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:
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:
- With Cataclysm’s launch, your Battle.net first and last name will be used on the forums. No more hiding behind a character name.
- Blizzard posters will be doing the same. (Ghostcrawler will now be known as Greg Street)
- If you post to the forums, you MUST use first and last name.
- Blizzard is viewing the forums as an optional social enhancement to the game.
- This is an attempt to remove forum trolls and spark real meaningful dialog on the forums.
- 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.
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.