RealID – Good Goal, Bad Idea

With the recent announcement of linking realID to your forum account – meaning if and when you post on the official forums, your first and last name will be visible – it’s the topic on everyone’s tongue, and it’s an interesting one at that. So, of course I have to give my two cents on the subject.

First off, before I get too negative, let’s be honest and acknowledge that there is a fair amount of good which could come out of it:

  • Reduced trolling. It does. It’s pretty well established (not to mention plain common sense) that anonymity can bring out the worst in people, particularly on the internet. People are less likely to troll if they’re posting under their real name and if they can’t just swap characters and magically appear to be someone completely different.
  • Generally better post quality. If a post is attached to your actual name, you’re going to care that it’s at least moderately legible, if nothing else. Hopefully.
  • Cross-forum familiarity. Self-explanatory; going from the SCII forums to the WoW forums will simply be a change in topic. You won’t have to try and figure out who is who.

Really not that much when you try and actually list it out, but regardless, now with that out of the way, let’s get down to all of the downsides:

  • Potential employers. Would you want to hire someone who spends two hours a day posting on a video game forum? It might not affect their performance, but still, it will look bad regardless.
  • Current employers. If Steve Jobs were to play WoW, how good would it reflect on Apple to see him complaining about MS and claiming that healing-debuffs should be exclusive to Warriors and that other classes have no right to infringe on their trademark ability?
    • See what I did there?
  • College Admissions Officer. A lot of students play the game and balance it with school just fine – I know I do. But that doesn’t mean an admissions officer might have concerns when they see that an applicant spends a couple hours each night raiding. They would be none the wiser if you stayed at home and smoked pot, on the other hand!
  • Racism. Some names are clearly a specific ethnicity, and even if posts aren’t anonymous, some people truly are just plain prejudice and bigoted. That’s just the world we live in, unfortunately.
  • Sexism. Yeah, this one is pretty self-explanatory. If I were female, I probably wouldn’t tell most people. If you want to post though, you’re going to have to throw your gender out there and deal with the implications of a male-dominated community.
  • Stalkers. It’s very easy to google someone’s name. There are specific sites which will, sometimes for free and sometimes for a fee, give you the rudimentary info on a person – current address, phone number, etcetera. If you want to stalk someone and you have their real name, you can certainly do so.
  • Harassment. You can order pizza to someone’s house, prank call them, whatever. Or you can send them envelops with sugar and threatening phone calls. It’s no joke.
  • Potential dates. You met someone you’re interested in, and they go home to try and look you up on Facebook or Myspace. They see, when searching, you spend time posting on the WoW forums. They stereotype and never find you again. What! Good luck trying to use Eharmony!

The list could go on and I started to get a bit joking with that last one, but you get the idea. The pitfalls are very real, very obvious, and very serious.

    I suppose the worst part about all of it is that there are so many ways to get most (if not all) of those positives without most (if not all) of those negatives:

    • Buckle-down on forum moderation. They  don’t have to be as strict as EJ, but they could certainly make the rules a bit less lenient and enforce the rules they already have a bit more readily to great effect. Hire some additional moderators if need be.
    • Make it so that you post under one name. It doesn’t have to be your real name. You don’t have to make it their main’s name. On almost every forum you have an account and you can only post on your account’s name… make this the same. That would prevent people from switching to a different alt to avoid the negative backlash their trolling on another alt may have received. That would do so much.
    • Improve the search function. It’s notoriously difficult to use and buggy. If people could actually search for old topics, maybe the same questions wouldn’t be asked every ten minutes.
    • Implement the post ratings. That’s an excellent idea; run with it.
    • Allow PMs to other players. Basic forum functionality, in my opinion, which the WoW ones have always lacked. There would be no more “@ Soandso” posts. There would be a lot less obvious questions if you could just PM someone you know could quickly answer it. Etc.
    • Improve the MVP system. Almost every class has a couple people who are pretty well known throughout that class’s population (or, at the least, the fraction which visit the forums). Xav for Warriors, for example. Aldriana for Rogues. So on. Why are these people not MVPs when they’ve contributed so much to the community? Perhaps even give them class board-specific moderation powers. Two birds, one stone.

    Why not at least try the above and see how it plays out and then, if the results are unsatisfactory, try something more drastic? If the stated goal is nothing more than reducing trolling, increasing constructive discussion, and other such commendable actions, then why not use some tried-and-true methods of doing it? Why do one of the most drastic moves possible?

    Don’t get me wrong – I’ll be honest; would this stop me from posting? No. But, then again, my last name, although not common, is an actual word, and due to the nature of it goolging me is rather futile.

    But even so, there happens to be a lawyer in another state who shares my name, and he did come up when searched. What happens if someone gets upset with me about something I said, assumes that guy is me, and then spams his Facebook or calls his firm? Or what happens if a potential client is checking him out to make sure he seems worth the money, and sees that someone with his exact name spends hours a day posting on the WoW forums? Would they still retain him?

    Just look at the Bashiok/Whipple fiasco which happened in less than an hour of the CM posting his name. Bashiok claims that it isn’t actually him, and perhaps he’s right… but what about poor Mr. Whipple then? What about all the harassment and such he must be getting due to the backlash of this unpopular decision which he might be completely unaware of and of which he has no relation to? Does that make it “no big deal”… or an even larger one?

    I just can’t imagine this possibly going live as stated. Not because of the fact that the response is overwhelmingly negative, or the fact that US sticky on the topic is the quickest growing WoW thread of all time. Not because of the fact that some people might cancel their subscriptions with this as the stated reason, or the fact that it might mean some negative PR for the company.

    I just can’t imagine it going live due to the potential legal complications; even if it’s A. O. K. in the states, many other countries – such as Germany – are very strict on internet privacy, and I can’t possibly imagine this would be kosher with them.

    Besides, can you imagine what happens the first time there’s a news story about a disgruntled player who physically harms someone else because that other person ninja’ed an item or gkicked them? Can you imagine what happens the first time a female and/or underage player gets sexually assaulted for some equally ridiculous reason because some creep was able to find out their real name and then track them?

    Yeah. This won’t happen.

    On the plus side, it is nice to know that Blizzard is actively looking at ways to improve their forums!

    There is that.

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    20 Responses to RealID – Good Goal, Bad Idea

    1. disargeria says:

      It’s a dubious increase in quality. Instead of armory attacks, we enable personal attacks. There isn’t any system to stop this, you’d still need actual moderators to make sure it wasn’t abused. They would need even MORE moderators because we’re talking about sensitive information.

      There have been several stories in the past years of gamers hunting another down to inflict harm due to virtual conflicts. That’s not common, and I doubt it’d start an epidemic of e-violence, but…

      If even ONE SINGLE PERSON gets physically hurt because their names are revealed, is the slight quality improvement to debate alongside the exodus of normal forum-goers worth it?

      • Zeran says:

        Random thought for the night (sorry if this is off the wall my head’s AFU tonight), there has to be somewhere (I’m thinking California or Germany are likely) that providing this root information makes the company an accessory to any crime committed with that information, right?
        So person 1 ninja’s person 2’s trinket/mount/whatever, person 2 snaps, hunts down 1, murders him. Person 1’s family move to California before the statute of limitations rolls off and sues blizzard for wrongful death / accessory to murder.

        Philosophical bonus question: How does Blue handle that publicity?

    2. Roth says:

      I dont understand why Blizzard thought this was a good idea. Are they trying to make WoW into Facebook with an attached MMO game? If so, let ppl connect on their own outside of the game. Plenty of my guild members already do it. I personally dont partake in that type of stuff because I very much like having my time in WoW VERY separate from my real life stuff (school, friends, family, etc).

      And Ill admit, Id rather not deal with a number of my friends or family members finding out I play WoW. A few of them have made jokes about WoW and WoW players over the years. These jokes dont bother me one bit because theyre not directed at me…but what if they found out I play? Suddenly things become a bit awkward when they shouldnt be.

      While that example is unlikely to ever happen, Id rather not have the chances of it happening increase simply because Blizzard wants Facebook + WoW.

      The thing that really confuses me is Blizzards stance on time spent in game. Blizzard has stated on more than one occasion that they dont want players playing WoW for extreme amounts of time (which is the justification they used for limited attempts on Heroic ICC bosses and partly the reason for the 10/25 change in Cataclysm). So if Blizzard wants to limit how much time we spend raiding and such, why are they trying to incorporate WoW into ppls lives EVEN MORE with the RealID thing?

      You cant argue that limiting how much time ppl raid is a good thing while also trying to make WoW into an MMO-Facebook.

    3. Roth says:

      Btw, I started watching a movie at 11:30 PM PST and just posted at 1:20 AM PST. In that time, the number of forum posts went from 16228 to 17547 (that takes the ~1100 posts that were deleted into account). Thats incredible.

      • Roth says:

        About 2:35 AM PST now…post count up to nearly 18350 from 17547. Good lord, its the middle of the night!

        Sorry Consider, Id incorporate this into my other post but Ive got that whole edit problem again. =(

    4. Insolence says:

      Tbh if someone just posts under an assumed name then its not their real name and if they have no interest in ever posting anything decent I doubt they’d have any issues with displaying a level 1 as their character and still trolling.

      Account Name can always be changed, so this will only spot parts of Trolls.

      It’s also a violation of Blizzard’s Account Privacy where they claim they will be the only ones to know our personal information.

      ReadID is optional, its border-lining.

      Forum Posting? Totally not really optional if you want to help out your Community by posting about a bug or something, its fail.

      I used to really question the fact that each month my WoW Subscription would re-fresh without me even getting an e-mail notice of 13 euro leaving my card, but this is totally over the edge.

      On another Note in response to the last line of your post Consider – They look for ways to improve the Forums after 5 years which are probably one of if not THE worse Forums I’ve ever seen anymore where I doubt even half of the Community visits on a daily basis, instead of taking care of that Gold-Spammer issue they’ve had forever now, on every Realm, every Trade Channel, in whispers, even with Bots hacking the Game and standing around in OG, which in one way or another results in a large amount of hacks due to powerleveling etc.

      GG Blizz, retard idea, waste of time. Can they focus on something that would make more and not less people happy now?

      • Vorga says:

        WoW official forums are actually quite well moderated and upkept. I’ve been to other forums (other MMO forums), and by compairson, they’re a third world country. There’s practically no moderation, and almost no constructive posts.

        The worst forums? I hope that was an attempt at troll.

        There are a lot of solutions if you don’t like your name displayed. The name I use in my account isn’t my real name. There’s no reason someone couldn’t change the name associated with the account.

        The gold farming, advertising, etc you’re talking about is not relevant to the topic of discussion (the forums), but I’ll address it briefly: there’s no way to completely stop them. If you think it’s bad in WoW, again, try another game for a day or two. They don’t have a tenth of the player base, but the gold farm and in game spam are ten times worse. Blizzard does an admirable job with the problem, even if the solution isn’t perfect.

        • Insolence says:

          I’m assuming you only post in the US Forums where Blues actually reply to a Thread once every 20 pages, because on EU the chance of getting a blue reply is less than 10% of getting one on the US Forums.

          I should have just said EU Forums, since I have no idea about the US ones.

          Why do you think there’s such a large amount of Trolling on the WoW Forums? Moderators don’t ban you for trolling, at max after a day or two the post gets locked or deleted, mostly just deleted. I actually heard of someone getting banned for replying to a thread that was carried off-topic, thats dumb.

          The Gold Farming issue can be death with by just implementing a filter enabled/disabled in player’s setting that blocks out all /2 /w or /y with the words “gold” or “www.” in it. If that isn’t enough just add more words to it. Sure, you might lose some Chat from Friends in the end, implement a sub-filter. People you’ve added to your friends list can send you those words, same for people in your Guild.

          Wow, that was really hard to think up wasn’t it? They’ve implemented a mature language filter so its obvious they know HOW to do it.

        • Therris says:

          Just so you know, you cant change your real name in Battle.net

          So its not like we can all go off and just use fake names cause some of us are stuck with our real ones.

    5. Baadshah of Dawnbringer says:

      Most of you have already commented on the very real problems this brings by spilling over into our real lives. I’m going to add to this by offering a perspective as to how this move ends up lowering their average product quality as well.

      Here is what I posted earlier on my realm forums:

      ***
      Okay seeing as I started this topic, time for my two cents: Horrible, horrible idea.

      If the objective is to ban trolling, it fails. As has been suggested earlier on this thread, just force us to attach a nickname to our account that will be displayed no matter what alt we post from. Hell, even let other players view which toons are linked to the same account.

      On that other hand if the objective is to gut the WoW forums themselves, bravo! Recruitment posts? Bumps? Helpful hints? Player discussion? Nope. Count me out. I love you all…. From a distance. I do not want you involved in my personal life however.
      Somebody else brought up the issue of identity theft which I know if a pretty valid concern these days.

      The most important aspect I’ve saved for the last: Theorycrafting and Feedback. One of the biggest uses the WoW team finds for the forums, among all the QQ and trolling, is the genuine, meaningful posts on how the game is being run.
      This is all going to die.

      The best example I can think of is Kyth. If you’re any kind of caster class (Mages especially) or have just visited stratfu.com, you know who she is.
      People like her have made pretty invaluable contributions towards theorycraft and game design feedback in general. Go look at her “Mage Design in Ulduar” thread from over a year ago and you’ll see what I mean.

      Well, Kyth posted earlier on StratFu and said “No can do”. RealID was a pain in the behind to begin with, but this is the staw that broke the camel’s back.
      And lets not forget the timing too- right as many of us are even wondering if we’ll be around for Cataclysm, given the monotony raiding has sunk into.

      Good job Blizz.
      If you continue to seek valuable feedback on your product, I wish you luck as you trawl various personal sites and blogs- you won’t find it here any more.
      ***

      Here’s to heartily hoping this idea collapses before coming to fruition.

    6. Kumduh says:

      They’ll either reverse the decision and things will go back to normal with maybe some added forum functionality, or they’ll lose a giant population of the forums and possibly game. Trolls, theorycrafters, bug reporters, general ptr feedback givers, realm forum guild recruitment… you name it and it’s going to be gone. Without these the game itself will cease to evolve because player feedback will practically cease to exist. Internet anonymity is like a woman. You can’t live with it, and you can’t live without it. Here’s to Red Alert 2 as a fallback plan…

    7. Jonneh says:

      Amazing to think that this might go forward. I would imagine this is the kind of thing that politicians from all countries would love to get involved in…

      Here in the UK its not likely that there would be any kind of legal or political backlash, but then we’re quite open and liberal compared to the likes of germany and alike as you mention. I can’t imagine that korea would go for a change like this. I mean, didnt they invent internet based physical crime and violence?

      Its kind of insane to say to yourself that you wont be able to post on Blizzard forums without revealing your name and putting yourself out there as a target. It does strip away that anonymity barrier, which could have some possitive effect. But what about the first stalker phone call as a result of blizzard forums hosting the name of someone? The first harassment, the first assault? God forbid the first murder?

      Have you thought it through blizzard? I mean *really* thought it through? Is this really the stroke needed to clean up the forum, and are you prepared for the backlash if any of the above happened? ‘Cause I can guarentee you, politicians and law makers wont be staying out of it then, and neither will the press and community in general.

    8. Seralyn says:

      After a couple of replies in this thread commented that your contact info could be changed, I checked my battle.net account to see if I could; I cannot edit my first and last name manually. The proper procedure seems to be contacting Accounts and Billing Services to change it, however that would be problematic as well. Doubtful they would let you change to Notmy Realname or even a normal name if it was different. As well, there are probably a few thousand players attempting to do just that now, so the queue will be horrendous. Oh Blizzard…

    9. Panache says:

      Hey,
      Have been following this blog since its inception and your work at EJ before this. I am glad you are doing what you are doing and I hope you continue to find the time to do it.
      Onto the topic, I am a casual raider, raiding twice during the week and once on the weekend, pugging something. I find it a great way to relax and get away from RL, which can be really, really depressing at times. You see, I am a doctor working in an ER a lot. Can you imagine the potential if my WoW life is somehow discovered and dragged into my RL. Nature of my job is that I routinely have to go to court to testify in cases of violence, rape etc. All of the material that I posted on the wow forum can be used to define who I am as a person. Also, I finish my training in a year, what if my next potential employers googles me and finds me on wow forums? How seriously do you think he will take me?

    10. Panache says:

      Also, one of my guildies is a deputy sherriff. Its not hard to track him down since they are semi-public figures. Can you imagine how easy it is to pull out all his info, including where he lives and where he works?

    11. Sage says:

      I’m not going to repeat what has already been said several times over. I think the cross-realm and cross-platform chat functionality is better late than never. However, I don’t think they needed to provide actual player names in game or in forums. There has to be a better alternative then the mandatory release of personal information in order to use the feature in game. The creation of a account specific nickname that can not be duplicated on any other account perhaps? Just the first name maybe? There are other features in game that concern me, such as the friends of friend and the ability to just be able to pull people into “Conversations” using RealID without an Accept/Decline box that then show’s your actual name to everyone participating in that conversation. While my daughter isn’t old enough to play WoW, I would be just as concerned as some parents I’ve seen post in the forums concerning the position Blizzard has put them in by making the use of personal information mandatory in order to participate.

      Outside of the game environment, I’m all for cutting down on flaming and trolls. I do not however, support the mandatory requirement that you publish your personal information in order to participate in the online forum community. While some (not here, mostly on MMO Champ and the WoW offical forums) claim that you would only be concerned if you were an avid troller etc, I find a lot of fault in that logic. Human history proves that some people require very little to find a problem with you, as Consider pointed out sometimes it only takes having a different name and catching the eye of someone with a very strong opinion toward people of that specific ethnicity. It’s just a bad idea, and while RL assults and such maybe not be common, Blizzard should not be doing ANYTHING to assist in making what already occurs any easier to be accomplished.

      While I am in favor of some of the benefits of the system, I am not in favor of anything that is not “opt in” especially when it comes to the publishing of my personal information.

      And regardless of whether that CM really is who they posted the info for all over the internet, it brings to light one very real concern, what if it isn’t? If it is, then he’s proven how easy, and how willing some are to go the distance to make a point. If it isn’t, then some guy has just had his life turned upside down by harassment from a bunch of angry video game players because of a lack of respect for people in general. Either way, it’s simply the wrong direction to go.

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    13. Clevinger says:

      I find it hard to understand why people see playing a game or discussing it on a forum as a clandestine activity. I play social football every Sunday and the local paper prints my name on the very rare occasions that I score a goal. It’s probably on their website as well. It’s been happening for 25+ years and hasn’t caused me the slightest problem.

      What’s the problem if my real name is used for a post on the forum or for even linked to my armory? People be able to see what I’m doing in WoW and will not care in the slightest.

      I think a lot of people’s concerns about this are because they think that people will think less of them for playing or being interested in WoW. I just don’t think this is true.

      Looking at Consider’s concerns:

      Employer/College – If you play WoW 2 hour’s a day they probably won’t be worried. If you play 12 hours a day and the employer can be bothered to look they will be concerned. Probably rightly.

      Racism/Sexism – I don’t think that pretending to be colourless and/or sexless is going to help racism in the long term. Much better to let people know what sex/race you are and if they have a problem let the community confront them.

      Stalking – There are strange people out there. They are more likely to stalk you because they see you in a supermarket than because you post something on a forum. Is it really a good idea to stay anonymous just because of a few nutters?

      Dates – is playing a game really bad enough to put people off you? Its a pretty common past time.

      I’m not supporting what Blizzard intend to do. I just think that people are overreacting. Having your real name on the Blizz forums or even on your armory page is just no that big a deal.

    14. Pingback: RealID linkspam. | Azeroth. Me.

    15. Derah says:

      VICTORY!!!!!!

      aparently they backed down on their intentions of showing the real names of the users :P

      yay for freedom of speech :D

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