With the launch of World of Warcraft 3.3.5 patch players were let into the world of Real ID. Real ID offers the ability to put in more personal information that is available to all Battle.net users which includes anyone who plays Blizzard games online. Players can chat across different servers/games, create a friends list, message players and other social networking type add-ons.
Real ID has raised some concerns as of late. Based on the fact that you must input your personal information to use Real-ID, you can’t remain anonymous such on other gaming/social communication tools like Steam’s universal chat. Due to this, people are far more at risk for cyberstalking and other information leaks and scams.
Considering a good portion of Blizzard’s gaming public may be young and influential, the ability to post your personal and private information including email and name can be used as an in for such frauds as identify theft, sexual misappropriations and other terrible actions from the bowels of the internet.
Blizzard was smart enough to have some foresight in the matter. Players must first mutually agree to be friends before you can view the others personal info. Further more, Blizzard stresses how to wisely use Real-ID to avoid being scammed. Quoting from their Real-ID FAQ: “The Real ID is a system designed to be used with people you know and trust in real life — friends, co-workers and family.”
That’s all fine, well and good, but its easy to see how people could add people they only know in-game considering those are the people that the system is targeted to connect.
Perhaps most distressing in all this is one little nugget pulled again from the FAQ: “If you are using Real ID, your mutual Real ID friends, as well as their Real ID friends, will be able to see your first and last name (the name registered to the Battle.net account). You will also be able to see the first and last name of your Real ID friends and their Real ID friends.”
What that means is not only do possible scammers get access to your personal information, but your entire network of friends as well. This leads to a massive web of inter-connected players – the perfect playground for scammers.
This kind of lax social networking has become standard of such sites as Facebook and Myspace. However, this is a jump into video games – where, up until now, remaining anonymous as you gun down terrorists or smite wicked trolls was seen as standard and the system worked well. Adding a feature like Real-ID opens up an entire can of worms that this reporter doesn’t think video games completely need to be enjoyed. There are dozens of other networking sites that players can use to connect through. It’s admirable that Blizzard is throwing their own style into the mix – but the idea that it is so easy to misappropriate and have your personal information on the screens of potentially dangerous, or simply, unknown gamers is too big a risk just to help people communicate more effectively in-game.
In addition to this, in order to post on forums, starting with the launch of Cataclysm, players must be logged in through Real-ID. This means that whatever you post will be have your real name as the writer and your personal info a click away. This is another distressing action considering so many forums seem to live on the control to stay unknown.
That being said, the majority of gamers will have no problem with Real-ID and will mainly see it as another neat addition to their favorite games. But for the unfortunate select few that are scammed or otherwise hurt by using Real-ID, the cons far outweigh the minor benefits.
Real ID may be a very cool way to stay in touch with friends and family while playing your favorite Blizzard games. The only problem is that by friending people you are opening yourself up to have your personal information exposed to dozens, if not hundreds of people that you may not have any real connection to. Add in the heavy amount of online theft and general scams out there, and its plain to see why Real ID can be seen as a real problem.
For Blizzard/Battlenet latest announcement on Real ID, click here.
For some levity on the situation, check out Noob Comics take on the fiasco.
Play safe gang.