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Bill Loguidice's picture

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

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?

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