As Real ID Oozes Forward, More People Lose

I must admit, my first gut reaction to Blizzard announcing that their Real ID initiative would be applied to their forums and that everybody would be required to post using their real name was a  Nelson Muntz, “Haw-haw!”

After all, I don’t post to the Blizzard forums.  Why should I care?

And I could see the same point which Darren did, that this whole thing would certainly put a few people on better behavior.  And I am sure there were others who could see some merit in that.  Wasn’t abusive customer behavior one of the reasons that Mark Jacobs opposed having official forums for WAR?

Of course, after that initial flush of schadenfreude, holes began to develop quite quickly in the Utopian forum in my head.

There will always be people who doesn’t care if others know their real name and who will continue to behave like an ass-hats regardless of what sort of information about them is made public.  And then there are those with names common enough that knowing their name tells gives you no information whatsoever, some percentage of whom are jerks. (I wonder if there is a correlation between having a common name and bad forum behavior?  Is somebody name John Smith more likely to mouth off?)

Out of a population of a couple of million subscribers, I am going to guess that there will be enough such people as to make the change in the tenor of the forums smaller than one might hope.

Then, if you add in the people whose accounts do not actually carry their real name (whoops, did you sell your account to a forum troll?), you begin to wonder if this is going to make any real difference in the war for public decency.

After all, this Real ID in the forums plan is likely to stifle the voices of a lot of average users while being unlikely to hinder the two groups I mentioned above.  The signal to noise ratio in the forums will likely stay the same or perhaps even get worse.

So you will be hard pressed to get me to believe that end users will see much benefit from the imposition of real names in the Blizzard forums.

Blizzard will though.  I am sure forum posting will drop dramatically.  That will make community easier and less expensive to manage.

But unless that is going to cut my monthly subscription price, I’m not sure I care.

The cost of Real ID though, that is pretty steep.

After all, the fundamental principal of a game like World of Warcraft is to deliver an escapist fantasy, to be someone or something you are not in the real world of your every day life and to be a part of a community of others who also seek a similar escape.

Only, suddenly, we really can’t be a part of that community unless we’re ready to link our in-game persona to our real life.  Today it is the in-game friends list, tomorrow it will be the forums, what will it be next week.  It could be your Real ID associated with your Armory pages if people do not complain now.

And while some declare worry on the subject to be irrational fear, I think they are living in a fools paradise.  Certainly there are some people for whom Real ID will make no difference.  If you are male and have a reasonably common name and are not, say, looking for a job, then who cares what comes up when people Google your name or look at your Facebook page.

But what happens when your name is a unique search on Google, so all your information is easily obtained once somebody has your name? (That’s me, by the way.)

What happens when you’re a woman and you want to just fit in and enjoy the escapist fantasy without being hit on or treated differently?

What happens when you’re a guy but you play all female characters?  Ready to explain that one to all and sundry?

What happens when you have kids who play and they want to be part of the community?

What happens when your last name happens to come from a region that the politicians and news media have declared “bad guys?” (Historically, that has happened to my family.  And while it is unlikely to happen today (too many Irish in the country, for one thing) it does make you think when it happens to somebody else.)

Are we all that ready to share?

WoW is entertainment.  I’m not sure I’d want a public record available listing out every movie I’ve seen, every television show I’ve watched, or every book I’ve read.  So why would I feel differently about video games I’ve played?

Finally, there is the security aspect.

And this is what kills me.

Blizzard goes on and on about account security.  They want us to buy authenticators to keep our accounts secure.  Fine, I’ll play ball in the name of security.  I bought an authenticator.

But I expect Blizzard to be holding up their end of the bargain as well.

And Blizzard cannot say they are doing their best to protect account security on the one hand while proposing to give out our real names on the other.

They made us change our account IDs to an email address.  Now they want us to use our real names, so you can now get the email address/account ID of a large number of WoW accounts without much effort.  And any hacker can now associate account IDs with all the information about us that is available on the internet.  And since most people make up their passwords based on things like names, birthdays, and such of children and spouses, hacking accounts just got that much easier.

All of this is making me wonder what things are going to look like in StarCraft II when it comes out at the end of this month.  Is it going to be real names, Real ID, up front from day one?  Is everybody I play going to know my real name?  There is no way to play StarCraft II without (no LAN play, remember?), so if Blizzard is going to display all our names, I won’t want to go there.

All paranoia?  Maybe.  People who have been victims of loose information tend to be more concerned about it being contained.

But this is light entertainment.  If it is engendering paranoia, then it is doing something wrong.

And other have written more clearly and eloquently about this topic than I have.  You should go run through the posts, and the comments, at Terra Nova and Broken Toys.

Heck, even SynCaine has an unusually calm, logical, direct and to the point poke at Blizzard.

But I just wanted to put my own thoughts down on this.  One of the purposes of this blog is to record what is going on at the time so I can review it later and see how I have changed or not.

And I wanted to complain.  Loudly and quickly.  If we all say, “Whatever, it doesn’t apply to me,” then at some point the changes will apply to you, and you’ll wish somebody had spoken up earlier.

Addendum – Additional reading on the subject:

17 thoughts on “As Real ID Oozes Forward, More People Lose

  1. Analogue

    Yup, this is the point we need to draw the line. I wish the John Smiths of the world could understand what it’s like being uniquely-named-for-googling-purposes and just what that makes you feel like… it’s like people who don’t vaccinate just because they’re relying on herd immunity to keep them safe.


  2. SynCaine

    What do you mean, ‘even Syncaine has an unusually calm…’ you old carebear bastard? Don’t you have an instance to auto-queue and faceroll for some lulpix!?!?! :foam:

    One other thing that I’m planning on posting about is even if you ARE John Smith, if you make the wrong internet people notice you, you are still screwed. If people can hunt you down by your youtube account, I’m fairly sure they will be able to do so based on your RL name and whatever info you have spread around based off your WoW account. It’s never been about whether it’s possible, but more about how easy/convinient you make it.

    In a sick way, Blizzard is going to ‘polish’ WoW accounts being hacked and the people behind them getting railed. That’s impressive, even for them.


  3. sid67

    If we all say, “Whatever, it doesn’t apply to me,” then at some point the changes will apply to you, and you’ll wish somebody had spoken up earlier.

    I’m with ya. Paranoia for the win. Just because I’m paranoid doesn’t mean they aren’t out to get me.


  4. Pewter

    Thank you. I was upset by your initial post on the topic, and this is a great post, both on the security aspect, and on the social aspects of being a female, underage, transgender or otherwise ‘not the white male norm’ and being excluded from the community due to a wish to avoid harassment.

    The danger is not in the real name being out there, it is the context it is out there in.


  5. kaozz

    ‘People who have been victims of loose information tend to be more concerned about it being contained.’- Exactly. I worry that more people are going to know just how this feels, in the future.


  6. Bhagpuss

    I was ambivalent about buying Cataclysm. The RealID thing has made my mind up. I can do without WoW if playing it is going to be this intrusive. More than that, it’s making me re-think whether I really want to play online games at all.

    I’m already very regretful of the number of times I’ve given my real name, birth date and even full address to companies I know nothing about, just to get into betas or play F2P titles for half an hour. I wish I’d always used made-up details in the past.

    If a company of Blizzard’s stature is going to pull a stroke like this, maybe it’s time to forget the whole “online” part of gaming and go back to offline RPGs.


  7. Aillas

    I’m not excited about the RealID thing either. I can understand Blizzard wanting to improve their forums (I quit using them years ago and prefer the signal/noise ratio of EJ which is moderated like a dictatorship – resulting in a high quality forum) but tying real names in there is creepy. I’m a recreational runner and googling my real name returns a ton of hits for various 5k/10k/etc races I’ve done which goes a long way to geographically pin pointing me.

    Ultimately, I can continue to ignore the official forums, and since I haven’t posted on the official forums in the last ~2 years, I probably won’t miss it.


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  11. PeterD

    Agree completely. I’m not quite ready to up and quit (i’ll opt out of realID for WoW as soon as I remember to visit the parental control page) but this is certainly pushing me in that direction. Blizzard has MORE than enough income to hire more people to police the forums, such that a move that seems designed to do nothing but save Blizzard some trouble while actually causing trouble for their customers seems particularly ham-fisted. Not that Blizzard has ever had a delicate touch when it comes to their customer base.

    I don’t use the forums, and I can opt-out of the Real ID system in WoW, but I worry about what the future will bring, and what they’re going to do with games like Starcraft 2. My real name is common-ish enough nationwide, but there are still only 3 or 4 in my particular corner of the country, and I’ve had trouble with identity theft already. I don’t need Blizzard helping.


  12. Reatu Krentor

    I am the only one in my country with my name. Even though I rarely use my real name online I still get hits that lead to me.
    And I really don’t see the point of using the realname to achieve this result of more mature forums. Why can’t a unique pseudonym per account that is used as identifier for that account? Most trolls are lvl 1 toons to make the banning pointless. Having a single identifier for a single account would achieve mostly the same result while not exposing identity. You lose posting privileges.
    Of course you can just use another account but is that a problem? That’s a paying account just as much as the first one.
    Oh it will be hilarious when a John Smith gets banned for what another J. Smith did =p
    It won’t be hilarious when someone gets shish kabob’ed on a sword for what someone else said… (However every blogger and ‘concerned citizen’ will get to say “I told you so…” to Blizzard)


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