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Real ID – Proceed With Caution

July 7, 2010

Note: There has since been an update on this, please see bottom of post.

In a move that I find completely baffling, Blizzard announced today that they are moving all of their forums to the Real ID system. A lot of people are already expressing their concerns over the news, especially with regards to the following taken from their statement:

The first and most significant change is that in the near future, anyone posting or replying to a post on official Blizzard forums will be doing so using their Real ID — that is, their real-life first and last name — with the option to also display the name of their primary in-game character alongside it.

Interesting. I very rarely post on official MMO forums, and to be honest I wouldn’t touch World of Warcraft’s with a ten-foot-pole, so ultimately this change wouldn’t affect me much at all. But for once, I actually find myself empathizing with the outspoken dissenters. This announcement…simply doesn’t feel right. And I can’t understand the reasoning behind such a move. Like Hunter has already pointed out, are real names really going to magically somehow make people accountable for the things they say?

WoW players: "RealID? This is madness!" Blizzard: "Madness? This is Sparta!" *punt*

This has the potential to drive away the people who are wary about revealing their identities, folks who otherwise would have contributed with constructive comments, and meanwhile, trolls are still going to troll. I can also understand if this decision was precipitated by the desire to stop those forum trolls from hopping from alt to alt, but is the use of real names really necessary? Why not take a page from Cryptic (yes, I said Cryptic), who has a very similar system to Real ID in place right now, where a player’s handle can be used to post on forums as well as communicate with friends across both the company’s MMOs? It works even if you happen to be on an alt, on another faction, or even on a test server. Clearly, it’s a system that can be implemented without the involvement of real-life first and last names, so like I said, I am baffled as to why Blizzard is moving forward with making them a requirement.

The other thing that unnerves me about Real ID is how acutely some people’s concerns are resonating with me. I mean, just last week I wrote a post about my reluctance at sharing the fact I play MMOs with friends and acquaintances, especially with the people I work with. Mind you, it’s not that I’m ashamed of my love for MMOs, but I have a right to keep some pastimes private. And with the googling of names being such a common practice these days, maybe people don’t want certain aspects of their lives made public, like the fact they post on a World of Warcraft forum. I can understand that, all too well.

It might seem finicky of people to fret about their real names being revealed on a game forum, but it’s actually quite possible for small things like that to affect lives. You might notice that I emphasized the workplace in this post and the other one, and it’s because this is where I’ve personally been most affected. I used to work at a corporate staffing agency and have seen how employers can and most certainly will google candidates’ names before hiring, or even before granting an interview. Needless to say, after a week on the job of witnessing the things that happen, the first thing I did was wipe my Facebook information page.

I’ve always advised new graduates and anyone looking for a job to do the same (or at least clean up their profiles), as well as take a look at what’s out there when you google your own name. It’s heartbreaking the number of perfectly decent people I’ve seen lose their job opportunities because a potential employer disliked something they found out about them on the internet. “Oh, there was a picture of him smoking in a bar, I don’t think he’ll be the right fit” or “They like heavy metal music, that’s just way too hardcore for us” or “They’re part of this particular special interest group, that’s just too scary!” Think you’re safe because you set privacy protections on your page? Think again. One girl lost an interview simply because the employer noticed a tongue ring in her tiny profile picture, which was probably several years old. Yes, some of it was completely ridiculous and in a few cases even bordered on unlawful, which is probably why the employers only told us and never the candidates. You’d be surprised at how rarely people are given the benefit of the doubt.

The point is, this is just one way this system can be abused, but others have already pointed out a myriad of other concerns ranging from harassment to identity theft. You never know what anyone will do with the information they find on you, even if it’s something as innocuous as seeing your name on a post arguing Mage DPS in an online game forum. I’m usually pretty laid back about a lot of things and I really don’t like getting on the soapbox, but if there’s one issue I get all alarmist on, it’s privacy and identity. My own full name is kind of unique, and I take great care whenever I use it or give it to someone online. It can be a cruel, judgmental and scary world out there, so I don’t blame the anti-Real ID people for wanting to err on the side of caution. I’m kinda with them.

July 9, 2010 – Update: Well, what d’ya know, as I had speculated that it might happen, Blizzard eventually came to its senses. And it’s a good thing too, because for a few days there, things were getting pretty scary. But the damage has already been done for a lot of people, unfortunately. Now to see if Blizz can recover from this PR nightmare.

35 comments

  1. [...] MMO Gamer Chick’s ideas on the matter. [...]


  2. Well said, Gee Cee. I completely agree.


  3. I have yet to see one argument in favor of RealID where every potential/questionable pro can be met with two or three potential/demonstrable cons. I just don’t understand what Blizzard gets out of a move like this.

    Maybe I have finally reached the point in life where I start using the phrases “kids today”, “good old days”, and “get off my lawn”, but the stakes have become too high to justify for a playing a game. :(


    • I actually wouldn’t be too surprised if Blizzard announces at a later date that they won’t be going through with this after all, or at least say that they decided to make it so your real name wouldn’t be used. It just sounded so unreasonable to me the first time I heard about it, maybe someone over there will snap out of it and realize it too.


  4. It’s just one quick way to get absolutely nobody to post on their forums. I don’t understand whats going through blizzards head lately, first the ridiculous sparkle pony, now this.


    • Yeah, it’s been like one questionable announcement after another…someone over there has lost their mind.


  5. It’s really simple for me. Anything were my real name is displayed is off limit for me. I have no interest at all to give personnal information to people on the web.

    In fact this goes agaisnt all rules on online security and privacy. I’m not even sure they are allowed to do things like that. I mean governments are looking into laws for sites like Facebook because they feel they give too much info…

    baffling…


    • I have some things that are in my real name, the main thing being Facebook. I’m real careful to link other things to it though; after all, the more connections you can make between all your social networks etc, the easier it is for people to track you down and or take your information.

      Basically, facebook has already realized they messed up when they encouraged people to reveal as much information as they can, now they are reining that in. Why Blizzard wants to still go towards being like Facebook is beyond me.


  6. I love Cryptic’s policy, double layer identity. Your login is not and can’t be your online handle, yet at the same time, the handle shows on every forum post, and in game chat.

    I am lucky, I have yet to find myself in a Google search without some pretty detailed search parameters, but I have a common name. My brother was once passed over for a job because they did a background check on the wrong person, with a similar–but not exactly the same–name. He had no real recourse and ended up having to move his family out of state to get a job.


    • I maybe ought to point out that I am lucky to work in an environment where my gaming is at least accepted as a quirk, and there are several WoW gamers in my team of about 30. So my job security is not affected by my pastime.


    • I agree, this is where Cryptic has gotten things right. I love their system.

      Search results for my name bring up the usual stuff like facebook, but it’s probably because I only use my nickname for so much of my other internet crap lol.


  7. Cleaning up the forums is just an excuse. I suspect this is an attempt by his infernal majesty Bobby “I take all the fun out of making games” Kotick to monetize the 12 million name demographic database that’s currently just taking up storage space.

    http://content.usatoday.com/communities/gamehunters/post/2010/05/blizzard-and-facebooks-friendly-social-networking-deal-launches-with-starcraft-ii-/1


    • Nice article! When I was browsing blogs and posts last night, omeone mentioned this partnership too. Just unbelievable. What is facebook now anyway? I think it’s long sinice moved beyond being a social networking tool, now it’s just an internet behemoth of absurdity.


    • This article is very scary. Not because it is gloom-and-doom. Actually, quite the opposite. it’s sunny tone and rosy outlook on the Facebook/nattle.net partnership is downright alarming. Canessa comes off as naive about many gamers’ attitiudes about thier online personas. Even as people are constantly screaming at Fbook over their privacy policy, Blizzard jumps on the bandwagon. Hopefully, they’ll see the rising backlash from subscribers and back off the idea.

      I definitely need to post on this.


      • I’m also surprised how vast the media coverage of this is. A CBC news Toronto edition report just came on tv about this whole Real ID fiasco, I couldn’t believe it. If people didn’t know they could google their friends to see if they played WoW in the future, they do now! LOL


  8. [...] mixed reactions around the blogs and new sites, though it’s mostly negative. Many, many real concerns are raised by the players; I will say there is potential good [...]


  9. Since I don’t currently play any of Blizzard’s games, I’m not affected by this, but if I were I would definitely be planning to stop using the forums. Your comments about how Google and Facebook are used by employers are completely correct, and it’s the primary reason why I try to keep my gaming and professional lives separate.

    Blizzard should take a look at how Turbine handles their forums. You have exactly one forum account that’s linked to you subscription, and there’s a ranking system in place as well. There’s no reason to use people’s full names outside of the Facebook/social-marketing angle.


    • You’re right, so many other developers have something like this in place without ever having to use real names. There’s no reason at all. To be honest, this sounded like a very bad joke to me when I first heard.


  10. I completely agree. I will never subscribe to Facebook, Twitter, and the like. To me it’s just like opening your front door to the masses.

    And yes, I have been stalked once before because I gave my name to someone I thought was my friend in DAoC. Yes, I did have to call the police.

    Many sick people are out there.


    • Okay, that’s scary!

      Ironically, I just started up a twitter account LOL…but it’s linked to my blog and not any personal info.


  11. One more totally unrelated thing because I just noticed it. My initials are Gee Cee as well. :D


  12. Totally agree. I know there are people who say that it’s all optional but, well, it’s not really because there will be no other way to post on the forums without exposing who you are!

    I know Blizzard want to cut down on the number of trolls and spammers by “naming and shaming” people but it seems very extreme.

    I just don’t feel comfortable with the whole thing :(


    • I was already somewhat skeptical about the optional Real ID in game, but I figured it wasn’t required and therefore wasn’t something to be too concerned about. Even this new forum Real ID announcement will affect me very little if I choose not to post on the message boards in the future…but now it’s really starting to bother me because what I see here is Blizzard taking us down on this slippery slope, where each decision becomes more questionable than the one before. I’m actually kinda scared at what might come next, this has really gotta stop!


  13. I’ve also always avoided the WoW forums, so this issue may be academic, but it does ensure that I will never use them in the future. I had been kinda missing WoW and was thinking about resubbing. Now I’m not sure, because I wonder about Blizzard’s commitment to my privacy. I wonder where their policies may go in the future. I don’t want to feel like I should read the terms of service every time I log in.

    My employer has a published policy that they do look for and read employees’ social media. As a professional, gaming is a small worry about my reputation, which is enough to make me cautious. However, I also do politics (perhaps not coincidentally, privacy is one of my issues), and that’s a bigger concern. No social media and no real names on the internet for me.

    Blizzard is successful enough to be noticed. Imo, if this isn’t squashed, it may turn into a camel’s nose and we may see a new trend on the internet.


    • I don’t have much faith either when it comes to blizzard’s commitment to my privacy. They keep pushing this idea despite the massive opposition to it from their customers. Sure, posting on the forum isn’t a requirement (though in some cases, I would say it is, like when it comes to reporting bugs or technical problems) but if they’re already so unwilling to reconsider at this point, what does this say about the future? In light of their partnership with Facebook, I doubt this is going to stop here, and the callous way Blizzard has treated this whole fiasco thus far is very telling.


  14. I think, on the whole, it’s a stupid idea. :P


    • You and thousands of others, I’m sure :P


  15. This is what happens when you have Trolls running wild on a Forum and leads this kind of drastic measure that can be over the top. Result is to not many liking. Great post as well.

    I don’t really ever post on Blizzard Forums and in over 5 years of WoW. Outside of the time I played the Beta for WotLK and had to file the various bugs for the beta I doubt outside of that ever posted 5 times in all that times.

    Sure the result will be less use of the forums as well as addons which i’m sure will be able to find your RealID info whether soon or eventually soon.


    • Yeah, except that there are plenty of forums that give users pseudonyms and they work just fine. It’s not the anonymity, it’s the lack of MODERATION. And you don’t need to publicize people’s real names in order to make posters accountable — that’s a complete fallacy.


      • Star Trek Online for example. The forums were pretty bad and getting worse. Cryptic’s solution? They acknowledged responsibility, apologized, and promised to do a better job moderating. It’s working: the forums are a much more pleasant place to hang out.


      • I didn’t know that about STO…good for them, I say…their forums were becoming a cesspit of negativity (I mean, one of the main stickies on the general discussion page was about warnings given over death threats, I couldn’t believe it) and this is good news for the future when I decide to go back to that game.


    • I didn’t even think about addons to be honest. I’m already ultra careful about those, only using the ones that are from reputable sources, but Real ID has already had a security leak exposed to addons, so now that you mention it, it’s definitely something be cautious of.


  16. According to PC World, Blizzard has retracted their Real ID forum policy.
    :)


    • LOL yep. You have good timing, it seems, I just updated the post like mere seconds before you commented.


  17. [...] MMOGamerChicks advises to proceeding with caution. [...]



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