Pay For Your Trolling With Your Good Name
Blizzard announced yesterday that they would be using their RealID system on the official forums for their games, revealing the real names of posters therein. The outrage across the Blogosphere has been huge, but a few positive posts can be found as well. This is one one those. I find most of the arguments made against such a system to be flawed and will tell you why below the fold. There are three lines that these arguments fall into they either deal with in-game harassment, real-life harassment, or the security risk of giving away your real name art all.
There are enough real names to be had anyway
Chris “Syeric” Coke talks about how real names in combination with other information such as an address can be used for fraud and he probably is right – at least he has more experience with the topic than I do. The thing is that real names are already widely available anyway. Phone books, corporate websites, tournament result listings, news articles, what have you. No, you might not be able to find a specific person’s name online, but you will absolutely find a gazillion of names to use for your fraud scheme. The risk must be quite low or we would see way more reports on the topic. And to be honest, who would you rather steal from – a decently paid university professor (whose names you can easily get online, loads of them) or some random WoW kid? Yeah, I thought so.
Many things in real life don’t give us an option to opt out of publishing our real names and there are many more opportunities where people list their names on purpose. The inherent risk must be very low and it is very likely that your name already is out there anyway. I know mine is. You don’t see me going around complaining about scientific journals putting my name on their websites, or Magic tournament organizers doing the same. Outrage about that would look quite silly.
In-game stalking likely won’t be possible
I consider it quite likely that Blizzard will replace the character name display with the real name display on the forums. Even if they do keep a character name in there, there will be nothing preventing you from choosing a level one alt somewhere. Unless Blizzard hands out a list of characters along with your real name, there will be nothing allowing other players to stalk you in-game at all through this feature. Spinks talks about about gender/race harassment or harassment from nasty ex-partners or something. Where exactly is this supposed to happen?
They can’t harass you in-game because knowing your name does not mean they are on your RealID list and they will neither be able to see your characters nor send you messages. That leaves the forums, but harassment on the official forums, especially with RealID in place, seems like a very stupid idea that’s doomed from the start. If your real name was displayed in-game to everyone, then yes, harassment would be a problem. But the logistics simply don’t work out for anyone wanting to harass you through the proposed system unless Blizzard is stupid enough to, say, list all your characters in your profile. Which they won’t be.
If you are hiding your gaming interests you have a problem
Edit: It seems as if I worded this heading poorly. I meant “problem” as in “Houston we have a problem.” rather than “What’s his problem?”. If being known as a gamer is problematic then that’s something we need to fix. There, maybe that’s a better wording.
RealID on the forums will make it possible for real-life contacts to find out that you are playing World of Warcraft, as has been pointed out by Hatch among others. The questions for me at that point are whether you should be able to hide your interests in the first place and why anyone should care. I’m not a fan of lying, especially not in order to get a job. If an employer is stupid enough to have a problem with her employees playing games in their free time then that is not someone I will work for. So yeah, if you do want to lie in order to work for a stupid employer then you shouldn’t be posting on the forums after this change. But be prepared to live your whole private life in fear, so to speak. Don’t ask a question about the game in Google groups (real name!) or put the next expansion on your Amazon wish list. Also make sure you don’t do anything else in public that might offend your employer – such as taking parts in tournaments or hosting a guild meeting. Seriously, living an honest life is much easier than living a lie. And if you do, then RealID won’t hurt you in that respect.
That leaves the real life stalking of “celebrities” or, to be more exact, of people that are either famous for what they write on the forums (such as the CMs Chris was talking about) or that use their forum account to post about the things that they are famous for (such as Day posting about his show on the official Starcraft forums.) I can see that Blizzard employees would have a problem with that, but everyone else seems to be just fine. The real names of TotalBiscuit and Day are openly available for example and don’t seem to cause any harm whatsoever. On the contrary, Day even got gifts for his birthday from viewers. TotalBiscuit is one of the most controversial people I know, yet he has no issue giving out his real name either. So just how famous do you need to be for this to become a problem?
Internet anonymity is a privilege you get nowhere else
The internet is an odd thing in that it allows us to be so very anonymous and this anonymity has led to many a bad corner of the internet. Real life doesn’t provide this anonymity and instead usually makes people responsible for their actions. This lack of anonymity has led to actual civilization, with accountability preventing humans from solely focusing on their own interests. Holding people accountable for their actions is a cornerstone of a functioning society, yet we defend the internet against exactly this accountability with tooth and claw. Many people do things on the internet they would never ever do to someone in real life simply because they know they can get away with it. I’m all for reducing the possibilities for this, and that is exactly what Blizzard is doing.