RealID on the Blizzard Forums: Problem?

Morynne —  July 7, 2010 — 9 Comments

I’m no online security expert.  I do consider myself to be rather well informed though. Blizzard is making a big mistake here, and it’s been a PR nightmare for the last 24 hours. The 350+ page forum threads on the EU and US forums seem to show that.  In case you missed it, here’s what’s been going on:

(source)

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. These changes will go into effect on all StarCraft II forums with the launch of the new community site prior to the July 27 release of the game, with the World of Warcraft site and forums following suit near the launch of Cataclysm. Certain classic forums, including the classic Battle.net forums, will remain unchanged.

The official forums have always been a great place to discuss the latest info on our games, offer ideas and suggestions, and share experiences with other players — however, 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. With this change, you’ll see blue posters (i.e. Blizzard employees) posting by their real first and last names on our forums as well.

With the launch of the new Battle.net, it’s important to us to create a new and different kind of online gaming environment — one that’s highly social, and which provides an ideal place for gamers to form long-lasting, meaningful relationships. All of our design decisions surrounding Real ID — including these forum changes — have been made with this goal in mind.

Now the “too long-didn’t read” summary:

  1. With Cataclysm’s launch, your Battle.net first and last name will be used on the forums. No more hiding behind a character name.
  2. Blizzard posters will be doing the same. (Ghostcrawler will now be known as Greg Street)
  3. If you post to the forums, you MUST use first and last name.
  4. Blizzard is viewing the forums as an optional social enhancement to the game.
  5. This is an attempt to remove forum trolls and spark real meaningful dialog on the forums.
  6. This is being implemented first with the SCII forums when that launches later this month.

Now for what I think…

1. Sometimes forum posting isn’t optional.

What about the times when your game client is doing some weird things, and you need help? You go to the tech support forums.  This is especially prevalent for Mac users out there.  Calling Blizzard is easily a 45 minute ordeal, when it could be something as simple as turning on PRAM on a restart.  Without posting, you might not know this sort of stuff — or it would take you forever to get the information.  And frankly removing your add-ons folder and deleting the WTF folder doesn’t do a thing – so much so it’s become a joke to ask for help with something from a GM in game.

2. Females have serious privacy concerns.

Speaking as a member of the female gaming community, and someone with a unique name, I can tell you when you Google me, you’ll find me.  Top hits – and pages of them.  Mostly my guest post from wow.com, but nevertheless, you’ll find me.  I’ve been very careful what information about me gets out there.  You’ll get my name, maybe a couple links.  You’ll find out I’m a hockey fan, beer drinker, and a MINI Cooper enthusiast.  None of these things are all that scary.  What I do find a little disconcerting is that you’ll find my husband, my sister-in-law, my mother-in-law — my family. My husband and I are pretty careful what gets out there about us.  The rest of my family? I’m not so sure.  I haven’t had a chance to dig into the results enough, but it’s enough to make me concerned.

There have been several reports of females being stalked online.  I’m sure we’ve all seen a few reports of this in local news reports.  The last thing I need is to have someone attempt to stalk me.  It probably won’t have a lot of weight just yet, but I know eventually someone somewhere with a RealID and posting on the forums will get hurt.  It didn’t take MySpace long to get a crappy reputation, and Facebook’s privacy policy had been a joke up until recently.  I just hope Blizzard learns from both of these mistakes, and takes any privacy concerns seriously — as well as harassment complaints.

3. Professional Jobs Tend to Frown on Gaming

The bigger portion of professional jobs tend to frown on gaming — particularly MMO type games.  Employers will Google you in a heartbeat, and make some snap decisions about whether or not they want to hire you based on what they find.  You have to manage your own image, and if you’re not in an industry that can tolerate a gamer, you may be asking for trouble here.  It might keep you from getting a job, or cost you one.  Fair? Probably not.  Keep you off the forums? Definitely — if you want to maintain a professional image.

4. Privacy Concerns for Military Personnel

I won’t pretend to know the whole story here, but I do know that the military tends to want to keep their soldiers — and their families safe. Keeping an anonymous front when dealing online is important — especially when deployed.

There are many other concerns out there — just sift through the hundreds of pages of posts back at the forums.

Here’s where I stand: wait and see.  It’s clear that Blizzard is still reeling at the uproar from their community.  They didn’t anticipate this backlash, as stated by their battle.net program director back in May. Link

Do I think they’re going to change this? No, I honestly don’t.  Blizzard views posting on the forums as something optional, and if you don’t want your real name out there, don’t post on the forums.  All this is going to do is drive away valuable posters and have nothing but trolls left.  Do I know this for certain? No, but it sounds like that’s where it’s going.  Congratulations to Wowhead.com and MMO-Champion for effectively being turned into the new Blizzard forums.  Better buy some more bandwidth for your hosting.

Do I see some value in this whole ordeal? Sure.  There’s going to be an interface in SCII that imports your Facebook contacts into your Battle.net contacts and makes them effectively RealID friends.  That’s awesome if you talk to and want to play with all of your Facebook friends.  Do I? No.  I am friends with my Facebook friends, but I prefer to really keep my game friends and Facebook separate, thanks.

I don’t foresee myself posting on the Blizzard forums after this change, not that I posted a lot to begin with, but now I have my professional internet presence and family’s privacy to think about before I put myself out there.

Morynne

Posts Twitter Facebook Google+

Morynne is an avid hunter, and prefers Marksmanship. She has co-hosted the Hunting Party Podcast, and appeared on the Twisted Nether Blogcast. For more information, click here.

9 responses to RealID on the Blizzard Forums: Problem?

  1. I hate to just leave disagreeing comments on your blog, but what do you really have to worry about? Your forum signature on the WoW boards already has your twitter, information, from there a person can find a link to your blog, and from here, a link to your wow.com, where they can see your fairly unique name emblazoned at the top of the article. You're basically giving out your name already, at least to the people who would take the time to look up your info anyway.

    In your case, nothing changes. Although it's definitely true that a lot of other people aren't in the same boat. I feel for the people who really don't know what's going on. I mean, remember that one Pally who posted on the forums about an itemization issue and the whole discussion turned to how he was super bad for gemming Spell Pen? If his first/last name was out there, he'd have suffered a whole new level of abuse. Just for being ignorant about certain aspects of the game! And if he's ignorant about that, you can bet he's probably ignorant about the implications of posting with one's real name!

    Okay, so I at least half agreed with you this time. :P

    • The concerns are still valid- even though those of us who are already "outed" don't have anything additional to worry about, the average player hasn't been published on wow.com.

      • Hence the second part of my comment where I pointed out the potential abuse for those who don't know the implications of sharing their name.

        I agree that it's an issue for 99% of players, but when I read about the people who put themselves out there like that, who have already tied that information to their WoW forum account (typically through signature, and this is not something I have done,) it just seems silly. You're already giving out your name, why would you stop posting on the forums because Blizzard is too?

        • As I posted in my last reply, I'm fine with my name getting out there, heck it already is. I will say I'm going to think extra hard about posting on the forums if I choose to once the change happens.

          I'm not terribly keen on my name being a top hit for WoW forums on Google. My prospective future employers might not be so understanding. That's one of the bigger reasons why I'll likely be refraining from participating on the new forums.

    • I'm fine with my name being out, but in a controlled manner. For the most part, I have a very good handle on who can see what. An employer has a problem with me being a blogger? Fine. I can deal with that, and diffuse any concerns provided they're willing to talk to me about it. I knew my full name was going to get out for that sort of thing. Do I want my name to be an even bigger hit on Google because I post on the WoW forums all the time? Probably not.

      Those who have had their real names outed by blogging have already made the big gulp of a step. That doesn't mean the remainder of the 99% of the Blizzard community shouldn't be concerned. I realize my response is an echo to Euripides, but hey, I feel very much the same way.

      • I've only ever ventured into the tech or GM support forums but even then I don't really feel good about having my name out there. I feel really dismissed by Blizzard, as if my worries and concerns don't matter.

        If they view the forums as optional then just blow up anything but the support forums and call it a day.

        • I’m afraid the board trolls will just go haunt somewhere else if they end up doing that. I’m not a big fan of my name being so easily found if I post on the forums, but at this point, Blizzard seems to be “reviewing and considering” the feedback from the PR nightmare they created. We’ll have to wait and see how this plays out.

  2. Here is the link to the interview with Greg Canessa where he stated they didn't anticipate any pushback:
    http://content.usatoday.com/communities/gamehunte

Leave a Reply