On September 1st I retired the brand and personal identity I’d been using since September of 2010. I’d adopted the name “Jack” in Japan over a dare made between myself and another English instructor where we would introduce ourselves by names of our choosing and see how long we could keep doing it. The name stuck, and I went as far as adopting it as an official alias on my personal identification. It was a fascinating experiment, and I learned how malleable names could be. Unfortunately, it wasn’t really my name, at least not so far as the name my parents had decided on, and while there are pros and cons and reams of discussion around the power of claiming a name for oneself, my new name never truly sat right with me. Oh, sure, I conditioned myself to respond to it, but there was always a nagging sense of doubt whenever I used it.
The Dark Acre name has a simple origin: in 2002 I decided that I was going to save enough money from teaching English to return to Canada and buy a farm. I started researching agriculture, and the name came to me one day while I was poring over books on cultivating practices. I would abandon that dream once I learned of the tremendous amount of labor involved in farming, but the name stuck. I bought a website and used it as a personal blog for years until I graduated from Vancouver Film School’s Game Design program in 2010 and found myself foolishly incorporating and thus requiring a trade name. Thus, Dark Acre became an official entity, and adding the alias Jack to the end of it just felt right.
Dark Acre Game Development failed in 2015, but I hung on to the brand because I felt that I’d spent so much of my time and energy building it up that it would be foolish to let it go. It would then take me eight years to realize that I had chained myself to the rotting corpse of a failed dream, and that in whatever I did or wherever I went online, I would be on some level reminded of that failure.
I don’t know how I came to this realization. Perhaps my inner resilience was such that I’d been able to stave off the worst of the effects of clinging to my past that it took as long as it did to penetrate my consciousness. I can be stubborn in that regard. Whatever the case, thirteen years to the day, I woke up and reclaimed my birth name, Christopher Magnus Øvringmo Nilssen. Fixing my online identity took longer; there are still remnants of it lurking in various accounts across the web, but for the most part the prime movers have all been reassigned from “Dark Acre Jack” to “CMON1975”.
I was told in the first year of my indie game development career that the best move that a creator could make was to brand themself under their own name. I think this is sound advice. Adopting aliases creates a kind of shield, in the same way that a corporation does, and in doing so establishes a barrier between the product and genuineness. As I ready myself for a life of professional creative writing, I feel much stronger for reclaiming—and proclaiming—my true name.
I’m trying hard to think of a time in my life where a friend got in touch with me with the intent of doing something with me. There surely must have been such an occasion, but as I reel back through the years in my mind, I am hard pressed to come up with one. It feels like I’ve always been the initiator, the one to go knocking on neighborhood kids’ doors and ask if they’re home, if they want to come out and play. The one to acquire phone numbers, make calls and plans, and dutifully show up on time. The one to make suggestions, to ride the liquid lightning fear of rejection that streaks through the pregnant pauses while waiting for affirmations of my hastily flung RSVPs.
Such a realization—or at least “line of introspection”—could be enough to make a man wonder if maybe he wasn’t all that interesting. That I was unpleasant to be around; not enough to warrant outright avoidance but to bear a grudging acceptance when cornered into a playdate.
I don’t think this is the case. I think that, in most cases, events of friendship are the result of alignments of convenience. When the timing is right, and schedules are open, and there are no higher priorities for time above sitting down to a coffee with another human being, arrangements can be made. This is much easier when we are young and free from most obligation, and as our lives progress it only becomes increasingly complicated by work, family, physical and mental ailments, and so forth. It reaches a point where it’s a miracle if one manages to squeeze a little time out of an acquaintance.
It’s a shame because I would rather enjoy having some steady social time with someone. I’m tired of trying.
Nothing perpetuates mediocrity quite like Facebook comments on a semi-private page. I saw someone post a handful of photographs they had recently taken. This is a person who claims "photographer” as one of their online bio features. These photos were objectively not great: overexposed, out of focus, and poorly framed. Yet all three of the comments were “Amazing photos!” “Incredible shots!” and “Fantastic pics!” with various emojis sprinkled in for effect.
This is why I turn comments off. I wrote a piece on feedback a few years ago, and it’s as true now as it was then.
I’ve noticed something fascinating in one of the people I observe on social media: the way that they post on different platforms reflects how comfortable they are with bullshitting a certain audience.
For example, this individual will do all manner of passive aggressive, subtextual, vagueposting on their X account, while sending none of the same messaging on their Facebook. This is because the people in their Facebook network would recognize the bullshit immediately, and either call them out on it or hold it against them. It’s “safer” to make self-aggrandizing posts on X.
I sometimes think about how the people I voyeuristically follow-without-following on social media would react if they knew I checked in on them in the way that I do. I imagine a response like, “Why spend all your time stalking me?” when the truth is that it takes less than a minute of my day to remind myself of why I don’t interact with them directly.
Who are these people who are surprised that Bethesda’s newest game Starfield has bugs and glitches? Not gamers, that’s for sure. Not anyone who’s ever played Oblivion, Skyrim, Fallout 3, 4, or 76. They’re sensationalists, manufacturing outrage to generate engagement on their social media channels so they can earn a few pennies more in advertisement revenue. That’s who they are, and that’s what so much of the critical commentary around video games degenerates into these days. And these people who are out there engineering viral clips are doing the hobby a huge disservice, because they paint the picture of the average gamer as an entitled, whining crybaby, and nothing could be further from the truth. Gamers are some of the most intelligent people around, and typically well-off financially—you’ve got to be to afford the prices of new releases these days. It’s no wonder that the truly smart gamer keeps their hobby a secret. I wouldn’t—and don’t—want anything to do with the cesspool that public critical discourse of video games has become. I’ve taken great pains to detach “gamer” from my public persona, and I can’t imagine a wiser move to make.
These reports will now come out on the first of every month, so long as I’m capable of producing them, to mark the anniversary of my return to my birth name.