The response to this announcement has been overwhelming negative. Wow.com 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.