RealID – Good Goal, Bad Idea
July 7, 2010 20 Comments
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.