wherefore art thou kirkjerk?

October 15, 2014
So, recently I was (again) asked about the actual "jerk" aspect implied by my once preferred nomme de web "kirkjerk". For the record, no, I do not view myself as a jerk (or at least feel I'm near the center of the bell curve of jerkness). But why that name? Just because of the rhyme?

Not quite! Back in the mid-90s there was a game for PCs called "Death Rally"... it was a fun overhead car-racing-with-guns game, kind of like that old board game Car Wars / Autoduel come to life. In action it looked like this:


The game had a lot of character - and specifically it had 20 characters, enemies you'd race against. Here's a leader board; I think "D3ATH" is probably the name selected by the person playing th game:


Those names were BOGUS BILL, FARMER TED, LIZ ARDEN, DIESEL JOE, MIC DAIR, MORI SATO, SUZY STOCK, IRON JOHN, CHER STONE, LEE VICE, DARK RYDER, GREG PECK, MAD MAC, MOTOR MARY, MATT MILER, CLINT WEST, NASTY NICK, JANE HONDA, SAM SPEED & DUKE NUKEM. (Yes, that Duke Nukem.... kind of a crossover. I further acknowledge this naming scheme would also work for Garbage Pail Kids.)

So, when it came time to pick my own username for the intraoffice online game play (4 players at once) I tried to match the scheme, and ended up with KIRKJERK (I also think it was constrained to 8 letters, so I was pleased to just fit it in under the wire).

I tend to prefer usernames based on "Kirk", rather than being cut from whole cloth; Kirkjerk, Kirkamundo, TheGreatKirkini. And "Kirkles" is probably one of my oldest lasting nicknames, bestowed in high school (when my teasing friends envisioned the romantic exchange "Oh Kirkles" "Oh, Lynnie-Poo") and still used by my best college buddy and his family.

Anyway, like I said, "Death Rally" had a ton of character. Some of it was in the form of "flavor text", these little evocative prose passages, narrated by "TRUE TOM":


THIS IS HOW IT GOES. YOU ARE DRIVING. YOU ARE SAYING 'HANG ON BABY, THIS IS WHAT I DO." IT'S DOABLE, ALL RIGHT? WINNABLE. AND THE BULLETS TAKE THE SKY, LIKE CLOUDS OF LOCUSTS. THE END IS NIGH. RACE OVER. GET IT? BUDDA BUDDA BUDDA. YOU HAVE BEEN WARNED.

and another example:

BODY AND SOUL; YIN AND TANG. YOU, MY ROADWARD APPRENTICE, ARE THE SOUL IN THIS EXPONENTIALLY ACCELERATING EQUATION. YOUR VEHICLE IS THE BODY. CAN YOU FEEL THE PRECIOUS EQUILIBRIUM SLIPPING AND TAIL-SLIDING FROM YOUR CONTROL? DON'T LOSE IT NOW. STAY TUNED: RACE TIME!

I'm not able to dig up the evidence, but I have vague memories of corresponding with the guy who gave voice to "TRUE TOM"; he said it was kind of an independent effort they threw in, rather than being part of the design from the outset, and there were all kinds of character constraints they were dealing with.

Once upon a time I dug up this Lore of Geek's usernames. Back before FB and Google's emphasis on "real names", online handles were even more important (I guess they still have a big role in tumblr and twitter.) Of course, we've also seen how pseudo-anonymity can be abused, and jerk-enabling.