Another round of “real names will solve everything”, Blizzard edition

Via everyone everywhere, Blizzard’s (developer of World of Warcraft and the Starcraft and Diablo franchises) game discussion forums are the latest online forum to come up with the bright idea to make everything all better by requiring people to use their legal names.

Here’s their forum announcement:

Recently, we introduced our new Real ID feature – , a new way to stay connected with your friends on the new Today, we wanted to give you a heads up about our plans for Real ID on our official forums, discuss the design philosophy behind the changes we’re making, and give you a first look at some of the new features we’re adding to the forums to help improve the quality of conversations and make the forums an even more enjoyable place for players to visit.

The first and most significant change is that in the near future, anyone posting or replying to a post on official Blizzard forums will be doing so using their Real ID — that is, their real-life first and last name — with the option to also display the name of their primary in-game character alongside it… the forums have also earned a reputation as a place where flame wars, trolling, and other unpleasantness run wild. Removing the veil of anonymity typical to online dialogue will contribute to a more positive forum environment, promote constructive conversations, and connect the Blizzard community in ways they haven’t been connected before.

Links abound:

  • Blake: Blizzard Wants The World To Know Your Name: This is an important issue, because names carry markers of gender, ethnicity and real-world relationships that may be irrelevant to someone’s game play, but open up the possibility of harassment. It also makes it easier for harassers to follow people beyond the internet, making it a matter of personal safety. I find Blizzard’s decision unfortunate in every possible way.
  • everstar: WoW Fail: That means every post you make will have the name linked with your account published. On a public forum. Where everyone can see it. If you want to ask a question in their Customer Service forum, if you want to post a Bug Report, if you want to talk to other people in your realm, the name associated with your account will be displayed. And it’s supposed to be your real name. (via hoydenabouttown on Twitter)
  • Lodur (semi-supportive), Real ID on Blizzard forums, the good and the bad (via James in the linkspam): Some are concerned for their safety. They fear stalkers and real life harassment and fallout from the forums following them into real life. As a person who has worked in internet security for a long time, I can tell you the chances of this are pretty slim.
  • Miss Medicina, And I Didn’t Even Catch Her Name… : Being a WoW gamer is not exactly a mark of prestige in my field. It would not be a hobby that worked in my favor, but in fact, more than likely the opposite… The people who work at Blizzard don’t have to worry about their future employers knowing how much time they spent on the WoW forums.
  • Apple: Real ID, RP, and why only one person gets to have mine and RealID Forums (via James)
  • Chastity, Seriously Not Okay (via James): It is a common misconception that trolling is caused by anonymity. It is not. It is caused by people being assholes. Frequently, it is caused by people being racist asssholes or misogynist assholes or various other sorts of assholes who like to target people of a particular type.

See also wot Skud said.

13 thoughts on “Another round of “real names will solve everything”, Blizzard edition

  1. Restructure!

    Internet racism by resistance:

    For the most part, I previously thought about internet racism as being fueled by anonymity. […] But then came the popularity of social media sites like myspace and Facebook and twitter. Which blows my “anonymity” theory right out of the water.

  2. Pewter

    While I completely understand that people can chose not to participate, and a part of me hopes that women (and other marginalised groups) will become more visible and have more power in mainstream gaming as a result. However I think that is naive of me, and completely misses the point that a lot of women will be even less likely to post due to the greater likelihood of harassment leaking into other parts of their lives.

  3. Doctor Science

    Maybe I’m just excessively cynical. Maybe.

    But I notice that women (who are much more likely to be harrassed, stalked, etc. online and off) will be more likely to turn away from WOW because of this than men are. Which means that WOW demographics will tip more strongly male. Advertizers (e.g. on TV) pay more for male eyeballs than female ones, and the most sought-after demographic on TV, at least, is “Male, 18-34”.

    So maybe Blizzard is deliberately trying to repel women. They’ll have fewer players, but a more sought-after demographic may mean they more than make up for it in advertizing dollars.

    Or they’re stupid. But they’d have to be *really* stupid.

    1. Jayn

      I’m going with ‘stupid’–they’ll probably change their minds based on the feedback they’re getting eventually. This is standard operating procedure for Blizzard–bring in something new, cause a big uproar, say “It’ll be fine”, and eventually realise that their fanbase is right and tone things down.

      I’ve been playing WoW for too long to believe this is anything other than a failure to think things through on their part. It would be out of character for them to behave differently.

  4. ptp

    A blizzard employee posted his own name as a show of confidence and within a few minutes had his address, his Twitter, Photobucket, and Facebook accounts, names of children, and a slew of other personal information posted in the very same thread. I have heard alternating stories that he deleted either his Twitter or Facebook account (or both?) as a result. I highly doubt this is going to materialize as Blizzard imagined it.

  5. Metaneira

    The real life name is especially intriguing (horrifyingly so) in conjunction with the other feature they’re implementing, up/down rating posts. This will help the community identify which posts are “worth reading”. So even if I choose to post with my real name (I am fortunate to have a first and last name in the top 30 or so most common names for my gender and nationality), I can be pretty sure that my post will get downvoted instantly just for being female.

    Blizzard’s mission statement includes the tenet that “every voice matters”. Why are they making it so much harder for mine to be heard?

    (Also thanks for the link last week! <3)

  6. Apple

    Well, since you linked both my posts on the subject, I doubt there’s much I can add here. :)

    Thank you for the link. Here’s hoping Blizzard realises how RIDICULOUS they’re being.

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