Blizzard Requiring Real Names in their Forums - It's about damn time!

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Bill Loguidice's picture

With news of Blizzard's "bold" move that essentially will require all users of their forums - starting with those for upcoming mega-smash StarCraft II - to make use of their real names, the Internet is abuzz as only the most pervasive worldwide communications medium ever implemented can be, with masses of opinionated people either being aggressively for or against this particular action.

Of course this idea has been nothing new, with some of us championing this for quite some time to cut down on the type of nonsense that 99% of the people who partake wouldn't think of doing in the real world, like name calling, verbal abuse, sexual or racial tirades, cheating, etc., all because of the relative anonymity of the online world. With equal parts ego and having a firm conviction of standing behind what I say, I've personally been in the "real name" camp since approximately 1994, when I got my first real taste of the Internet, and partially prior to that for a number of years on BBS's. Interestingly, back in late 2003, when the idea behind Armchair Arcade was in its formative stages, there was some discussion of whether we'd go with nicknames or our real names. I was one of the ones who was pretty adamant about going with our real names. If we weren't going to be proud enough of the end product to associate our names with Armchair Arcade, then why bother doing it in the first place? Going on greater than 7 years now, I think we've made the right choice for a variety of reasons.

So why is this movement - which I hope snowballs from Blizzard's mainstream push - so important? To me, it means that there is a greater chance that people will be just a bit more careful about what they say online. They'll put a bit more thought into their tirades, they'll think twice about cheating, they'll maybe give a bit more thought to how their actions might affect them in the real world. This can only improve things for everyone else who doesn't want to wade through, deal with, or participate in the nonsense. Will it cut down a bit on participation by some? Sure, but that will only be a short-term effect. Medium- to long-term, participation levels will go back to normal and perhaps even improve by attracting people who would normally not have bothered participating before because they either couldn't or didn't like to deal with the garbage. Of course there are privacy and safety concerns, but frankly they're already there and need to be dealt with anyway unless you live in an unpowered shack in the woods and only conduct business via cash.

One area where I would like anonymity preserved would be for those under 16 years of age. Part of this is due to vulnerability, and part of this is due to maturity. As we all know, the online world has an indefinite memory, keeping some type of record somewhere of the vast majority of your actions. I'd like to think that a childhood tirade due to immaturity wouldn't haunt a person into adulthood (much like a 16 year old being labeled a sexual predator for life when he or she has sex with a 15 year old--it's not what the laws were meant for). From say, age 16 on, all bets are off and you'd be considered an adult in the online world and responsible for your actions. Of course, for those under 16, they'd have to have certain restrictions placed on their accounts and still have some type of mechanism in place to be punished for unacceptable actions that tie back to real world consequences, but it should all be done behind the scenes via a protected identity.

Now that you know my stance, what are your thoughts? Is this doomed to fail or a taste of the future?

Comments

clok1966
Offline
Joined: 01/21/2009
As a MMORPG addict (as time

As a MMORPG addict (as time premits, not much in summer unforntatnly) I'm not sure what to think of this. First off The name section the "real name" will be pulled from can be filled out with anything. I, like many people who use the net for lots of stuff have a habit of filling in "whatever strikes my fancy" in the name area's as I dont want a bunch of my personal info where its not required (they have my billing info which is enough). Blizzard already has done some pretty "questionable" stuff in the past. It used to download your machine Info/specs (nothing personal). While I dont see this as being a huge problem, they did it without asking. It was a public relation nightmare for them and they no longer do it.
I myslef could care less, from my use of the forums its 99% people asking questions and then being called NOOB or much worse. use my real name, it wont matter to me as I try to post as little venom as possilbe (but do post negative sides of many discussions as you guys have seen, I'm really not this negative, but I do try to look at the downside (when the upside is covered already)). WoW has fostered an Elitest attuitude for 5 years now, and they plan to change it by "outing" posters? How will this help? If Tim Jobwoski, instead of LeetKillDog calls me a [insert horrible name here] in the forums, um.. what did it change? Posting was already tied to accounts, the name of characters, I had far more access to the poster that way. I could log into his server and actually talk to him "screen to screen" if i so desired (i cant imagine anybody wanting to, but the venom and rage in forums has proved me wrong many a time). His actual name, i guess I could look it up and find a phone number, or 100's of phone numbers for that name.
I'm just not sure how it will change anything. Most people who post crap will post it even whith the name out there. I can see a very small percent of people who will think twice (I guess that would maybe be good enough reason) but I cant see it being many. Maybe I will be wrong , i would be happy to be in this case.

One thing, unless Blizzard uses the name from BILLING info (the only place you HAVE to be correct) i cant see it making to much difference. But there are problems there too. Billing can be anybody, not the player, parents, gamecards, etc.. easy to get around that one too. You mention 16 year olds, so how do you work that one? CC are not issued to people under 18 (are they? I believe banks have an Age requirment), game cards are out there for anybody 13 and up to buy (WoW is a TEEN rated game if stores are checking). But to make the account what is required (just a valid Email?, as in any email?) I cant see any way they can inforce this.
How are they not going to get in trouble for this? Your 13 year old thing is very interesting. When will the rukus start about that? Real kids names avialble on the net.
Of course Blizzards responce to all this is simple. Dont post, no longer can I ask for help on a forum where an answer might be posted in minutes (or more complaints so I know its a real problem), now I need to wait 30 minutes to 2 hours on the phone for help (i have called 2 times, once it was 30 minutes, once it was 2 hours, not numbers pulled from thin air, but my actual calls). Blizzard has pretty much free reign to do as they please and they know it. They have already changed things that they said would never be. Cash for items in game was NEVER going to happen. it did. Then it was "only" stuff that didnt change the game experiance, vanity pets, sparkly light, etc.. Now you can BUY a mount (if that doesnt hcange the game, its really cash for gold (again a big NONO by Blizzard, but the gray area (and more cash for them, its OK)). Blizzard has seen the cash posibilities and is going to start milking us poor players (who I might add are going to buy this crap like its required... ).

I guess my problem with Real ID isnt the fact that I have to post my name, I really dont mind that. its the fact that there is no way to INFORCE it. Many accounts dont have real names (mine do not). So the single biggest reason for this, shameing the GRIEFERS with real names... it probebly wont work as they wont have real names to shame. And in teh end its just that "shameing", they are not putting any new rules in place as far as I can see (other then the name). they alrady had the ability to BAN acounts, the real ID wont change that or make it easier. But even more so my problem is Blizzard, we dont want to police our forums, so we are going to let you do it. Dont I pay um $15 a month already? Now I'm suposed to police the forums too? Blizzards "we can do as we please, we have digital crack" attuitude is not good. There are so many ways to fix alot of WoW's problems buy hiring people. WoW is not like other new games where hiring people is a big risk as you have no idea if you can pay them 3 months later... WOW is a CASH COW, most (un proven) sites list WoW as rouhgly 80% of what they make is profit. (just US and Eruope is 800 Million a year, then add the "pay by timhour" players, you know, the gold farmers...) WOW can afford to hire people to be IN GAME GM's and solve problems there (average wait time on a GM is 2-4 hours, many time you get a responce the next day). And they could also do it on the forums. Yes it will take a chunk of profits... um, one so small it wont even be a blip, but its part of the bottom line so it wont happen. Of course this leaves yet another problem.. Judge/jury/exacutioner all rolled up into one... how do you find good ones?

I really as I have said, dont see it being a Bad thing, I just dont see how it will change anything, how it can be inforced that real names are used (I guess thats why its called REAL ID not REAL NAME). the only way to fix the forum problems is to ban posters who cant understand griefing others is not the thing to do.. over and over..

Sorry again for my novel length post..all mine are like that, feel bad for you readers.

-UPDATE- I see that BLizzard had (earlier today or yesterday) said people Blizzard employed would -NOT- use the REAL ID system as prevoiusly they had used real names in forums and had People List there PHONE NUMBERS, there Parents Numbers and linked to GOOGLE maps with there house loactions and friends and families locations. Ahhh the wonders of the interent. As of right now Blizzard is backtracking and saying they will Use Real ID (and rumor is several GM's and forum people will be changeing jobs as they wont deal with the rabid WoW fan base, and as we all know they are RABID). Already there are people who cant leave people alone. Something I never thought about till now.. greif in the real world.

Matt Barton
Matt Barton's picture
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Joined: 01/16/2006
I'm with you, Bill. I think

I'm with you, Bill. I think anonymity causes more problems than it solves. I'd like to think that I live in a society where even if someone knew my name, where I lived, etc., I would be safe because the police (and my neighbors) are there to protect me. That may be naive, but the alternative--rampant paranoia--is just too detrimental.

Also, I'd like to think that someone evaluating someone's behavior on the internet could take into consideration the person's age or condition. We do this in real life all the time. Obviously, I wouldn't consider it a huge thing if some child was writing nasty things, though I'd expect the kid's parents to do something about it when it came to their attention. Likewise, if someone posted a bad message and then later recanted, or confessed to being drunk, high, extremely angry, etc., I'd be inclined to ignore or forget about it, though of course if it happened again I'd be very skeptical.

I've heard of cases where professors weren't hired specifically because of what random people posted about them on rate my professor. That's a clear example of where the anonymity has terrible effects. Whistle blowing is one thing, but you generally need solid evidence for that, anonymous or not. Anything else is really just libel.

In any case, requiring real names on these forums probably won't have any real effect if clok is right about it being so easy to bypass. There will no doubt be a lot of John Does. And even if not, there are plenty of idiots and a-holes out there who would still feel anonymous enough to post their sputum for all to see.

I was enjoying the fireworks on the 4th in a big public park. There were thousands of people there, mostly families with their children. Yet there was a group of teenagers behind me who were acting terrible. One kept yelling out "Mother f****!" Another was rolling a ball down a hill and hitting the back of people sitting further down. It was clear that someone needed to tell these kids to shut up or go home, but no one did. And that's what worries me a lot more than whether anyone knows their names.

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Catatonic
Offline
Joined: 05/20/2006
Blizzard may come under

Blizzard may come under scrutiny from government agencies now, like Canada's privacy commission did to Facebook.

clok1966
Offline
Joined: 01/21/2009
time will tell
Catatonic wrote:

Blizzard may come under scrutiny from government agencies now, like Canada's privacy commission did to Facebook.

Well I think they have one giant loophole for that. The forums are optional, so to get the service you pay for (the game, battlenet, matchmaking service) you dont have to use the forums. Hmm but i think the matchmaking service uses Real ID too (wasnt starcraft II the start of all this?). But of course the matchmaking service is free and optional too I guess. This will be hot topic for awhile.
Several journalist have stated they will be quiting as they feel the name could have some real implications on anything they say harshly about the game in reviews and such. Not with blizz but the fan base. As I mentioned some of the horror stories about the Blizz work force who have used real names is pretty sad (and scary to think people take the game ot those levels).
i still think its like communism, one of the best ideas ever if its implmented as designed, but people do the implementing and we are a VERY flawed bunch, some far more then others. The Real ID thing looks pretty good on paper, but it doesnt take into account those sad people out there who take the game far to seroiusly.

Andy- are you sure on the Billing thing? One blue post (on wow forums) has stated it was the name you entered when setting up the account (mine are from day 1 , heck, pre beta days, so maybe its changed) I have not set my REAL ID so I will admit I am not sure. But I do know the NAME set on my account is not my name, but if it does pull from billing it will be. Guess I can go set it up..err no got my authenticater at home so cant log in...

there are alot of "im done" posts.. but I know in 5 years i have seen that over and over, be it nerfs, patchs, extended downtime etc.. I really dont see it affecting WoW much . I did see one Game website had a newspost "Finally a WoW killer, WoW Real ID" which listed several game journlists who have publicly stated they will no longer subscribe and cover the game.. but again, thats not even a drop in ocean in wow subscriber numbers.

Its so weird, I am not against REAL ID for myslef, but i can see so mcuh Bad comming of it from a "batwhit crazy wow player" perspective..

Andy (not verified)
What?

So many things to say, but I don't feel like posting them. I get the whole OK real name might stop people from being so mean, but what happens when someone isn't being mean, and someone else THINKS they are? Like some crazed stalker going after a girl because she was mildly interested in him online, but not in "that way".

So they guy finds her "real name" with a little Googling or dropping $25 to the local "find me" website, boom he's got a reasonably good idea of who she is and, oh look, she lives only 15 miles from said crazy.

OK, worse case scenario, but with 10+ million players... Why even prod that can of worms? WoW is full of crazies, but as long as you're protected in some way I feel better about associating with them. Blizzard is slowing taking this away.

Clok - "One thing, unless Blizzard uses the name from BILLING info (the only place you HAVE to be correct) i cant see it making to much difference."

RealID uses your account name from billing. No you can't change it, yes it has to match what's on your credit card. Your RealID is your REAL NAME. Period. If you don't think what happened to Blizzard employees could happen to regular players, you're smokin.

Bill - "Of course this idea has been nothing new, with some of us championing this for quite some time to cut down on the type of nonsense that 99% of the people who partake wouldn't think of doing in the real world, like name calling, verbal abuse, sexual or racial tirades, cheating, etc."

99%? really, I've been in 3 guilds as a casual player in WoW, every single one was kind considerate, with occasial drama, which if you've never been into MMOs you've never really truly appreciated good guild drama. I find trolling hilarious most of the time. I thought WoW was doing a GREAT job moderating the forums, rarely did you encounter any serious stuff that wasn't delt with swiftly. Their forums are awesome! Now that'll be gone. It'll be like the EQ1 days where you have to find a reliable forum to discuss the topics of the day, and gone is the integration of the AWESOME WoW Armory.

Blizzard should hire more moderators. Delete more "bad" posts, and players will get the message, don't be a fuckwad. Don't punish normal players for the faults of a few bad apples.

I CANCELED my WoW account, i'm still active through August, I hope they change their mind before then, but fortunately SW:TOR is coming out later this year.

I was really looking forward to Cata, now I am NOT!
I was really looking forward to SC2, now I am NOT!
I was really looking forward to D3, now I am NOT!

Get the picture? I have all the Blizzard collectors editions. ALL OF THEM! Been playing Wow on and off for 3 years, you do the math!

http://brokentoys.org/2010/07/07/realid-scare-mongering-from-a-lot-of-pe...

Here's some stuff to read, a good collection of opinions from people on the other side of the fence. Some of the Community Managers who would have to deal with this FIRST HAND, and probably have the best insight as to why this is really bad.

-Andy

Matt Barton
Matt Barton's picture
Offline
Joined: 01/16/2006
I agree. I don't spend much

I agree. I don't spend much time on their forums (never posted, but do browse occasionally). I think there could be somewhat of a chilling effect--I know I'm less likely to "go nuts" with a post if my name is on it and simply don't post things that might come back to haunt me. I'm not sure it really makes any difference, though. If you're posting things that you wouldn't want your name associated with, why post it in the first place? Hiding behind a pseudonym just doesn't cut it. I think a great policy to follow is that if you wouldn't say something in public (or to someone's face), don't post it on the internet.

As far as the "worst case scenario" goes, that's a worn-out excuse. The girl in the scenario should tell her parents, who should communicate to the man to leave her alone. If he won't comply, that's what cops are for. Again, a lot of the problems involving kids and the internet could be solved if the parents were more active in the child's life. Sure, some bad choices will inevitably be made, perhaps to spite the parents, but that's sadly just a fact of life with teens.

I could imagine someone posting something really offensive, and some hothead getting fed up enough to actually try to get in touch with the person. I'm not sure how you could do that with just a name, but let's say they figured it out. What are they going to do? Perhaps call up the person and cuss them out? I seriously doubt they'd bother traveling somewhere, but unless the person is really and truly insane, I can't imagine that leading to murder or even assault. It's not like someone that insane isn't surrounded by people anyway (again, regardless of a forum).

What I think would make everyone feel safer is if we had better treatment of mentally ill people in this country. All anyone seems to focus on is physical health--mental health is largely ignored in all but the most extreme cases.

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Ken G. (not verified)
Lack of privacy = lack of thoughtlessness?

I understand that this policy may disrupt John Gabriel's Internet theory. But will using real names really force people to be more polite to complete strangers?

I'm a comment moderator on a site where aliases are allowed but email addresses are available to the admin. It hasn't stopped people from staying things that they'd probably prefer not be traced back to them. I'm just not sure it's possible to enforce thinking through one's words and actions.

Bill Loguidice
Bill Loguidice's picture
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Joined: 12/31/1969
To my mind, less privacy is

To my mind, less privacy is inevitable, so I feel it's better we face the issues/challenges head on sooner, when it's manageable, rather than later when we might be overwhelmed and not have adequately addressed the pitfalls.

I don't see how your example is relevant, Ken. Just because an e-mail address is available to an admin, doesn't mean that there's any public accountability for the aliased poster, which I think is the point of having a real name associated with public comments. Am I missing something?

Also, it's not about making people change, per se, it's about making people act online more like they'd act in public. It's about aligning public online with public offline to make online a better place for everyone. There will still be jerks and asses - that's human nature - but if there's a chance for a potential repercussion or two, maybe it can - even in small ways - improve things.

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Ken G. (not verified)
Self-policing

Bill: You're right that my example and what Blizzard is doing are different. I have no experience with moderating or participating in communities without anonymity so can't relate on a 1:1 scale.

All I know is that the ability for comments to be traced back to the responsible individuals has not prevented them from making asses of themselves. Perhaps this is also Blizzard's experience, since they're already dealing with registered users, and they're now hoping that public accountability will complement (or substitute for) moderator approval.

adamantyr
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Joined: 01/28/2007
I think Real Names are a huge

I think Real Names are a huge mistake. Google used to link directly to white page data sources so that you could enter someone's name and find their address. They don't do that anymore.

The Blizzard forums will go dead; everyone will retreat to 3rd party sites, specifically opened in support of privacy and anonymity. What's sad about that is that the official sites will become an overpriced blog for the Developers and GM's to post updates. (And yes, THEY will not be forced to use the system. In fact, the Blizzard employees could file a lawsuit against them for requiring such as a condition of employment.)

What worries me more is where they're going with it. I think their eventual goal was to make it a permanent requirement in order to play the game. Hopefully they're rethinking that now, but I doubt it. The only thing the Activision board of directors hears is money bags jingling. The only way to get their attention is to take the money away.

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