because despite the amount of money I funnelled into those damn games I don’t recall scoring particuarly highly on most of them.
Were you to ask me now to come up with a 3 letter combination to represent my name, I think I’d either opt for JBS (having reached peace with my personal nomenclature), or – more than likely – caught up in the adolescent mental attitude that video games conjure up for me, snigger a bit and then key in WNK, before furtively darting away feeling pleased with myself.