The big RealID debate goes on!

More and more we see that the social aspects of the game are growing. Raiding, coordination and community efforts have become a large part of the WoW Community. In order to capitalize on this, and become the leading “social gaming community”, Blizzard has decided on a few controversial changes to the way people’s personal information is handled.

RealID now

Currently, RealID allows you to communicate cross-realm (and cross-game) with people on your friends list. Those you choose to become RealID friends with get to see your real name, and they get to see yours. While this is wonderful, friends of your “real friends” also get to see your name through your RealID friend, which makes RealID the equivalent of unprotected intercourse. You might trust your friends, but do you trust theirs?

Top it all off with allegations that it can be used to gather your personal information through addons, and it is easy to see why the forums are in an uproar.

The future

The planning currently includes for all forum posts you make on the new forum system to show your real name, and not a character name. This means you can be held publicly accountable for any post you make, reducing trolling. It also leads to a few other, major issues:

  • Harmful effects on job opportunities if your gaming is connected to you during a job interview
  • Minors being exposed with name, so they become just a bit more vulnerable to online predators
  • Discrimination based on name may cause someone’s actual message to be drowned out
  • People may suffer from name confusion when multiple people share one name
  • Name confusion with criminals, terrorists, political extremists causing flaming, threats and spam
  • Discrimination based on name and stereotyping (Gold guide by Weissman? Real name is John Pooper? Last name is Underhill – prepare for Lotro jokes…and if this offends you now, imagine the forums!)
  • Angry about your guild leader? He’s bound to have a recruitment message on the forums – let’s flame him in real life or on other forums he frequents…

And in addition to all this, there is no real choice: either you accept it, or you stop posting altogether. There will be an “opt-in” screen to confirm that you accept your name to be revealed when you post. That’s it.

Funny idea: in what degree might this choice be considered an “action with possible legal consequences”?

You see, in the US there are laws that govern the decisions minors may make in regards to that. And the choice to reveal your personal info is considered a legally binding agreement, and you cannot complain to Blizzard for any damage caused after clicking “yes”, even if someone who you ganked in STV came to your house and cut you in the face. Since this is something minors are not allowed to do without parental consideration, that might lead to lawsuits.

Second funny idea: minors are required to have their parents make and own their accounts until they become of age.

In doing so, it seems likely the name on the account might be the parent’s name, not theirs. And this means they are posting under a name that is not their own, yet they had no choice but to do so. That might make for some complicated libel and slander legislation.

Note that I am not sure of the above, I am not from the US, not a lawyer. But even I can see that this lack of choice might lead to issues. I’d rather see a unique “Account Name” be introduced (like the pre-battle.net account name) which is used for the posting. All accountability, but none of the legal issues.

Extreme example

Say that I was named Gary Burns (name random). I am in the leadership of an extremist right-wing government party. I regularly vent my opinions on Facebook and Twitter. Suddenly I find myself being called upon “ganking” people, being “haxxor” or being caught cybering in Goldshire. Wut?

Say that I was named Gary Burns (name random). I am 14 years old, and like to raid in the evening and gank some hordies on my Nelf rogue on the side. Suddenly I am being called a right-wing bastard, and being accused of all sorts of nastiness because of some guy I don’t even know. Wut?

Well, when multiple people have the same name, confusions like this will occur. Normally it can already get confusing when people have the same name and using facebook and twitter. Adding in a game and forums will only add to that, especially with the heated debate that goes on at the WoW forums.

Just google “Gary Burns” and see how many people you find, and how different they are. Now imagine you can be mistaken for any of them on the forums (and potentially in game) combined with the volatility and shortsightedness of some posters/gamers.

An easy solution was given to just give a false name when making your account. That might work, as long as you don’t use debet or credit cards to pay. But one day, say, your account is hacked. Blizzard asks for your ID to prove you own the account. You cannot, and it is locked now. You never get it back, and all the time invested is wasted. Still sounds good?

Conclusion

RealID has potential, but it is too soon, too much, too far. People do not get the time to adjust, the system is very new and untested. The security of the system cannot be guaranteed, and there is no middle road between being anonymous or fully named (and shamed, no doubt).

Perhaps things are going too far because Blizzard aims at becoming as big as Facebook, and adding MSN/Twitter features. It is exciting, yes. Perhaps it is also the future. but igniting the Warp Drive protodrive in your backyard might be a bit premature. What I wrote above are extreme examples, I’m aware of that. But each is bound to happen once at least. And once may already be too much considering how dramatic the consequences may be.

I for one, will not post on the forums under such rules. I want my posts and my messages to be taken on the face of who I am in the game, and what I’ve done on my blog, not based on what people can scavenge about my real identity on the internet.

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4 Responses to “The big RealID debate goes on!”

  1. Good written
    I will send the link to al my friends.

    I totaly agree with you.

  2. […] the moment to be complaining about Blizzard’s Real ID change on the forums. Other people have it covered, so don’t worry about hearing more about it […]

  3. My name in RL is not Jessica Smith. Unfortunately my last name is quite unusual and rare – only my immediately family (parents are immigrants) have my surname in Australia. And as far as I know, nobody in the world has my first name + last name combination.

    There is absolutely no way in hell that I would ever post anywhere under my full name in connection with World of Warcraft.

    I imagine potential employers will more than likely google my name and I don’t want them to associate me first and foremost with a video game… or an argument on the forums.

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