Why Blizzard’s ‘Real ID’ is a Really Bad Idea

mushroom-cloud

So by now, you have to have heard about Blizzard’s plan to use their ‘Real ID’ system to display the first and last name of players on their official game forums.

Understandably, this has caused a bit of an uproar. In fact, it’s been the equivalent of a tactical nuke on the communities of Starcraft 2 and World of Warcraft. Currently, the forum threads discussing the issue in the communities are sitting at just under 25,000 posts (WoW) and just under 1200 posts (SC2).

Obviously, this has attracted a lot of attention, but is it really that big a deal?

In short, yes it is. The obvious problems with this are simple to see. It’s never a good idea to make your personal details available on the internet. Sure, you can do a little of that in Facebook, but that’s not linked directly to your WoW account. This system would place your real name alongside that info.

So, how could this be all that bad? Let’s ask the Blizzard GM who provided his name in a forum thread. Shortly after posting that minimal information, tons of his personal details were exposed on blogs around the net. His Facebook page, address, phone number, and family details were suddenly made public. While we won’t be linking to those posts, this illustrates just how badly this policy can go.

Sure, this is just information, and you can argue that it’s all publicly available if you dig hard enough, but that doesn’t answer the big question: Why would a game company want to give these personal-data-diggers ammo like this?

Let’s think up a scenario where this could go bad. We’ll use me as an example, since I used to run a guild in WoW. Let’s assume that I turn down a prospective guild member for whatever reason. He takes this personally, so he heads over to the WoW forums, finds my guild recruiting post, and gets my real name. He then undertakes a harassment campaign on my Facebook and Twitter sites, and possibly even on this site.

world_of_warcraft

I’m not saying that this will happen, but this isn’t the worst thing that could take place. After all, that’s just harassment. It hasn’t been that long since more than one Counter-Strike player was stabbed over in-game disputes. Toss in the larger than average number of women playing World of Warcraft, and this could get downright scary.

Setting aside the physical violence, there are plenty of other reasons to dislike this policy. Back in 2008, we reported on a job recruiter who had been specifically instructed by employers not to send WoW players to them for interviews. I think everyone will agree that while a select few WoW players would be a problem, the vast majority of them are being unfairly stereotyped by policies like this. Do you really feel comfortable knowing that your posts debating the relative merits of the last update to the Mage’s Frostbolt spell might be read by the HR guy at your prospective employer?

As for the benefits, they are nebulous. Blizzard claims that this policy will weed out many of the forum trolls that have long inhabited their official forums. While this may be true of some, it will not work for all. Judging from the threads I have read, it will also lead to a large number of legitimately helpful and constructive posters avoiding the forums as well.

Let’s face it, people are passionate about games, and Blizzard games more so than most. That kind of passion often leads to posts that people may regret later, but that doesn’t mean that those people should be harassed, ostracized, or even assaulted because of it. Hopefully, the outcry over this policy will convince Blizzard to reconsider implementing it. If not, you can expect to see a lot less traffic on their official forums. We’ll have to wait and see what happens.

And if you still don’t have enough reasons why this is bad…good lord, just watch this.

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11 Comments on Why Blizzard’s ‘Real ID’ is a Really Bad Idea

Lisa

On July 7, 2010 at 1:23 pm

Send an ESRB Complaint: http://www.esrb.org/privacy/contact.jsp

Etienne

On July 7, 2010 at 1:34 pm

Cry more.

Real ID is great.

Thanks for not publishing me.

kitkittles

On July 7, 2010 at 1:50 pm

I wonder if they’ve considered the number of people who won’t sign up under a legitimate name, maybe a name of somebody they don’t like, say an ex boss maybe? Then proceed to post under that name, even if they aren’t trolling, it’s still going to show up in an internet search when the ex boss tries to get another job or obtain an important client. Actually, as I was posting this revelation, I am reminded of a couple of people I would like to do this to, lol.
Here’s another thought: Blizzard will make a ton of money from people who cancel their main accounts and start new ones under names they won’t have to worry about. With the $25 per character transfer fee, as well as the new game package they have to buy and download, *cha-ching* *cha-ching* *cha-ching*! Brilliant! This isn’t to control the cesspool forums (which aren’t really all that bad). This is to make money, be it through their new partner Facebook or forcing players into spending more money to play the game with a feeling of saftey. 26,000 posts saying NO should be message enough, but when you have egomaniacs like Mr. Kotick using words like ‘revolutionize’, there will be no back tracking and he will take the company down insisting this will work. Good luck when absolutely no one will post in forums under a legitimate name.

J Gam

On July 7, 2010 at 1:57 pm

Fortunately for me I’d already been banned from their forums prior to the announcement of the Facebook integration / cash grab at the expense of user privacy, so I no longer have a vested interest in their questionable (to be very courteous) decisions.

I do however dislike the unnecessary difficulty in opting out of Real ID, and loathe the idea they may now integrate this into the GAME. I was run off their forums for speaking out about the nickel and dime Blizzard store (and the slippery slope Spectral Steed), and this just smacks of another opportunity to charge players a fee to secure their identity. I imagine they’ll want a few extra dollars a month to keep you “unlisted”, much like the phone companies.

It’s a shame the game is so fun, or I’d simply quit. The talented developers and programmers deserve a far better corporate steering committee. Their vision of the future of gaming does not jive with the people that matter most… the gamers.

SomeoneElse

On July 7, 2010 at 3:18 pm

Nothing to do with reducing forum trolls.
This comes on the heels of a deal that was struck with FaceBook, back in May.
Enjoy:
http://content.usatoday.com/communities/gamehunters/post/2010/05/blizzard-and-facebooks-friendly-social-networking-deal-launches-with-starcraft-ii-/1

Anon

On July 7, 2010 at 3:55 pm

No problem, cry more about not being published.

Fake

On July 7, 2010 at 3:55 pm

If I was Blizz, maybe I would feel bad for all the people who dislike ‘Real ID’. But then again who symphasizes for a minority (yes eliters and nerds are now minority, this game has gone mainstream) who act so violently towards an employee who posts his name on a forumn? Maybe its good to get rid of these people. Sure they’re losing some profit, but all while in the process of gaining huge profits. Nothing to lose now, GG.

Fox

On July 8, 2010 at 1:15 pm

+1

Consider also transgendered people that haven’t had a name change yet, or in general people that that just don’t like their name. People need control on what name they post under as, imho.

Nessy

On July 8, 2010 at 2:02 pm

You think a larger number of women will cause even more problems? What exactly is wrong with you OP? Your real life example didn’t even involve a woman and here you are trying to lay it down on us. This is a problem that will effect both sexes equally.

Ron Whitaker

On July 8, 2010 at 4:07 pm

I think you misunderstood my point. The point was that women are likely to be targets, not the problem themselves.

YourFavoriteRedHead

On July 9, 2010 at 12:47 pm

“Your real life example didn’t even involve a woman and here you are trying to lay it down on us.”

Um no, did you read the post at all?

He means that we, as women, could become easier targets for harassment by obsessive miscreants, be stalked, or even worse.

“You think a larger number of women will cause even more problems?”

No, what causes women not to be taking seriously in the gaming world is people like Olivia Munn pretending to be gamers just to further their career, gals like Raychul Moore who make folks think we are sexed up Xbots that lick our controllers, or gals who do not understand what they read and make inane uninformed comments on gaming websites.

I am glad Blizzard changed its mind, even though I do not play WoW, it would set an example with other firms following suit.