Everyone is talking about the new RealID changes. The latest “offense” by Blizzard is the new requirement that the official forums for their products will require you to use RealID publicly, thereby displaying your real full name. While this has undeniable implications, all the tin-foil hat players and bloggers should really take a chill pill.
There are a few important caveats that you need to realize:
- This only applies to new forum posts and only to the forums. Blizzard is not giving out your name, or any personal information, against your will. If you want to make a forum post in the official forums, you will have to use your real name; so if you don’t want to reveal your name in an online setting, don’t use the official forums.
- You can disable RealID. You will lose some functionality, like the new ability to add RealID friends or post in the forums, but you can still play the game the same way you’ve played it for years.
- If you are unsatisfied with the game, you can quit. Blizzard is not giving out any of your information against your will regardless, but if you have doubts, walk away and quit complaining. It’s a game, not an oppressive government.
Lets talk about the motivation for this change a bit and the implications of revealing your name online.
The official WoW forums are extremely active. They are run by Blizzard, and they are responsible for ensuring that they are moderated. They are used for customer service, technical support and announcements. As a company, Blizzard doesn’t really care about the threads that become hundreds of pages long. They have to attend to the inanity of flamewars and pointless ranting. It has really gotten out of hand, and it has really just become a place for people to go and complain about changes that Blizzard believes will sell the highest number of subscriptions.
The forums are a non-essential part of the game, and there are many forums for WoW on the Internet, including excellent sites like Elitist Jerks and MMO-Champion. Blizzard has the option of pulling the plug on the forums and shutting it down completely. My guess is that the motivation for the RealID change is to reduce the number of posts and increase the quality and purpose of the posts. You can say that it’s a “bad” change for a litany of reasons, but as far as Blizzard is concerned, it means that they can do their jobs better and easier by having their main vehicle for disseminating information be a little more civil. People will think twice about flaming others if their post may appear in a Google search for their name.
Of course, even if you are being completely polite, you may not want your WoW discussions associated with your real name. Employers may not want to know that you have a litany of thoughts on Frostfire specs. In this case, you simply stop using the forums. Use a different forum site or just don’t post. Blizzard has decided that it’s in their best interest to require people who want to complain about their product on their website reveal themselves.
This does place the responsibility in the hands of players. A naïve person or child is going to be stuck with their forum post for years. I wouldn’t be surprised if there will be an increased ability to edit and delete posts. In the case of children, parents have the option of disabling RealID, and hence the ability to post in the forums, so the “think of the children” argument is not really valid. It also isn’t Blizzard’s responsibility to ensure that you make the best decisions for yourself. If you think that revealing your name may be harmful, don’t use the forums.
Its easy to find my real name – Timothy Tusing. Most bloggers are public with their names and don’t suffer any major consequence, as it is a job or semi-professional hobby. Real names are generally non-unique and don’t give a whole lot of information about the person in themselves. People who are playing a game may feel differently. You may not want your guildmates to know your real name in case a loot dispute escalates and you get a vendetta or stalker in real life. Serious WoW players are probably more likely to have social and psychological issues, and I can imagine that a few players who decide to play publicly will receive some harassment. Just keep in mind, this is all completely optional, and if you are careful with revealing personal information online, you are probably not going to have any problems. Once this service is live, I think players will accept it quickly, as they did with the launch of the Armory.
Employees of Blizzard also are using their real names – including GMs and blue posters. I can imagine that they are unhappy with this change by and large – if you are dealing with unruly people and they have your name and one of a couple cities you live in, it could get unsettling. I wouldn’t take that job, but again, it’s a choice to work there. I’m not defending Blizzard in this aspect, as I don’t have the perspective of an employee. One blue poster who revealed his name was found on Facebook and his personal address and phone number were leaked onto the Internet. Anyone who takes their anger out against this employee have serious issues and should be banned.
To me, the bottom line is you make decisions every day about how you portray yourself online. If you don’t want your name tied to your WoW habit, then don’t use the forums. It’s not clear if it will be tied to your characters and we haven’t seen it in action yet, so consider reserving judgment until we know all the details. There is no legal case for requiring that people reveal their names to use your optional service (you can get technical and customer support through email and on the phone), and this will be a non sequitur in a year.