I’m not sure if it’s because I’m fascinated with words that I am a writer, or whether it’s because I’m a writer because I’m fascinated with words, but both are definitely true for me. After mentioning my name in my last post, and searching for something to write about today over the course of a weekend where my brain was nearly non-functional, I decided to veer off-topic to explain the origins of the screen name attached to this blog, as well as most of my web-based ventures. Truthfully the story’s not quite as interesting as I’d like, but I do think it will tell you a little about me and hopefully that’s interesting enough.


And if Kiera Knightly is one of them...well, let's just say it's a pirate's life for me.

Clearly there are many benefits to a life of piracy...

Like most good things, this tale starts with a simple, seemingly random statement: I like pirates.


Since I presumably already have your attention I’m going to take this chance to clarify something. Pirates are often thought of or remembered for their infamous acts of villainy and selfishness. However, like many historical and cultural tropes, pirates have more than one significance as a symbol. For example; knights are known as valiant, heroic figures upholding virtue and chivalry, yet they also committed vile acts in the name of a righteous cause during the crusades.


So when I create a pirate persona (admittedly a flimsy one, but the cause for concern remains) on the internet, I don’t want people to have the wrong impression of what I stand for. Sure pirates were murderers, rapists and thieves, but they could also be cunning rogues fighting or defending against corruption or even just overly ambitious fortune hunters with a morally ambiguous compass. A lot of people like the image of pirates as awesomely cutthroat villains living by a code of honor among thieves, emptying their pockets of gold to fill their bellies with rum. While I do enjoy these depictions in stories, I have a very particular take on what makes pirates great.


Still, these monsters are nothing compared to some of the weird stuff the Japanese have thought up and marketed in various animes over the years.

The very fact that actual maps of the time depicted seas monsters among the oceanic paths that captains might sail is a testament to the sense of wonder that still prevailed.

For one, I must admit, I simply like the pirate aesthetic. This includes not only a world full of crews traveling wherever the winds and their captain dictate as a rag-tag, makeshift family but also the sense of adventure that accompanies the idea of a world that’s not yet fully explored. Who knows what awaits the crew the next time they weigh anchor? Naval combat, flamboyantly dressed rogues and a lifestyle where anyone could become rich if they dare brave the ocean and the perils native to any unknown shores…it’s a very entertaining, albeit certainly romanticized concept for me.


But then comes the main reason I like pirates. When I think of pirates, I feel like there are two major branches of defining characteristics (with definite room for overlap) that define their image. The first is one I’ve already discussed briefly; the rum-soaked and ruthless pirates who will do anything for treasure and revenge. The second is the one I identify with, however, sailors seeking to strike out on their own and live a life free of the expectations and grind of society. I’m talking about the adventurers, one who may not even expect to become fabulously wealthy, famous or powerful, just people who don’t quite fit in with society and go to live on the sea where the only rules are their own. People seeking real freedom, freedom to simply live life however they want.


Pirates of the Spanish Main - Sample Contents of a Pack

Set sail for cardboard island, so we may plunder its vast wealth of plastic doubloons!

There’s one other, much more specific aspect of pirates that I really enjoy, and that does legitimately factor in to my lengthy, circuitous story, and that thing is the constructible strategy game that was once their namesake, before they slightly rebranded the game.


If you’ve never played or heard of Pirates of the Spanish Main (later known as Pirates of the Cursed Seas), then I’m sorry to say you’re missing out. This game was the best, and if you happen to live near a Target or Wal-Mart that isn’t in reasonable commuting distance to where I live, you stand a pretty good shot of being able to pick some up in hefty quantities for cheap.


Basically it was a tabletop game of naval combat strategy, exploration and treasure hording. The pieces come in game packs similar to booster packs for other card games, but you punch out the plastic pieces and get to build really awesome looking tiny boat models with which you also play the game. It’s pretty amazing and you should seriously check it out if you can.


Pirates of the Spanish Main Online - Sample Screenshot

In addition to providing a consistent, cheap supply of the notorious "blue screen of death", Sony's pirates online came fully loaded with a library of generic piratey phrases like "ramming speed" and an arsenal of naval combat sound effects.

Back during the game’s heyday I was big into the game, despite having few people to play with, luckily the game grew popular enough to launch an online client for playing the game, and though it was buggy beyond reason and frequently crashed my computer, few things have made me as happy as Sony’s Pirates Online. Between strategy discussions, rules questions and bug reports, I had a presence on at least three major PotSM-based forums at that time.


Of course to access such things you need to have an account and an online handle. Early on I ported over a generic screen name I used in high school and for one of my earliest e-mail accounts, but it just didn’t feel right. I had pirate fever (cabin fever if you prefer, or are a big Henson/Muppet Treasure Island fan) and I wanted something that represented my love of both the pirates and the game.


One day while browsing the forums I came across a discussion of actual, historical pirates of note, and actually misread someone’s comment regarding Vasco Da Gama as referring to Vasco Da Gamer. At first I felt silly, but then I felt AWESOME! Not only did this name encompass my love of pirates and gaming, but also incorporated a witty pseudo-pun. It was everything I could hope for from a screen name.


Sure it may not be the most exciting story in the world, but I do think it gives me an excuse to answer an unasked question, as well as to talk about pirates on a day when I can’t wrap my head around very much of anything productive.


Feel free to share stories about the origins of your own screen names in the comments below.



For the latest news about the Cove and my various personal projects, be sure to follow me on Twitter @VascoDaGamer (of course)