The players are often free to choose their own Handles, unless there already are similar Handles in the game. The requirement of a unique identifier within a game instance is usually quite strict, even if the game system itself does not guarantee the uniqueness of the Handle. The same applies to more persistent Handles between game instances.
Example: Asteroids and many, if not most, other arcade games have highscore lists where the players can leave their short nick-names if they perform well enough in the game. The players can enter any Handle in the highscore list, but it is often considered quite impolite to use the same Handle as someone else.
Example: online multiplayer first-person shooters let the players enter names for their avatars. These Handles are used to measure and compare the performance of the individual players and in team-oriented games also to identify the other team-members. The Handles are not necessarily persistent from the game system point of view, but often there are sometimes severe penalties for players who try to pose as other players.
The Handles in many cases are just short free-form pieces of text but can be linked not only to players but to whole Characters. The classic limit of three characters per Handle is sometimes still used in current arcade games. Games with predefined roles for the players can let the players select their Handles from a predefined list. In these cases the Handle is also used to identify the players' different roles and abilities in the game. Online games for children, such as ToonTown, let the players compose their Handles from predefined list of words to avoid the possibility of obscene Handles. Handles can carry also extra information about the players, for example, their Social Status or if they belong to a Social Organizations such as clans or guilds.
Handles are used to identify different players in cases where differentiation would otherwise be impossible or difficult. Besides supporting Team Play, players are often willing to identify themselves in order to compare and show off their Game Mastery to other players and Spectators in games with quantifiable measurements of performance, such as Score, in order to accrue Social Status. Highscore Lists are a prime example of this use of Handles, allowing players to compare the outcomes of their game instances with other players. These kinds of persistent Handles are used to carry Trans-Game Information between game instances.
Another reason for persistent Handles is that the players can form more stable Social Organizations where the players may have different roles and responsibilities. Persistent Game Worlds almost have to have some methods of identifying the other players and Handles is the simplest one of these. Handles provide simple means for Identification within the game for the players and heightens the Emotional Immersion.
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