Wednesday, September 9, 2009

The Origin of "Omega Warzard"

I had a dream that I was sitting at work as boss man made an announcement.

"May I have everybody's attention, please," he said. "We've received a large shipment of stones that need to get done ASAP. So I'll be sending half to Jerry and half to Omega."

I was shocked that he would have referred to me by my online ID, but it must have been the name I'd used on all my official work papers. He did not know me personally, so he must have picked the name out of the employee database based just on the performance numbers.

One guy, taken aback, hissed, "Who the hell is Omega?"

I sheepishly looked the other way, and the rest of the dream was just the usual work-related nightmare.

In the dream, I did not get a chance to explain myself, and it occurs to me now that the name "Omega Warzard" may very well sound ridiculous to anyone who does not know the story behind it.

Back in 1996, shortly after I first joined the World Wide Web, I needed to come up with an account name for my e-mail address. As a minor, it obviously would not have been safe for me to have used my real name. Of course, with a name as common as my own, it would have been impossible for me to have had that user ID without tacking on some random extra numbers at the end of it. I prided myself as an original, so it would have been unacceptable to announce myself as the 2836th anything.

I sat thinking long and hard trying to come up with something awesome, unique, and not devoid of meaning. I could think of nothing that met all three criteria. Comparatively small though the Internet was back then, still any remotely normal, cool possibilities (e.g. Batman, Skywalker, Master Blaster, God, etc.) were already taken many times over. I did succeed in registering a few mangled spellings and terrible dictionary words, but those accounts were quickly aborted, and we will speak of them no more. Finally, I suddenly remembered something I had read just recently.

A few days earlier, while searching for Street Fighter art--what else was the Internet good for?--I came across a gallery of screenshots for a new Capcom 2-D fighter by the name of Red Earth. In parentheses was the title of the Japanese release: Warzard. To this day, I still have yet to play the game, but the portmanteau of "war" and "wizard" struck me as remarkably clever.

I figured it was worth a try. I applied for the name, and, to my surprise, it was not yet taken. Indeed, obvious though it now seems, I am quite certain that I was the very first and, for many years, the only Warzard on the Internet.

I think that e-mail address lasted me into early 2002. I had let my claim to it lapse, because it had become overrun with spam, and I had already switched to two other primary e-mail addresses. When I tried to check it after about a three-month absence, I found that someone else had already found it expired and snatched it up. I was offended, but I should not have been surprised. While checking search engines for traces of myself, I had already come across a few false Warzards. What had once been quaint was now something to be fought over.

It was still rare enough that I could get it most places I went. But as long as there was even one other Warzard on a single database on the Internet, then nobody could definitively claim that identity. Just because you knew one Warzard on some forum did not mean that the next Warzard would be the same guy. I didn't want to ever have to answer that question, especially not in the negative. The time had come for me to craft a new identity. But, although posers had now stripped it of all meaning, I still could not simply surrender and give up on a name that had served me well for years. I would have to somehow improve it in a way that would make it mine again.

Again, it would not have done to just attach random numbers or, worse yet, replace letters with numbers. I could no longer be Warzard prime, but I would not be less. I experimented with various lofty modifiers, but everything felt like a diminutive to what was pure perfection. Finally, I returned to where it all began, looking to my beloved 2-D fighting games for inspiration. Digging through my memory, I recalled one character who was the model of resurrection with grace.

Rugal Bernstein (or just Rugal B.), the original and ultimate King of Fighters boss, had seemingly died at the end of KoF '94. A year later, however, he returned stronger than ever. Rebuilt and improved with a cyborg body, he was now "Omega Rugal." And his appearance in '95 was even more special to me personally than his debut had been.

Thus, thereafter would I be "Omega Warzard," in honor of both Capcom and SNK.

Of course, I still try also to secure the plain Warzard name wherever I set up a new account, but only to protect it from pretenders. If you run into a Warzard on some forum, it's probably just some nobody. Omega Warzard is the real thing.

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