Why Real ID is a Really Bad Idea

Written by Ashelia | July 6th, 2010 |

Why Real ID is a Really Bad Idea

Back in the start of World of Warcraft, several years ago, I knew a guy who knew a guy. He was a forum warrior of sorts. He posted inflammatory stuff all day and night. One day, a group of people decided to reign him in and right the wrongs he’d besieged the community with. Long hours spent with search engines occurred and eventually a real life name was found. A few weeks later, a bouquet of roses and a dildo was sent to his door in care of his mother.

With the tables turned, the forum warrior was discovered to be just a helpless boy. He didn’t have an actual shield or sword like the name forum warrior implied. And his mother wasn’t very happy about the whole situation. The troll became trolled–and the realm of the internet carried over somewhat viciously into the real world.

Blizzard wrote today that with their new Real ID system, they hope to “connect the Blizzard community in ways they haven’t been connected before.” They plan on doing this by tying real life names to all forum posts from here on out.

I, however, posit that the community has been connecting in these ways for years–Blizzard is just naively unaware. And this is a very bad thing.

I remember when World of Warcraft’s mandatory merger with Battle.net was announced nearly a year ago. It was just an e-mail address, a universal login of sorts; it didn’t seem too threatening. There were whispers of big brother, but they sounded dramatic and paranoid. We even got a free in-game vanity pet out of it as a reward–it was hard not to agree with it. It seemed like such an inconsequential thing and the penguin was really cute.

Why Real ID is a Really Bad Idea

But I suppose that’s how these things start. Not with a bang, but with a whimper–a gradual step here and there until suddenly you look back to realize everything’s changed. In that case, Blizzard certainly has been busy. Months after release, Battle.net IDs have become Real ID and Real ID has become linked not only as an optional feature in games like World of Warcraft or Starcraft 2 but to less optional methods of communication, like the official Blizzard forums where Blizzard takes feedback, lets players mingle, and even answers support tickets.

When Real ID came out a few weeks ago, I threw caution to the wind. Although my name is fairly uncommon, I immediately added everyone in my guild. I did this mostly because I like my guildmates, I trust them, and I’m an officer of our guild; it would be strange for me to not use this service. We killed heroic Lich King together, we make all kinds of obscene jokes, and although I’m one of two females in the entire guild of forty or so people, harassment is never an issue. I’m an equal. I’ve been here for over a year, and as such, giving these players my real life name wasn’t an issue.

This is a privilege I fully recognize. I haven’t always been that lucky and others definitely aren’t. But even in my privilege, there was a smaller problem. The guildmates I’d friended had friends who could see me as well because of this. For some reason, Real ID came with the feature that everyone can view other people’s friends–that is to say if I friend Joe, I can then see Joe’s friends and Joe’s friends can see me. It seemed wholly unnecessary and it was the first step in the Battle.net merger I would disagree with. The problem is, it wasn’t the last. It was, instead, the start of the proverbial slippery slope.

As I’ve alluded to, Blizzard announced today that all posts on their forums will be now using Real ID. This is mandatory–if you want to post, you have to post this way. Luckily it isn’t retroactive, but in the distant future for all Blizzard titles, real life names will be next to those who post. This will affect everyone, even Blizzard employees. They are also adding a karma feature that will be a lot like Reddit or Digg.

This is a horrible idea. Forcing people to sign real life name to a forum post is problematic on a basic level. The internet is largely what it is because of its anonymity–for better and for worse. Many great discussions have been had solely because someone could submit their words without worry of being judged. While it’s unavoidable that some people use anonymity to grief others, they aren’t as large factor on forums as heavily moderated as Blizzard’s. When Blizzard offers that requiring the inclusion of real life names will make gamers more civil and promote polite discussion, I must wonder if they’ve seen most gamers. The ones who played by the rules–who will sign at the dotted x on every forum post–were never the ones who were meant to be civilized. In fact, they are the ones being punished by this new system.

Why Real ID is a Really Bad Idea

All Blizzard is effectively doing is giving those who fall between the cracks and margins more fodder to mess with people who do continue to use their services. A lot more fodder. Real life names, addresses, and downright terrifying fodder.

Additionally, by using a full name, players are tied to their real life persona and unable to separate themselves from their online one. In this system, it becomes linked forever in search engines. This means potential employers could find out if a player was a World of Warcraft fan and even the characters they have with a simple search. As cool of a story as it would make to be fired because your boss is staunch Horde and you’re Alliance (or more likely, because you play video games and your employer frowns upon MMORPGs in general), realistically there are aspects of one’s private life that don’t look good during an interview process. My boss doesn’t need to necessarily know if I have three level 80s, or if my arena team is about to get Gladiator using a cheap team composition.

There’s other issues, too. Women might find it harsher with new avenues of harassment opened. Transgendered people could be inadvertently outted when someone sees Sally, the friendly Paladin chick, posting under the name Steve. Someone could have a distinctive name and be disregarded solely because their name sounded like a person of a certain background, race, religion, or otherwise. And if someone’s a minor–or even major–celebrity, having their name exposed could be damaging. From Felicia Day to Mila Kunis, I doubt they’d like their alternative identity exposed simply because they decided to post a suggestion on the WoW forums or report a bug to support.

At the time of writing this, I have a friend who works for Blizzard and even she is upset about her name being tied to her video game identity–just a quick Google search with her real life name and you can find her LinkedIn where she mentions her affiliated companies, one of which is Blizzard. She says she simply will stop posting on the forums to avoid any mishaps, but she shouldn’t have to. To some degree, she knows and admits this, but what can she do? It’s her lifeblood. She’s not able to just quit her job because of a bad policy, so instead she’ll just opt out of posting on forums she enjoys.

That’s largely the point. People shouldn’t have to stop posting or stop using a product because of a larger marketing scheme. This should have never been a decision. There should have been another option; I can think of several off the top of my head. Blizzard could have adopted a Steam-like policy of usernames and then nicknames so users can define exactly how personal they would like their encounter to be. Another solution would have been to use a first name and last initial instead. Or maybe unique ID codes could be linked to real life names, but the code could be shown in the public so people don’t know their real life details.

And as for the ability to like posts and promote them to the top, maybe I’m negative, but I can see it quickly getting out of hand. Imagine an entire guild down voting your suggestion to a developer for no reason other than your guild is their rival guild or because you used to know them until you had a falling out of sorts. Of course, by even posting your suggestion out there, you’ve just given hundreds of people who may or may not loathe your existence your full name–let alone the trade chat trolls who will find it.

I mean, you better hope they are mostly all bark and not a lot of bite. And you really better hope they aren’t remotely connected to 4chan or other internet groups. Or at least not good with a phonebook.

Why Real ID is a Really Bad Idea

When Blizzard first unveiled the Real ID system, I was excited against my better judgment. It brought my WoW guildmates together. We did things like make fun of each other’s names, put updates that were laughing at inside jokes, and enjoy the novelty of seeing formal names instead of character whispers in-game. But the novelty has since worn off with this announcement and now I’m disappointed. Extremely disappointed, actually.

Like I said, there were options. Unfortunately it seems Blizzard executives chose not to look into them and then turned a blind eye. It’s just a shame that this lack of foresight will probably at the very least result in the harassment of many thousands of individuals–if it doesn’t end up causing something worse for a select few.

As for me, I haven’t forgotten about the person from France who spent over six months to track down and attempt murder on a guy who fragged him in Counter-strike (NY Daily News). Call me pessimistic all you want, but I have to wonder if Blizzard’s marketing department even thought about it.

Or if they’ll even listen to us now.

Update 7/9/10 — 2:30PM PST

Apparently they were listening to us–right now and hopefully in the future.

Over 150,000 hits to this article later, Blizzard has reversed their decision to use real life names. And I’m just one person. I barely did anything here except write my opinions on why this was a bad idea. But together, all of us, we did so much. It was a sum of our outrage, from this small post on Hellmode to every single forum post to every tweet, comment, or forum post to other people’s coverage. I know two people who gave everything including their jobs at Blizzard to protest, I know dozens of people who canceled their accounts personally, and I know tons of writers who poured their soul into posts about this. I am so touched by how this turned out. And personally, I’d like to thank Felicia Day, Reddit, Digg, and every single blog/forum post who linked this post and helped me get one 23-year-old’s opinion out to the world. As well as Blizzard, because it was good to be heard.

See y’all in Starcraft 2, if you play.

  1. Well said. :)

    I hope you don’t mind, but I’d like to link this on my blog as part of a post outlining various points of view. Still looking for people supporting the thing though, but that seems to be more difficult.

  2. [...] Hellmode’s take on the subject, which pretty much encompasses all the sentiments I currently have regarding the system. [...]

  3. kevin says:

    The Counter-Strike thing was the very first thing that came to mind when i first heard about this. Could you imagine there are people out there that would come to your house and try to kill you over a frag in a game? Let alone someone ninja looting an item someone has spent alot of time trying to acquire. games are about an escape from the real world, i guess not anymore.

  4. Denis says:

    My mind immediate went to all the LGBT guilds and problems that this can pose. In the age of LinkedIn and Facebook, I’d (metaphorical–my name is out there as is, and will remain as such) really rather not have myself outed so others can harass me based on my sexuality.

  5. Jelescu Bogdan says:

    yet another reason for which I decided to stop playing Blizzard games or support this company in any way years ago (though I MIGHT, I just might buy Diablo 3 when it comes out). now I’m a 100% Bioware fan. the differences between how these companies treat their fans r huge, the pure and simple fact that Blizzard overcharges their customers in every way possible being just one of them.

    • apstorm says:

      I’ve long since stopped playing WoW in favor of other games, either of similar design (LotRO) or completely different (EVE Online), in the realm of MMOGs. However, That does not mean I am not interested in Starcraft 2 or Diablo 3- far from it, I intend to play these games a great deal.

      Being a Bioware fan doesn’t really explain ostracizing Starcraft… unless, of course, you ignore RTS games, anyway, which is a perfectly understandable personal preference.

      • Jelescu Bogdan says:

        u’ve guess it. I don’t like RTS games. not in pvp anyway. I’m just not able to micro like u guys r. I play FPS and RPG games mostly. :)

        btw I like your tastes. especially EVE. gd MMO and gd developer. cares about their players. respects them. know how important they r. unlike Blizz.

      • Jelescu Bogdan says:

        u’ve guessed it. I don’t play RTS games in pvp. I’m just not gd enough at micromanaging as u guys r. :(

    • Another problem here is you’re posting here with your real name, how is that ANY different? You just voluntarily did it on this blog post…

  6. thefremen says:

    Thing is, I’m certain it will go further than this. Sc2 already uses realid instead of handles in game. I think what’s going to happen once actibliz realizes the danger posed by stalkers from the game/forum they’ll update the TOS so say that they cannot be held responsible for harrasment, bodily harm or death as a direct result of blizz giving away their dox.

    Yeah, and as far as 4chan goes, anon has already found out pretty much everything you could want to know about a mod.

    • Yes, I also fear it going further than this. It’s quite frankly depressing. Wouldn’t even want to play online if this is the case in any game.

    • GrendelVS says:

      I think *if they are smart* they will update the TOS before the first lawsuit. AFTER the first lawsuit, it will be too late to update the TOS since a smart lawyer will make part of the settlement that they back out the RealID changes.

  7. Dylan says:

    I’ve been told I deserve to die for being of mixed race before (a little Asian and mostly white, if it matters). Luckily, the sort of people who said this didn’t have access to my personal information. Of course, those crazies would be able to find me if I ever posted anything on the proposed forum system.

    The blue who posted his first and last name ended up with his address, phone number, pictures, and criminal record being posted online. And there’s another problem. Blizzard’s own employees are at risk. How many topics does a blue have to lock before someone gets mad enough to do something about it? As much as I dislike the GMs at times, I don’t think someone should have to worry about their personal safety because they locked a forum topic.

  8. Shocked, disappointed, angry, almost flabbergasted!
    This is so unbelievable! Not the blog post though. It’s well written, and hopefully this will reach Blizzard. WTF happened to customer support being #1 and client privacy/confidentiality? I guess that’s out the window… I guess we just have to bend over and take it, hey Blizzard?

    Frack this! No seriously, I’d like to know who in their right mind, knowing all the consequences and screw-ups this will cause, actually likes and supports this “Real ID” sh!t Blizzard has now blindly implemented?

    Whoever made this decision, or had the power to enforce it, is a dick! There, I said it. But who will disagree with me?
    Everything Ashelia said in this blog post is true, and should be taken seriously as it caries weight for those who cares about their privacy, their anonymity and their safety in RL!

    Ones gaming persona/character/virtual existence has always been apart from the RL one, and should stay that way for many reasons, one being for ones own safety from those who are sick enough to act on something to harm or injure someone in RL over a simple GAME! To reveal ones RL identity in the virtual world should be AN OPTION! But Blizzard is now starting to show us that they don’t give a rats ass about their clients and their privacy anymore, we should just get the KY and just be OK with it… Unbelievable!

    I’m not even a WoW player. I hate the game tbh. I think it’s childish, old/out dated, and extremely overrated. But I’m thinking about the Blizzard community, and the fact that I’d like to become part of it when Starcraft 2 and Diablo 3 gets released someday (if indeed it will considering their continuous delays).
    The fact that this has been decided clearly shows Blizzards total disregard for their clients/fans. Like Ashelia said, off the top of ones head one can think of many different solutions other than this.

    Blizzard, HTFU and stop your sh!t. This is totally uncalled for and we never would have expected this from you. Fire the dick who’s idea this was and become the once loved Blizzard we came to know before.

  9. Hank says:

    This will last until Blizzard starts losing too many paying customers. Then it will change right quick.

    You should not frown about this policy, Blizzard does not care about its customers. The inconvenience they inflict on their customers and their employees is testament to their naked indifference to their concerns.

    The CEO of a company [I forget which] mentioned that privacy was outdated, that people had to learn how to live in the new reality.

    Then some of his personal information was disclosed online. He wasn’t quite as amused as you’d think he’d be.

    This is going to cost Blizzard a lot of customers. Maybe not enough to make it change its policy, but meaningful revenue all the same.

    • “Then some of his personal information was disclosed online. He wasn’t quite as amused as you’d think he’d be.”
      Taste ones own medicine and you realize how bitter it is.

  10. John Murray says:

    Personally, I don’t mind the RealID system. Any personal information about me is more readily available via my username than my real name and there’s no personal information available in relation to my address. I know this because I quite often be a vain bastard and google my own name xD

    What I’d be concerned about is bank details and National Insurance numbers being leaked by Government agencies, not if someone halfway around the world knows my real name. As for anyone trying to ‘hack’ my accounts based on my username or whatnot in an attempt to get bank details, a 10char alphanumeric password would take quite a while to crack.

    Interesting article though with some well thought-out points like how it may affect transgender people and women.

    • TK says:

      How about your girlfriend, and her family’s, address and all their electoral role information? I would never post it or use it, but it’s out there. I don’t mean to be creepy but you should check how easy information is to find using directories.

    • wetware23 says:

      This is a MAJOR problem. Why do people think the only way to search for someone’s info is by doing a search on google?! If you really think that is what people are doign to find your info, then I feel bad for you because your ignorance is NO excuse for what can really happen to you or others you know and love…. pft google. Google is by no means the beginning or the end of the net.

    • Leland says:

      I think you underestimate how much power someone can have over you simply by being able to link your online activities with your real life ones.

      Would you tell your boss everything you do online? With this real-id system, he can dig into your internet life as far as you use similar user names.

  11. LeeAnn says:

    I agree. I’ve been watching the forum thread on this issue, and it’s up to over 19K already. I very rarely post on the boards, but this will end any future posting I do there. Sad and ridiculous.

  12. This demonstrates Blizzard’s has a deep lack of understanding how the Internet works, and how online social communities work. Tragic, actually. It is really astounding how out-of-touch they really are.

  13. Emmanuel Petti says:

    While I can understand the concerns, all of which are valid, nothing is going to change until after this goes into effect. If the majority of people really dislike this change then all forum activity will scream to a halt. Blizzard then will be forced to reconsider this change, until then we have to wait.

    You have to wonder though, how does a company like Blizzard who usually makes very good decisions come to a policy like this?

    In the end, you are in full control of your privacy. Whether it’s Blizzard Real ID, Facebook or any other internet social site. You are in full control. You don’t have to post on the forums, you don’t have to sign up for Facebook. You have to put your money where your mouth is, and opt out. If everyone opts out, this policy will have to get changed.

  14. otakucode says:

    Marketing scheme?

    You want to know the actual REASON why Blizzard is doing this? It’s got nothing to do with marketing. In Activisions last statement to shareholders, they expressed concerns over their legal exposure due to players being able to post things for public consumption through their games and related services. That’s it. They’re afraid some kid will find out that girls have boobs on one of Activisions games, and the kids helicopter mom will sue Activision. They want to make sure that the mom sues the person who spread the foul info instead. Going forward, you will never be able to communicate with people not on your friends list. Opening it up so that friends of friends can see you is the only way you could ever hope to meet someone else online. There will be no open chat rooms, and they’d shut down the forums if they thought they could get away with it. Expect any sort of chat channels that go wider than your friends list to disappear from WoW.

    Also, no one should be surprised if they play WoW and post on forums if they suddenly find it very difficult to land a job. Employers, especially headhunter agencies, already steer clear of anyone that plays WoW if they can manage to discover it ahead of time.

    But if you want to know the WHY behind why Blizzard is screwing gamers, and planning on REALLY putting the screws to Starcraft 2 customers, look to Activision. And look to the spinelessness of gamers too. Companies wouldn’t dare try things like this with other groups of consumers, but gamers have made it known that they are willing to endure almost any torture. Sure, they’ll bitch in the forums. But they’ll still buy the game. The idea that a gamer would not purchase a game because the game comes with odious restrictions is laughable. It simply does not happen in numbers large enough for them to care about. So 5 WoW players quit when RealID is mandatory. Big whoop. If it saves them $5 million in court settlement fees after some kid gets laid by someone from their guild and mommy finds out, what do you think an actual business person whose concern is profit will do?

  15. Qix says:

    Wow, at first, when it was just opening your email to your close friends, I did not mind. Now with the details, its just ridiculous. No more forums for me I guess.

    • Ashelia says:

      This is exactly how I feel, actually, so I’m replying. I don’t mind the IDEA of linking up with friends or guildmates with Real ID, even if it’s my full name.

      But I ran our recruitment thread, I posted on the forums dozens of times a week.

      Now that’s all dead, because fuck all if I want that archived forever with my real life name.

  16. Emmanuel Petti says:

    Also I think we need to relax and not confuse this forum issue with Real ID. Real ID is actually pretty nifty and totally optional. However, using your real name on the forums is the issue at hand, lets not come at the neck of Real ID because of this forum change.

    • Ashelia says:

      Well, it is Real ID in my opinion. They probably created Real ID with using it on the forums in this manner as their end goal–they just didn’t tell us.

      I mean, like I admitted, I liked Real ID Phase One.

      But Phase Two? Not so much.

      • Emmanuel Petti says:

        I like to play devils advocate, right now we’re playing the slippery slope game.

        All of this Real ID stuff is completely optional. You don’t have to use it in WoW, or any other Blizz game for that matter.

        You also don’t have to post on the forums.

        Your privacy can still be safe, if you so chose to keep it safe. You’re still given a choice, you might not like the terms of the choice, but it is still there.

      • Ashelia says:

        You are totally right that it’s optional, like you said–and like this article even says :)

        But my issue is that it compromises direct gameplay, kills a community, and more by requiring these Real IDs for forum posts.

        As a WoW player in a top guild, we get recruits through using the official forums. A great deal of our players came through this. I can no longer run that thread. I can no longer update our progression thread. I can no longer bond with the community over internet memes.

        My real life name shows I’m a female, and if you google me, you will have my boss’ email and other goodies in about 2-3 seconds. If it were just my address, while it would make me uneasy, I’d probably be less upset. But personal info comes up, by virtue of what I do for work (community manager for a game company).

        Additionally, it also links it back to my boss and company. I doubt they want the investors to look up employees, see that I’m an officer in such a guild with 3 level 80s. It just doesn’t look good. I mean, who’s to say I’m really working? Maybe I’m raiding or being addicted in a corner instead of working!

        Downward psiral, et all.

        So yes, it’s optional. But it’s a bad move, it will hurt the experience for a lot of players (Hundreds of thousands, maybe even millions). So I wrote this post to address it, to show my feelings and let people know why I’m against this use of Real ID.

        I will still be playing WoW most likely. It just makes me sad I can no longer post on R&D, or any forums I spent years frequenting.

      • You also don’t have to post on the forums.

        So long as GMs are directing players in-game to post on the official forums for customer support or technical support reasons, you are dead wrong.

  17. meaticus says:

    in this age we seem to readily give up our privacy rights to corporations as fast as we can. from facebook to blizzard, we hand over control of our private information with wild abandon.

    i like to post on boards. i am a midlife gamer and like to read/write comments from likeminded gamers. i also have a very, very unique real name. nothing outlandish, just not common in its spelling.

    i would consider posting with my real name if the world was only full of level-minded individuals but it’s not. i have to also consider my family may be put in jeopardy by my actions. anyone with access to an online phone directory could find me in 10 minutes. and perhaps all i did was play a game better than another player who is now set on real life revenge.

    ps: to reply to this comment please submit your social security number, 2 credit card numbers and your mother family name (read: sarcasm).

  18. Tryst says:

    Just the fact that my employer could potentially find my name associated with the WoW forums is enough to make me never post there again. The fact that I could get fired for the content of the post or the timing (posting during the work day – even on lunch) seals the deal. Based on the potential for stalking and harrassment issues, this idea never should have made it past the meeting wherein it was first mentioned.

    • Ashelia says:

      I’m just waiting to see how nasty harassment will get. Some guy who worked for Blizzard already stupidly said it ain’t no thaaaaang and within minutes, they had his phone # and it was everywhere. I imagine he had to change numbers. No foresight.

      • Worse – if his Twitter is to be believed, the address and phone number they found is not his.

        And he is dismissing claims of being responsible for the harassment to the innocent party on Twitter.

      • meaticus says:

        and that is why we should have our private information separated from our online activities. perhaps the phone number is not for the correct fellow, now someone is being harassed for no reason and needs to change their number. this will be an interesting experiment in internet protocols to see how it all unravels.

  19. Rogue says:

    Great post.

  20. Fancylad says:

    To a fellow redditor and Bleeding Hollow player, thank you for writing this excellent article.

  21. Pewter says:

    Brilliant post. Thank you for covering the vote up/down features, it feels like that part is getting lost in the hubbub.

  22. wrong says:

    I think your opening example is an excellent example of the upside of this. If that little punk had to post under his real name from day 1, maybe he wouldn’t have been such a punk.

  23. Jan says:

    You know, if you dislike the idea of your REal name being displayed on your forum posts, you could, like… not post.

    Just a crazy thought. Its not like there arent thousands of other online wow communities that are blessed with anonymity.

    The benefit of cleaning up the hellhole that is the official wowforums, is far greater than the price people are asked to pay for it.

    And dont kid yourself i you think this will affect subscriptions any. At most, 100k will leave. But everyone wants to keep playing. Thats just how it goes, and bliz knows it. Their game, their TOS. You can always opt out. Chances are, you wont.

    • You know, if you dislike the idea of your REal name being displayed on your forum posts, you could, like… not post.

      Of course. Except, by doing so, I lose out on technical support, customer support, the ability to communicate with game developers, the ability to report bugs to support staff, and the most unified, most-frequently-scraped source of guild recruitment.

      And all of this for what benefit? There isn’t a benefit. And that’s why this is a massively bad idea.

    • Janyaa says:

      I see so many responses just like this and feel the need to comment. Up until now, we’ve had the forums included in our costs of the game. Now it is effectively being denied to a large percentage of the population. However, we’re still paying for it. It’s decreasing the value of the product.

      You may argue that their intent is to decrease trolling and in doing so they’re actually making it better. However, in essence they are exchanging a virtual annoyance for the potential of real life harm. How can that seem like good idea?

      As a female gamer, it’s no surprise that I have had a LOT of derogatory comments directed at me. However, I take some comfort knowing that I’m somewhat protected in my anonymity. There are tons of women who have made the choice not to let those gender be known.

      This policy will wrest that decision away from them. It now becomes a choice of being an active, contributing member of the community or personal safety. With a choice like that, many will choose to remain silent. The entire demographic will become under-represented and even more marginalized than it already is.

  24. I respect the post, however I don’t agree at all with the sentiment.

    Firstly, everything here is completely optional, you don’t have to give out your RealID to all your guildmates, and while their friends can now see that you are their friend, they can’t do anything with that information. You can be the target of a random harassment because they see your name, but that can happen anywhere! If one of your friends in the “real world” has a get together, and one of his creepy friends starts stalking you, there’s really no difference.

    The fact that Blizzard states this is for people you know and trust! Life is always about associations, if you’re going to associate with people who associate with jerks and morons… then who’s problem is that?

    To the point of the “forum warrior”. No sympathy. Don’t be a dick! It’s that simple. The internet has formed this generation of people who think it’s ok to be a complete moron based on the fact that they can hide behind the anonymity of the Internet. I’d argue anonymity makes the Internet such a crappy “place”. The lines of “real world” and the “Internet” aren’t transparent anymore, the world is different, it’s global, and the Internet is just another place we can go and hang out. Your right to Privacy is to not go to the Internet, don’t go to Blizzard’s sites, don’t use their products. They’re selling social products, it’s ridiculous to complain about that.

    That’s like going on Facebook and complaining that people can see your picture… of course they can! That’s what Facebooks is!. While an MMO is a game and generally separate from reality, it’s still played by millions of REAL people, there are people behind those keyboards, and too often that is forgotten or assumed to be irrelevant. If you want to be private, play The Sims.

    Yes of COURSE people can harass you, people can harras you anywhere, that’s not Blizzard’s problem, it’s society’s problem. If someone can harass you, but can’t hide behind anonymity, then they’re arrested / prosecuted etc… Therefore they don’t do it, and I think that’s one of the goals here.

    I’ll be the first to admit that my idea of privacy is different from many. You don’t need to be a rocket scientist to figure out who I am. Between Twitter, facebook, etc… I’m out there, and that’s ok with me. As I do in the “real world” I don’t go around being a complete douche to everyone, I respect every person I “meet” and I have a great time.

    Just because some random idiot decides it would be funny to sign me up for porn eMails, or call my cell phone every 20 seconds, doesn’t mean I abandon the internet. When I was younger my house was egged because a kid on another team I played baseball against, though I was out of line… I didn’t stop playing baseball, I didn’t take the name off my jersey, and I sure as hell didn’t move.

    I think the world has been a little too concerned with Privacy. Once you get on the Internet, and hang in social circles, of course your privacy is gone. You want privacy, stay home, play solitaire.

    Just my opinion.

  25. Corporatism says:

    Their decisions aren’t supposed to make sense to you…

    They are doing this to cause exactly the problems you predict, and then it will be used as a reason to pass the “Cyber Bullying Act”.

    Don’t doubt that facebook, twitter, google, blizzard, at&t, time warner, etc etc aren’t all working with the government to a degree.

  26. L says:

    They say it’s to protect against trolling – but say you post a perfectly polite message to the forums. BUT say you pissed someone off in game – because your toon name is connected to your real name you now have a way for in-game people to track you down and harass you in real life. THIS is the scariest part about it.

  27. Adam says:

    I see the concerns, and it does increase the chance of someone with malicious intent to do so. But with just a name, there is not much a person can do, unless your name is pretty unique.

    They don’t know your e-mail address, your street address, or anything else about you. Those people in your guild, even though you trust them, are just as able to be the malicious type. To give you an example, I had a friend (stress “had”) who I gamed with, even met a couple times at a popular Con in the midwest. Last year I found out he was abusing the son of his roomate for 6 years and two other kids in the neighborhood. This man, whom I trusted, I shared pictures of my son with, told stories about things we did, ended up being a serial pedophile, who is now serving time, something like two life sentences with no parole for 30 years. I am lucky I never got closer with him because I would have been putting my boy in danger.

    Not saying the writer’s guild mates are like that, but just pointing out, many times it’s those closest to you that are more concern than strangers.

    I used to be a editor and lead admin for a popular gaming site/forum back in the early ’00′s One user was upset I kept banning him for breaking the forum rules. Some how he was able to find my personal information, and he sent me death threats, including my wifes name, and our home address. Needless to say he also turned out being harmless kid living at home on the other side of the country. He had no intention to do anything, but got in trouble nonetheless. It was easy for me to get his information. All it took was an IP address, and a tracert. I called his ISP, who in turn called the local authority.

    I am going to hold judgement on this Blizzard issue until after it’s out. My guess is people will use false names and pay for time with gift cards. I also think there will be less issues that cause flame wars, which in turn will make the forums a more social and respectable environment, instead of the trash that’s on it now.

    The world is full of lunitics, but I still believe the majority of people out there are harmless, trying to get on with their lives and enjoy the finer things out there.

    Maybe it’s time to stop being afraid of people, and starting trusting the good in most people, because as I stated above, look at the news. 9 our of 10 times any bad news you see on the news, always consists of a family member of a friend of the family causing the harm, it’s almost never a total stranger.

    I know my points have their flaws as well. I take criticism well, that’s how I survived my forum admin days.

    • meaticus says:

      you really make a good point, one that is being made by many people who are tired of the negativity of online forums.

      but what about a fellow like myself? i like to post here and there and have discussions with likeminded people on gaming subjects.

      but i have a very unique name. and i don’t have a facebook, twitter, myspace, blogpage account because my life is private, not for public consumption. if the blizzard thing becomes the norm i will just stop posting anywhere.

      and people like yourself won’t hear that i think your post deserves kudos for its candidness. because we don’t learn much from anything we say but from the dialogue it creates.

  28. [...] gives trolls and bullies more fuel for the fire. Interesting thoughts on the new system here… Why Real ID is a Really Bad Idea | Hellmode (Site may take a bit to load) Reply With Quote [...]

  29. I think Tupster ( Mark Turpin ) does a better job of explaining what I was trying to.


  30. Jeremy says:

    If a big incident does happen, I think the bad publicity will trumph any TOS.

  31. Andrea says:

    As an openly transgendered woman and a member of an LGBT guild I KNOW that this realID thing is a bad idea. I’d be okay with Blizz having access to my RL info as they already do and having some sort of wall up for the rest of the people out there. I play on a heavily LGBT server and even there there are some really mean things said about LGBT people. I would seriously not want for any of the less enlightened people out there knowing who I am and having the ability to find out where I live. That said my entire guild uses first names for one another in gchat and in vent. I like many others have no problem with people I choose to give certain information to knowing that, I do have MAJOR issues with random net trolls knowing. I suppose it’s semi fortunate for me that I practically (read maybe 3 times in as many years) post on the forums.

  32. Josh says:

    Here’s an idea: go outside and get a life.

  33. Ryan says:

    Not trying to troll, but I think real id is overall a good idea. We need to get away from this I can hide behind this anonymous BS going on in the web. Most people have no respect for others when they have nothing on the line. See 4chan and youtube comments for example.

    There are valid issues brought up though by this article and in some of the comments I have noticed.

    The idea of being able to look someone up on facebook/myspace or other social networks could be a problem. But if that is something you are concerned about, you should make your profile private from the public view. Only your friends can see your page.

    The age of privacy is dead. It has been dead for a while. Things are only going to become more public with time. This is something you all have to accept. Do you have a Google account of any sort? Google stores all information it receives, you’d actually be surprised to learn the information they currently have on you. Have you ever searched for something on Google? Guess what they have saved a record of that.

    • Ryan says:

      The first rule of the web has always been, if you don’t want someone to know something, keep it off of the web, PERIOD. Your ISP keeps records of everything you do, there is always a record of your actions. The only way around this is to not post it in the first place. Don’t want someone to judge you for playing WOW? Don’t admit to playing it. Don’t give away personal information. Make a spare email that has no personal information linked to it, and use that instead.

      These same issues arose when facebook policy changed. People complained about their pictures or whatever being given out. Well you gave them to the site in the first place, if you didnt want them to get spread around, send them an email. There is a still a record of it, but at least not everyone has access to that. You are responsible for your own privacy, your own actions, and your own words. Wake up world, its time to realize this is the way the world works now. Get used to it, or stop using the web. It’s only going to get worse from here.

  34. This new policy is wrong in so many ways. I’m surprised that they ignored the lessons of so many predecessors. There’s a lot of history on how to do social/gaming identity correctly:

    http://habitatchronicles.com/2008/10/the-tripartite-identity-pattern/ – In short, as suggested in this post, //nicknames// allow for personal disclosure without requiring it.

    Also, reputation in forums is fought with risk, especially with real names in social relationships:

    http://awe.sm/58CE4 – Where Consumating.com was destroyed by people up/downvoting each other.

    I think it is time to cancel my WoW subscriptions. Perhaps it is time to check out the competition.

    • My latest tweet:

      @frandallfarmer Quit World of Warcraft. New policy of RealID for forums – stupid beyond belief. #wow #fail #realid #reputation #identity #quit #copa #coppa

      I’ve posted a longer rant at my blog for those who wanted to read a more elaborate critique than the posting above…


  35. len says:

    Do you require a face mask to go ice skating? A public identity at a public event is assumed. What is it about gaming on a public server that requires anonymity? You can’t choose who you ice skate with in a public rink but the dangers of someone taking an inordinate interest in you there are likely higher than in a game. Will people track down an ice skater? They certainly will and have. Should the rink be held responsible? Certainly not.

    This brouhaha says more about gamer culture than civil rights. Marketing wise, it may not be wise because when targeting a demographic for a sale, one usually doesn’t try to cure them of say racism along with the sale. On the other hand, providing a room where people in hoods and robes can come and freely commit acts of racism is frowned upon and likely the owner of the establishment would find themselves party to a legal action.

    Is a game forum diffferent from such a room?

    • Leland says:

      Are you forced to wear your personal ice skating history, real first name and last name and the real names and histories of all of your ice skating friends while you go ice skating?

      I didn’t think so.

      Please think about what you write before you post it.

  36. Kiryn says:

    Sure there are very few people who will come hunt you down and stab you in real life when they disagree with your post on the forums. Extremely few. But that’s not the point. If there’s even one unstable individual out there who focuses on you, your life is done. I’m not willing to take that risk for a video game.

    I resent the implication they’re making that if you want to keep your real name a secret, that you must have some malicious reason for hiding it. I don’t want to post using my legal name because I’ve hated it for as long as I’ve lived, that name is not me, it is not who I am.

    I go by a completely different name online, because I feel that that is MY name, instead of some arbitrary letters my parents assigned to me when I was born. Changing your legal name is such a huge hassle that I won’t be doing so until I get married and change my last name anyway, so in the meantime I tolerate my legal name for real life purposes. I do not want people on an internet forum associating that name with me. I don’t want to look at it. I don’t want other people to look at it.

    And even after I change my legal name and fax Blizzard the paperwork or whatever so they’ll let me change the name associated on my battle.net account to the one I’ve been going by among friends for over ten years, I won’t be posting on the forums. Because I’m not willing to risk crazy murderous psycho stalkers for a video game.

  37. krutoypotsan says:

    Nice summary – I may be cancelling my sc2 preorder if this goes through.

  38. Amichai says:

    I don’t do any online gaming so I know my POV is less informed than those that do. And since this makes me a judgmental outsider (it’s always the jerks like me who feel they know the most about the stuff they have no experience with) I must apologize in advance for my far too long post.

    On everything I do now online I use my real name. It’s pretty distinctive. If you googled my name, I’m the only one who comes up. Mostly just links to my blog which I barely update, facebook and a defunct myspace page, along with some crappy fiction I wrote posted on Triggerstreet.com. I apparently am the only person with my name in the world as far as google is concerned.

    But I don’t mind using my real name. I think it’s a shame that most of the internet has allowed people to hide behind pseudonyms. I think it’s appropriate in some places (your GLBT and celebrity points were good ones and I agree for those communities that online anonymity is necessary as well as some other sub cultures, AA or NA or other such online communities ect.), but over all I think the internet would be a far more pleasant place if we were all forced to see each other as people, and were personally accountable for what we associate ourselves with.

    A big reason I don’t do the online gaming is I don’t like playing with strangers who hide behind fake names and feel free to be as big jerks as they like. It just isn’t fun for me. I know there are many good and nice gamers out there, but the hassle to find them, and stay away from the bad ones is just too much work for me so I can play a simple game. All online gaming I do is private games with people I know in real life, in person, so I don’t have to put up with the other crap.

    I try my best to keep most of my other personal info, such as bank info, and such off the internet (I don’t think that I have anything like that linked to any e-mail accounts and such, but I’m not all that tech savvy and I know that there is probably plenty of personal info out there I’d rather not have accessible), and I know by advocating the open use of identity is like daring a troll to screw with me (please don’t, I know what can be done, I don’t need to be made an example – I’m already scared of what people can do).

    but I do think that if everyone’s name was out there then those who do troll would be less likely to pull the crazy things they do, because it would be a lot easier to track then down as well. More of the civility we have in our off line lives would be placed on our online lives. Stalkers and killers are going to be stalkers and killers with or without the internet. The guy who tracked another player down to murder him in real life because he was pissed in the game would have found a different reason to kill someone in real life even if he didn’t have the game. He’d be a problem with or without the internet. The internet didn’t make him a killer, he just used it to find his victim instead of killing the guy who cut him off in traffic, or some other slight that would have eventually set him off. If that is the argument for anonymity then you should never leave your house for fear of angering the wrong person. (I know that this isn’t anyone’s sole argument, it’s just the weakest one to me and I’m harping on it). By arguing that anonymity would protect you from all the hate speech out there, one could make the argument that if you took away the anonymity, it would give those who propagate said hate speech less motivation to actually write any of it, because now it would be tracked to them personally. Only the true believers would continue spouting the wickedness, which they would do anyway. Everyone else would clam up out of fear or respect just like they do in real life.

    I know that this is completely impractical now as the internet has evolved in the way that is has, and I’m not actually advocating or agree with Blizzard’s move, but I also don’t think it’s has horrid as everyone seems to think, and even if it is naive, I don’t think it’s as dangerous as everyone fears, and think that Blizzard should be lauded for taking this move, but perhaps only on an intellectual level and not on a practical one.

  39. Drew says:

    while i welcome the chance to shorten my friends list using real id for actual friends i dislike people being able to see others friends lists and having no privacy in forums is lame aswell, if say something offensive Blizzard already know my name everyone else dosent have to, and real id could be a massive issue for parents looking after their kids within WoW

  40. Miss Paradigm says:

    This leaves me utterly uneasy, as it should for other people. I’ve been using online aliases for years, especially due to former friends pressing the “drama” button and trying to start shit with me via the internet. I don’t need them to do a quick google search on my first and last name, only to find my WoW information [amongst other things] out about me that I don’t want them to know.

    What’s worse, with sites like Spokeo [which is known to be the ultimate phone book online], all your contact information — including your home address, email, phone numbers and who you’re related to — is given out. Then who’s to say you won’t be stalked or worse by a random, psychotic, delusional twatwaffle? The whole Counter-Strike situation first hit my mind when I read this article. Its almost as if Blizzard is saying they don’t want anyone who’s worth their salt playing their games because of the lack of privacy.

    Sure, I don’t mind if my in-game friends have my email address because that’s at my discretion. But if my name is posted on the forums without my approval? Forget it. Not that I post on the forums a lot anyway, but it means I can no longer post on my server’s guild progression thread since I’m in a top ten raiding guild on my server.

    This whole thing just doesn’t seem genuinely worth it. :(

  41. shonedarker says:

    It’s sad really, WOW is such a great game and the ethos behind its origins are about teamplay and having safe fun. But now that Blizz are making billions every year from the game their tact is changing. You know what they say about absolute power!

    I have no doubt that some savvy players will set up their own forum and take a lot of traffic away from the WOW forum. This will provide an excellent advertising opportunity that will undoubtedly prompt Blizz to change tact again!

    At least I hope that is the case. I stopped playing WOW about a year ago coz I get too in to it. One day I may return but vetainly not if realID still exists.

  42. Moondancer says:

    To be honest, I’m not surprised making the forum posting attached to Real ID.

    If they don’t pull Real ID, I think it’s only a matter of time before it is mandatory in WoW, just like the authenticator. I stopped playing WoW a few months ago, I’m on a break and really haven’t paid too much attention to the upcoming expansion. I’m in no rush to go back, but if Blizzard keeps ignoring their customers. You won’t see me back in WoW. I’ll be disappointed, but this really bothers me.

    Judging by the forums and blogs I read the majority of the people commenting or blogging about it, seem to have a lot of problems with this.

    In the past I’ve used my real name, I write for a few websites/print magazines so my name is all over the place (yeah my name is unique, so it isn’t hard for potential client — or a nutcase to track me down) Pulling up my name, I’m the only one that comes up. However, that’s business… When it comes to personal enjoyment, I do like to have some privacy.

    • VG says:

      The whole ‘So, just don’t post there’ crowd OBVIOUSLY has never had to recruit for their guild or post in technical support. Further, they have never probably been in an Officer position…ever. I am saying this because I find that many people in positions of leadership in WoW have at one point or another come across relatively unstable people who have emotionally gotten very out of line during disagreements or after being gkicked.

      As a GM for over 3 years now of a raiding guild, I have come across some nasty and unstable people. In BC, all of my recruitment posts were relentlessly stalked for over a year. A YEAR. By who? A totally unstable dude who we kicked after only being in the guild for *one week*. Not only that, they guy made a whole website slandering me because I am the GM and all his rage somehow got directed towards me. Would I have wanted him to have known my name? Um no fucking way.

      And I could tell countless stories about other situations like the one above that unless you have been in a leadership position in a guild, you probably have no clue about (lucky people).

      I tried Real ID the first day it came out. It was cool until I realized *friends of friends* could see my info. Um, wth. So, do I want random pugger that someone drunkenly did a 5 man with one night and friended on Real ID to see my info and see it associated with me? Yeah, no.

      So, I went through the trouble of setting up parental controls on my own account and disabling Real ID which is the only backwards way you can get rid of it.

      I am livid at the forum thing. I won’t ever reactivate Real ID but I can just imagine the people, like myself, who still need to use the forums for recruitment reasons who will remain completely vulnerable to the completely and utterly bat-shit crazy people out there who play the game.

      • Kerwyn says:

        Grats Blizzard on releasing an unsecure Real ID system.


        /run for i=1,100 do if BNIsSelf(i)then BNSendWhisper(i,”RealID whisper from yourself..”);break end end

        Type that in game and look what comes up. Recognize the name? Yeah… thanks blizzard for allowing anyone who makes an addon to add that to their code to extract personal details strait from WoW.

        Just be warned when updating or downloading new addons. I could be grabbing your personal info. Real ID is very win… ty blizz….

        I HAVE REPORTED THIS TO BLIZZARD… why do people keep telling me to do this… Picture of my mouseover macro exploiting this flaw:


      • Moondancer says:

        Agree, at times you might have to post on the forums for a variety of reasons.

        Outside one post where I was congratulating a guildie for getting the Gladiator title, the only time I’ve posted was when I was experiencing some technical issues. I’ve only posted a small amount , however even if I didn’t post I would still be unhappy with this new change.

        Today I went ahead and deleted the few posts I had made. I know Blizzard says it they won’t apply Real ID to old posts, but they have changed their mind on a variety of things in the past, so even though I’m not playing I didn’t want to take any chances.

  43. Greg says:

    For some reason the whole Real ID controversy makes me think of the ending scene from Jay & Silent Bob Strike Back


  44. Nacimota says:

    Sadly, I think Blizzard has been heading down hill steadily for at least the past five years when it comes to their business practices. Look at other controversial issues like no LAN in Starcraft; they seem to be much more interested in addressing things like piracy and other legal concerns than actually satisfying and protecting customers.

    The only major games developer I still have the utmost respect for is Valve Software.

  45. Ryan says:

    When my daughter wanted to start messing around on the net, we had a few rules for her. The first was to NEVER use her real name online. Never ever ever. Why? because it makes it that much harder for a sicko to locate this teenage girl and learn her habits, parents’ names and class schedule etc. I heed my own advice, and I’ve checked that you can’t easily connect the handful of real things about me on the net with most of what I do online. This is basic safety, not some desire to hide behind a veil of anonymity.

    When they started the RealID stuff in the Sc2 beta, they advised to use it only for people you know and trust in the real world. Good advice.

    All I want is the ability to do the same thing online I can do if I meet someone who I don’t trust: give them a fake name so I won’t have to deal with them again.

  46. NoYou says:

    That sticker on the bottom of this page: http://us.battle.net/realid/

    Privacy ceritified

    That just made my day, lol.

  47. [...] 30 hours a week. In-game competitions can get heated, and relationships between players sometimes go sour – does Blizzard really want players’ in-game names to be associated with their users’ real [...]

  48. M says:

    It doesn’t matter if you use the forums or not. If you get hacked people can post in your real name. You don’t even need an authenticator for the forums.

  49. Hellscream says:

    In other words, people will have to be a little more consious about what they post. The days of the hate filled internet troll is coming to an end. Not completely but enough to notice.

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