Thursday, July 8, 2010

Real ID Brouhaha

If some how you managed to be away the last few days (that or you have been hiding under a rock) you may have heard about a little something that Blizzard has just introduced. Update: Upcoming Changes to the Forums

Recently, we introduced our new Real ID feature - , a new way to stay connected with your friends on the new Today, we wanted to give you a heads up about our plans for Real ID on our official forums, discuss the design philosophy behind the changes we’re making, and give you a first look at some of the new features we’re adding to the forums to help improve the quality of conversations and make the forums an even more enjoyable place for players to visit.

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. These changes will go into effect on all StarCraft II forums with the launch of the new community site prior to the July 27 release of the game, with the World of Warcraft site and forums following suit near the launch of Cataclysm. The classic forums, including those for Diablo II and Warcraft III, will be moving to a new legacy forum section with the release of the StarCraft II community site and at that time will also transition to using Real ID for posting.

The official forums have always been a great place to discuss the latest info on our games, offer ideas and suggestions, and share experiences with other players -- however, the forums have also earned a reputation as a place where flame wars, trolling, and other unpleasantness run wild. Removing the veil of anonymity typical to online dialogue will contribute to a more positive forum environment, promote constructive conversations, and connect the Blizzard community in ways they haven’t been connected before. With this change, you’ll see blue posters (i.e. Blizzard employees) posting by their real first and last names on our forums as well.

We also plan to add a number of other features designed to make reading the forums more enjoyable and to empower players with tools to improve the quality of forum discussions. Players will have the ability to rate up or rate down posts so that great topics and replies stand out from the not-so-great; low-rated posts will appear dimmer to show that the community feels that they don’t contribute effectively to the conversation, and Blizzard’s community team will be able to quickly and easily locate highly rated posts to participate in or to highlight discussions that players find worthwhile.

In addition, individual topics will be threaded by context, meaning replies to specific posts will be grouped together, making it easier for players to keep track of multiple conversations within a thread. We’re also adding a way for Blizzard posters to “broadcast” important messages forums-wide , to help communicate breaking news to the community in a clear and timely fashion. Beyond that, we’re improving our forum search function to make locating interesting topics easier and help lower the number of redundant threads, and we have more planned as well.

With the launch of the new, it’s important to us to create a new and different kind of online gaming environment -- one that’s highly social, and which provides an ideal place for gamers to form long-lasting, meaningful relationships. All of our design decisions surrounding Real ID -- including these forum changes -- have been made with this goal in mind.

We’ve given a great deal of consideration to the design of Real ID as a company, as gamers, and as enthusiastic users of the various online-gaming, communication, and social-networking services that have become available in recent years. As these services have become more and more popular, gamers have become part of an increasingly connected and intimate global community – friendships are much more easily forged across long distances, and at conventions like PAX or our own BlizzCon, we’ve seen first-hand how gamers who may have never actually met in person have formed meaningful real-life relationships across borders and oceans. As the way gamers interact with one another continues to evolve, our goal is to ensure is equipped to handle the ever-changing social-gaming experience for years to come.

For more info on Real ID, check out our Real ID page and FAQ located at . We look forward to answering your questions about these upcoming forum changes in the thread below.

Update - Text updated to include more current and correct information regarding legacy forums and their use of Real ID. "The classic forums, including those for Diablo II and Warcraft III, will be moving to a new legacy forum section with the release of the StarCraft II community site and at that time will also transition to using Real ID for posting."
[ Post edited by Bashiok ]
The response to this announcement has been overwhelming negative. did a poll to get their readers opinion and came up with 16% approving the idea and  88% reacting negatively. Why all the brouhaha? Because several fundamental assumptions was made with this "brilliant" idea. One, that the majority of individuals who play Blizzards games ALSO desire to participate in social networks like Facebook, Myspace and Twitter. Two, that the identities individuals have connected to their billing accurately reflect the players of the game. Three, that by posting real life first and last names it would have a positive impact on negative comments, spamming and trolling on the forums and on the Blizzard community in general.

Why would ANYONE think this is a bad idea? Obviously you must have some criminal past if you don't feel comfortable sharing your first and last name on the internet right? The simple and non criminal reasons have been stated over and over again by a variety of individuals but I will give a basic run down of the more common ones:

- Female gamers especially feel VERY uncomfortable with this. Do I even need to mention all the "girls don't play Wow!" jokes frequently trolled? One of the first things you learn as a female is that 1 in 3 women will be assaulted before the age of 21, 1 in 5 in their life time. Protecting your personal information is something we are all strongly encouraged to do.

- Many of us created our accounts YEARS ago and there is NO option to just "replace your name" even if you could put in an "alias" as some have suggested. If at any time you have a security breech or have a problem with your authenticator you need to be able to provide identification to prove you are who you claim to be...can't do that if you are using an alias.

- Individuals who work in identity sensitive careers, I am not just talking about the various celebrities and politicians (they are often provided with intense security measures) but common individuals like public servants, Police, Social Workers, Therapists, etc. Some have even commented how the negative stereotyping of gaming within their particular field or work place can cause issues. To just say "find another job" is both crass and naive. First it assumes the ability to quickly locate another job as well that said job or career change will not adversely effect such things as dependents, require relocation, etc.

-Miss identification. Even if you happen to have a "common" name or are more difficult to locate via the internet you run the risk of either having someone else identified as YOU or YOURSELF identified as someone else. Can't you see it now? A forum thread with 5 "John Smith"'s all voicing their opinion? Besides getting confusing how will you differentiate the 5 Johns? OH! That's right you can put your main CHARACTER name with your Real ID. Why would someone consider THAT a security risk? *sarcasm*

-Hackers. Ever since Battlenet was made a "requirement" (another "optional" that became "mandatory") individuals have had to deal with e-mail phishing scams galore. Even if you are a "safe" player weaknesses in things like Adobe Flash can open you up to hacks contained in adds.

I recently spoke with a government employee and she said something rather scary. "You can't hide on the internet. As long as you can find a first and last name as well as maybe a couple other pieces of information like a nick name (avatar?) or regional location (server they play on?) you can usually find someone in about 10 minutes."  I don't think that is paranoia when the GOVERNMENT acknowledges this to be factual information.Still don't believe me? Check out this. Sure there are steps you can take to protect yourself, but how many are completely unaware of how easy it really is?

So why would Blizzard make such a move? What is motivating them? The only things we know for certain are that:

1. They want to stop negativity and trolling on their forums. (A worthy goal.)
2. The company president stated back in May when they first partnered with Facebook that he wanted to have more access to the "social gamer" market. This is obviously a step towards that goal and has been stated as such.
3. China's regulations require that ALL internet postings be done under "Real Name Identification". (Doesn't THAT idea fill you with comfort?) If they have to do it for China ANYWAY why not broaden the program?
4. They want to change how their forums operate from the way they do currently. Now HOW exactly they want to change is unclear, unless they are simply trying to greatly reduce the amount of activity ON the official forums.

It is also clear Blizzard was NOT anticipating QUITE the backlash it has received. When the original Real ID program was launched, while many of us were not happy about it, since it WAS optional, we figured "Let the social networking people have what apparently they want, we will pass thank you." The IDEA was great. To be able to talk to friends playing on other Blizzard games even if they were not on the one you were currently playing. It was something I know a lot of people really wanted. The problem was the execution. It required my REAL name which was then exposed to everyone else on my friend's friends list. In addition there was no way to "turn it off" if I just wanted privacy or to remain "hidden".

Then there was the weaknesses discovered where mods were taking people's E-mail addresses even if they WEREN'T a part of Real ID and using them to send Phishing E-mails or other spams. This again caused a minor uproar but Blizzard seemed to be working to correct it. Now they inform us that "Real ID" is no longer going to be "optional" (Sound like anything ELSE we know? Oh yeah, Battlenet.) Suddenly Blizzard is besieged. Even individuals who seldom frequent the forums, your average "John Doe" player is up in arms about this.

There is that small maniority that say "Hey this IS a good idea! Why is everyone over reacting?" Their basic arguments are simple as well.

- I don't care if individuals find out I play Wow or look me up on the internet. I PERSONALLY am not that interesting so why should it be a problem for anyone else?
- This is OPTIONAL, just don't use the forums and you won't have to worry about it.
- It will help keep people HONEST and RESPECTFUL on the forums and don't we all want that?

Somethings I have noticed about that small minority is : They are generally young, males and/or in careers where their names are already linked with gaming, or they are independently employed. Not that this makes their opinions less valid but more their perspectives are rather limited.

As when they first introduced Real ID, the IDEA behind it is good. Clean up the forums and provide a safer place for individuals to share information. It is the execution that is the problem. By tying our posts into our billing identities the limitations placed on players have already been well discussed. Why is it that they can't have it so you declare a "Main" on the forums and that is your posting "Handle"? Why must it be your REAL first and last name? Shakespeare once stated "That which we call a rose. By any other name would smell as sweet." A troll is a troll no matter WHAT name they go by. SURE hold them accountable, but don't give them more opportunities to be asshats by giving them individuals REAL names to go after.

If Acuvision's idea is to destroy their own game they are doing a GREAT job at it. Honestly for the first time I am actually considering wither or not I will be able to continue to play with this new direction they are going. Already I and several other members of my guild face constant vicious harassment on a daily basis. Now if ANY of us attempt to do a guild recruitment posting on the forums our real names will be out there for all to see. Some of our stalkers already KNOW our real names and have caused us personal pain and difficulty already. As much as I enjoy this game and the friendships I have made in it, no GAME is worth my family's safety and peace of mind. Yes, I would miss my on line friends, my guild is very much a "family" to me. At this point we all can only wait and see how Blizzard will respond to the feedback they are receiving.

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