A few weeks ago, I had begun writing an article in response to the release of patch 3.3.5—more to the point, it targeted Blizzard’s new project—RealID. Suffice to say, I was amongst those that really, really liked the idea, but felt it was critically flawed in both design, and security aspects. My primary issue was with needing to share my login username email in order to get this to work, but there were other legitimate concerns including the Friend of Friend lists and having your real name listed there, even if you may not know your friend’s friends. Also like many people, I felt that RealID was a system that could’ve been so much more, but Blizzard botched it big time by appealing to a niche of players. However, this has already been beaten to death with a dead horse, hence why that post never saw the light of day. Adding to that is those that didn’t want to use it had the option to simply opt-out, and we could go on ahead with our lives.
That is, until now.
Today, Blizzard announced that they’re planning to integrate RealID with their official forums. It’ll start to go live with the release of Starcraft2, and it’ll eventually find its way to the WoW forums not too long before Cataclysm hits.
When I woke up and read this, I actually wondered if I went back in time, and it was actually April 1st.
I can’t even begin to imagine what sort of repercussions Blizzard will start to feel in the aftermath of this announcement. The official thread on the General Forums has gone 330 pages and there’s absolutely no signs of it stopping. The people who seemed to be fine with the idea of RealID when it was first launched in-game are saying that now Blizzard is starting to overstep their boundaries. Very few people seem to be in support of it, and really? It’s not hard to see why.
I can see what Blizzard is trying to do; foster an environment for constructive discussion. They want to clean up the mess, the bile and the spew that people associate the forums with. But, there must be other ways to do this, because this new system puts those that want to contribute to a community, but want to keep their real life and gamer persona separate from one another, between a rock and a hard place.
Many people—including myself—have already highlighted what real life repercussions could come out with having your real name out there associated on a gaming forum in that thread. One of the major ones that hit pretty close to home for me are career and job concerns. Some people want—or need—to keep their professional and leisure identities separate. What about those people? As someone who knows first-hand just how tough the job market is right now, it’s a real concern when knowing what could make or break a job offer would be as simple as putting your name into a Google search and getting search results that link to your activity on a gaming forum. Time and time again, we are told that we need to maintain a professional image, and yet how can we do that when Blizzard starts to throw your WoW habits into the mix? Worse still, is WoW continues to carry a negative stigma of being an addicting game. It’s true, but it doesn’t mean that people can learn how to play in moderation. However, hiring managers may look at it, and already they may have a negative image about you even before you step into the office for a job interview.
There was a forum post in the giant US thread that detailed how his activities were strictly monitored; how he always needed a doctor’s note when he called in sick, how he had to detail exactly what he did when he worked from home. Even when he went on vacation, he had to provide proof through plane tickets that he was really flying off somewhere. All because he played WoW. The funny thing? His co-workers—who weren’t WoW players—weren’t treated like that.
The other giant issue is about harassment and stalking. I’m not afraid to admit that I am a woman who plays WoW; hell, I don’t mind jumping onto the server Vent to talk with people. But, I feel that I have a right to control how much information I give out to people, and making RealID mandatory on the forums takes away that freedom. Some people aren’t comfortable with people knowing their name at all due to gender, ethnicity, etc. Blizzard thinks revealing real names will stop trolling? I hate to break it to them, but some people are perfectly fine with trolling—even if their name is visible for the world to see. It’ll have to take some harsh, immediate punishment (ban from the forums and in-game perhaps?) to set people straight.
And, do we even need to get into the not-so-stable-people that might want to take things a little too far? Seriously, if you’re a working adult with a job, a credit line a home, it’s not hard to for people to find out who you are, where you live, and all sorts of personal information that you wouldn’t want to tell your online friends about. Sooner or later, someone will get hurt.
Yes, we have a choice to use RealID. We can either opt in by continuing to post, or you’re concerned about your privacy and security, you can choose not to be a part of the forum community. But, Blizzard pretty much defeats the point of trying to foster an environment for communication when no one’s talking, don’t you think?
EDIT: There was another post about 30 pages in from a blue in regards to a bit of info they forgot to mention in the beginning (and in turn, probably a lot of people missed—including myself)
One important point which I don’t believe has been relayed yet is that the switch to showing RealID on the forums will only happen with the new forum systems we’re launching for StarCraft II shortly before its release, and a new forum system for World of Warcraft launching shortly before the release of Cataclysm.
All posts here on the current World of Warcraft forums, or any of our classic Battle.net forums, will remain as-is. They won’t (and can’t) automatically switch to showing a real first and last name.
It’s an interesting bit of information that suggests that it’ll be optional. But, since seeing that Blizzard has a “vision” with RealID and where it’s going, who knows how long it’ll be before it becomes mandatory when using the official forums. This is what scares a lot of people, and I can’t blame them.
And for those that participate in your realm community, I throw out this question: what will your realm community do? Will they adapt? Or will they be creating a new forums to avoid this whole mess?
SON OF EDIT: Also, I implore people that if you feel strongly against this, please register a complaint with the ESRB through here. Only we can make a difference.
GRANDSON OF EDIT: While we’re on the subject of RealID, there’s an article on WoW Insider that shows that there’s a critical flaw with the system that allows addons to show your real life name to others—even if you haven’t made any RealID friends. The hits just keep on coming.
GREAT GRANDSON OF EDIT: A lot has gone on since the last revision. For one, the US realm forums have gone over the 1000 page mark—and it looks like it has yet to slow down. On the other side of the Atlantic, the Europeans are expressing their frustration over the RealID system as well. I’m not going to touch the CM who decided to reveal his name to the forums out of a gesture of good-will—it’s pretty well known by now, not to mention it’s a tad bit ugly as it’s an example of someone getting “4chaned” as it were.
Another blue post has recently popped up on the EU English forums:
We have been planning this change for a very long time. During this time, we have thought ahead about the scope and impact of this change and predicted that many people would no longer wish to post in the forums after this change goes live. We are fine with that, because we want to change these forums dramatically in a positive and more constructive direction.
It’s been very obvious over the last few years that the forums are an exceptionally valuable source of information both for players and for us to gather feedback. There are many threads on this forum now, and over the last few years, that people have been constructively discussing many aspects of the game. They’ve received new wisdom and have then been able to go back to the game and enjoy it further with the new knowledge acquired through the forums.
These threads, however, can often be lost amongst a great deal of other threads that are basically filled with trolling, name calling, flaming, off-topic conversations and that’s just a small amount of some of the content that has been found in these forums over the years. We don’t want that anymore, and we believe the Real ID change will bring about a lot of the improvement that we are hoping for.
There’s a lot of scare-mongering going on about the change, but there seems a need to make something very clear. The forums have always been an optional extra — something you can choose to participate in if you wish to. With our Real ID changes for the forums, this is still the case. The only difference will be, if you do choose to participate in the forums, then you will do so by using your real name. But only after you’ve been warned and accepted this in advance.
Take what you will out of it, but the way I see it? The only way for players to express their discontent is to put their money where their mouth is. And as much as it pains to say it with plans to help revitalize the server community, I now stand amongst them. My account is canceled and now inactive and will remain so until I see some major changes to this system, as well as a sign of good faith that Activision-Blizzard is once again a company I can put my trust into.
The upside to all of this? In all my years of playing WoW and being a part of the community, I have never seen the community so united together for a single cause. For the first time, players from all walks of life and play styles stand together. It almost brings a tear to this veteran’s eye.
…Posting on the forums with your real name will be optional — yes, in the sense that the options are simply post and show your real name, or do not post and you keep it confidential. If people are happy to post and do not feel intimidated by this, then great — hopefully they will also post constructively (though it’s fair to say, this isn’t a given). It might be scary to consider posting with your real name, in which case it might be advisable simply not to post in these forums. There’s a whole load of other forums across the internet where you’ll be able to post in a more anonymous way, and maybe you will make a useful and constructive contribution there instead.
-Wryxian (EU English Forums)
I’ve got nothing else to add here.