Girl Gamers. Some (uninformed) people still don’t believe that we exist. And others jump all over us when they find out that we do.
The newly announced, incoming RealID changes that eliminate anonymity on the official forums have the potential to not only reveal that we actually do exist (quite plentifully,too), but also to put our names on the line and potentially expose us to in-game or IRL harassment, stalking or worse.
Well, those are the worst case scenarios. Most of us probably will see little, if any difference in how we’re treated based on putting our IRL names out there. But there is that potential.
Since the announcement came, I’ve been trudging through the forums and other areas of the interwebs looking for legitimate possible concerns for women. And there are quite a few. I’ve heard horror stories of a past female WoW player whose IRL identity was exposed, and some jerk decided to spam post her phone number in trade chat. I’ve heard tales of female gamers getting stalked after they decided to put their IRL name out there.
Now, how many of these are true, and how many are overblown? I’m not trying to be alarmist, but it is a serious enough subject that everyone — not only women, but everyone — should make some real considerations before deciding whether to post on the forums after the changes.
Before you make your decision, let’s look at a few of the arguments being made around the web concerning women and privacy issues.
Obviously to anyone reading the 1,300 (and counting) pages of comments on the issue, the incoming RealID forums changes have quickly become a hot-button issue to all. Well-known girl gamer and WoW player Felicia Day jumped into the discussion Wednesday with a Twitter update on the topic:
Lots of mixed responses to the Blizzard thing, but overwhelmingly seems women are upset about it.
Felicia also pointed to a great argument on Hellmode against the implementation of RealID and the display of IRL names on the official forums:
Women might find it harsher with new avenues of harassment opened. Transgendered people could be inadvertently outted when someone sees Sally, the friendly Paladin chick, posting under the name Steve. Someone could have a distinctive name and be disregarded solely because their name sounded like a person of a certain background, race, religion, or otherwise. And if someone’s a minor–or even major–celebrity, having their name exposed could be damaging. From Felicia Day to Mila Kunis, I doubt they’d like their alternative identity exposed simply because they decided to post a suggestion on the WoW forums or report a bug to support.
As this post eloquently pointed out, it’s not just women who need to think through these potential issues. Everyone should, and especially anyone who could be a potential target to ignorant specimens of the human species.
Here’s four examples of why forum posters say they aren’t supportive of how these changes may affect women:
I’m a girl and I post on a male troll for a reason…
I don’t really.. want people to know so much about me from a glance.
Girls wont post for fear of being stalked. And knowing some channers, its easy to stalk ppl with just some basic info.
Girl Gamer + real name = stalked.
OK, i quit the forums. Not many with my last name out there, and with a little bit of logic/social engineering skills, you’d definately be able to figure out which facebook is mine, and myspace etc.
This girl gamer is not touching the new forums with a 10 foot pole. Thank god this is not retroactive.
I live in this world, and because I live in this world, I like the anonymity of the internet. I like World of Warcraft for a similar reason (among many others), but I rather enjoy being able to have a discussion with a person without them immediately knowing my gender and my gender being irrelevant to the conversation. I like that someone can’t waltz into a conversation and immediately dismiss me “because I’m a girl”.
Blizzard is taking that away from me, from many women, as far as their forums go.
…I will no longer use their forums if they force me to use my real name. I already live in a world where I am treated poorly because of my gender, and I like to escape from that when I go online.
Now while some people seem to be quite supportive of these changes, when it comes to this specific issue, I scrolled through the first ~150 pages of comments, and couldn’t find one single positive reaction specific to women.
So let me add one. You know that stereotype that assumes girl gamers must suck at what we do? Now’s our chance to prove that notion dead wrong.
All of these potentials sound too scary? Well, as Heartbourne pointed out, you always have the very simple option of not posting on the Blizzard forums. Or the ultimate alternative — take your business elsewhere.
The bottom line: Up until now, posting on the forums has been a relatively casual experience and hasn’t required much thought. But that’s changing. If these changes go through as planned, everyone needs to take some time to deliberate on whether you’re comfortable putting your name on the line when posting. Because you’ll have to live with the consequences of your decision — whether they be minor (as I suspect they will be for most people) or significant.