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

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Published by GameFront.com 8 years ago , last updated 2 months ago

Posted on July 7, 2010, Ron Whitaker Why Blizzard’s ‘Real ID’ is a Really Bad Idea

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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.

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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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