Blizzard Cancels Plan To Force Full Identity Disclosure

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News Posted: Sat, Jul 10 2010 10:20 PM
Earlier this week, Blizzard dropped a bombshell. Almost two weeks ago, Bliz introduced a feature it calls "RealID", which allows friends on two different WoW servers or playing two different Blizzard games to communicate. Then, last Tuesday, the company made an announcement.
Idean the near future, anyone posting or replying to a post on official Blizzard forums will be doing so using their Real ID -- that is, their real-life first and last name -- with the option to also display the name of their primary in-game character alongside it. These changes will go into effect on all StarCraft II forums with the launch of the new community site prior to the July 27 release of the game, with the World of Warcraft site and forums following suit near the launch of Cataclysm. The classic Battle.net forums, including those for Diablo II and Warcraft III, will be moving to a new legacy forum section with the release of the StarCraft II community site and at that time will also transition to using Real ID for posting. (emphasis added)

The company gave two reasons for the change. First, it wanted to combat the perception that its game forums were full of stupid, nasty, derogatory people with family trees that never forked. Second, it wanted to encourage players to connect, Facebook-style. Blizzard has previously expressed interest in the concept of a targeted social networking site, and it's one of the only game developers with enough fans to actually make the idea work.


Imagine how you'd feel if you found out this guy was stalking you. We guarantee it's not a vegetarian.

One thing we want to make clear up front is that we couldn't be more sympathetic to Blizzard's forum problem. Online boards are rarely havens of joy and maturity, but scientists estimate that Blizzard's WoW forums single-handedly contain 52 percent of the world's supply of Stupid. That's just on average—the percentage is known to surge dramatically during periods of "Extended Maintenance." They have, as Community Manager Nethaera noted, "earned a reputation as a place where flame wars, trolling, and other unpleasantness run wild."

As much as we genuinely sympathize with the problem, however, the company's proposed solution would have created far more problems than it solved. As soon as the company announced the upcoming change, the forums exploded like a hive of wasps. Unfortunately, exploding like a hive of wasps is something that happens every single time Blizzard announces anything. You might think that's hyperbole—but it isn't. If Blizzard releases a major bug-fixing patch, the forums want new content. Release new content, players want old instances repurposed for higher levels. Rebuild old instances, and the community whines that they've already run these before.

It goes on, ad nauseum. New zone full of quests?  Quests are boring. New instances to run? Everyone hates instances. New graphics, free pets, new zones, new instances, new raids, free epics in the mail, night elf strip-teases, and six free months of play?  "OMG THIS UPDATE IS TOO BIG."

Given the receptive, friendly atmosphere, we can see why it took Blizzard a few days to gauge whether the backlash against the proposed update was real. The good news is, the company listened. Yesterday, the President of Blizzard, Mike Morhaime, wrote a general post to the community saying:
We've been constantly monitoring the feedback you've given us, as well as internally discussing your concerns about the use of real names on our forums. As a result of those discussions, we've decided at this time that real names will not be required for posting on official Blizzard forums...The upgraded World of Warcraft forums ...will launch close to the release of Cataclysm, and also will not require your real name.

Kudos To Blizzard, And A Word of Warning

We're glad Blizzard took the massive response against their RealID plans seriously enough to cancel this particular "feature," but we hope the concept isn't resting on a back burner somewhere. In a world where HR departments routinely use Google and Facebook to screen applicants, discovering that a job seeker spends a significant amount of time gaming could be used again them. The effect could be more significant where World of Warcraft is concerned; the game has become a cultural touchstone and is regularly referenced whenever gaming addiction is discussed.

The employment issue is the one we've touched on because it seems most relevant in day-to-day life, but there are other concerns—specifically those involving personal safety/security—that might almost never occur, but risk devastating impact if and when they do. Blizzard made the right call here, and our hat is off to the company.
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Inspector replied on Sat, Jul 10 2010 11:00 PM

I think they just didn't want to delay the release of SC2 anymore to anger everyone so they decided to drop this and make it easier on them... :D

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sackyhack replied on Sun, Jul 11 2010 12:17 AM

I don't play WoW, but the idea was still very absurd to me. This wouldn't prevent trolling, it would simply move it into the real world rather than contain in forums. Someone who felt "wronged" would in all likelihood find the aggressor's facebook page or look them up in a phone book to retaliate. I know that's a nightmare scenario, but there are already news stories of real crimes committed over virtual disputes, and this could only make it worst.

Case in point:

http://www.abc.net.au/news/stories/2008/10/28/2403806.htm?section=entertainment

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AKwyn replied on Sun, Jul 11 2010 12:54 AM

I don't think that'll work for a certain extent because of the following reasons.

1. Any offending comments can be deleted by the author. If the Facebook user made his personal information public or only avaliable to friends then the user doesn't know what he's doing.

2. A phone book would do nothing, it would just be a heavy amount of trial and error, trying to find out which one is the right John Doe.

3. Even if they did find the phone number. It'll be worthless as they can complain to the phone company and block the caller from ever calling.

4. If that doesn't work then the user has fair grounds to call the Police.

But yeah, it is a stupid idea. Blizzard's forums are not Facebook and never will be.

 

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acarzt replied on Sun, Jul 11 2010 1:05 AM

"its game forums were full of stupid, nasty, derogatory people with family trees that never forked"

That's hilarious lol

And yea, I think full identity disclosure would deter or at least piss a lot of people off or make them feel uneasy.

I'm not a big fan of putting all my info out there either.

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"its game forums were full of stupid, nasty, derogatory people with family trees that never forked"

Reminds me of engadget comments.

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ClemSnide replied on Sun, Jul 11 2010 8:16 AM

When that Eyefinity-based time machine I'm working on is perfected, I'm going back in time and changing the first Compuserve logins so that they use your real name. Handles will then never develop, flame wars fanned by adolescents of all ages realizing they're anonymous will never occur, and the result will be flying cars that run on vegetable oil and produce clean oxygen.

 

@Joel H (below): I was, of course, largely kidding: when you quote Family Guy, that's likely. But would we even be having this conversation if forums (and the Internet as a whole) used the same conventions as magazines and newspapers used to, and which professional journals still do? I remember being called to verify my identity before the Daily News or Scientific American would publish my letters; I would also point out that much of the cell-phone texting abbreviations wouldn't make it in if you feared your English teacher would see that you actually committed the phrase "omg lol wtf" to paper and imagined it was a complete sentence. And how many online predators would there have been if the intended target could identify them?

There's much to be said on both sides. If anonymity had never been part of the Internet, we may not have missed it. But (playing devil's advocate against myself) we also wouldn't have had as much whistle-blowing, which I believe is a good thing, though people here have opined against it; and news reports out of oppressive regimes would have been considerably riskier.

Really, if I could travel back in time and change something, I'd make sure that the third nuclear bomb, which destroyed Kyoto and set the Japanese against us to this day, was never dropped. Perhaps someday.


"I didn't cry when Bambi's mother was shot... but I cried when HAL was turned off."

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realneil replied on Sun, Jul 11 2010 11:17 AM

Thank You ClemSnide!

Don't part with your illusions. When they are gone you may still exist, but you have ceased to live.

(Mark Twain)

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Joel H replied on Sun, Jul 11 2010 11:32 AM

Clemsnide,

I'd have to play the part of the villain and stop you. I'm truthfully quite bothered by the way Facebook has eroded personal anonymity/privacy online. The old argument "If you don't have anything to hide, why should you care," is utterly wrong. It assumes that the world is perfect, just, and polite--that HR people don't use Google/FB to find out information they aren't legally allowed to ask during an interview.

The question SHOULD be "Why do you need that information?" with the baseline rule being that the information *isn't* needed. Obviously users have to actively take steps to guide their online privacy, but it should be treated very seriously.

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sackyhack replied on Sun, Jul 11 2010 12:09 PM

I also think handles serve as a sort of equalizer. The gaming community isn't exactly friendly to minorities, nor is it filled with mature and thoughtful individuals, as anyone that's ever been on Xbox Live or lurked in various gaming forums can attest. I can also guarantee you that I'm the only person in America with my particular real-world name. When I'm in a gaming forum or in a multiplayer match, I'm simply sackyhack, "the dude who kinda sucks but is helpful anyway". But if I had to use my real name, in all likelihood I'd be "that Iranian guy who's probably a terrorist" in a lot of people's eyes, even though I've been a citizen for over 10 years now.

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AKwyn replied on Sun, Jul 11 2010 1:37 PM

While Facebook does erode certain points of privacy, the fact is you can chose to make certain parts of your life public for the entire world to see. I admit that no one point of the world is perfect but no one person should need every bit of information in the world... Unless they're a stalker.

Clemsnide has a point, if your real name is out there online then the things that you do can have consequences. If griefers, hackers, and or any other sorts of troublemakers had their real name exposed then it would make any sense of Anonymity impossible for these guys since their actions may have consequences in the gamer world. A.K.A. being shunned and rejected.

Also sackyhack, I think the only people who may be mean to you are the people who want to see you hurt. If any online community were openly racist then that's what they'd be, racist. Sure they can call you an Iranian terrorist based on what your name is but the only people who would do that are idiots or people trying to look cool. I mainly use my real name openly as my screen name and I have had no problems as of yet.

 

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Joel H replied on Sun, Jul 11 2010 3:00 PM

TaylorKarras, you wrote: "if your real name is out there online then the things that you do can have consequences..."

I'm trying to keep this general discussion Blizzard-centric rather than referring to privacy erosion in its totality. What happens when consequences are meted out even when you didn't *do* anything? Specifically, what happens when your potential boss finds out you play WoW and raid pretty heavily? MMOs are always lambasted as being dangerous, and there's a huge stereotype that those who play them do so because they can't handle the real world.

What happens when a forum conversation you had with someone while in a bad mood becomes public fodder? Or when stalkers/ex's/creepy potential boyfriends correlate your real name with other data and find out where you live? I agree that the chance of this last happening and turning dangerous is relatively small--but it exists.

No one is against the idea that there should be a degree of accountability for the trash people spew--but full-name disclosure is simply too much.

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acarzt replied on Sun, Jul 11 2010 4:52 PM

Yea, more bad than good could come out of full disclosure. No Thank you :-)

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sackyhack replied on Sun, Jul 11 2010 10:14 PM

TaylorKarras:

Sure they can call you an Iranian terrorist based on what your name is but the only people who would do that are idiots or people trying to look cool.

Dude, those are the exact kind of people gaming communities are filled with.  Go on WoW forums and look for incessant hate for Brazilians.   Look up  youtube videos of MW2 multiplayer sessions and see how many times people call each other the N-word or homosexual.  I'm not saying everyone's like this, or that any entire community is like this.  But the John Smiths of the America can't really understand how others could get treated in these communities if real IDs were enforced.  Now mind you, I'm not playing the race card here.  I've actually been fortunate enough to NEVER experience racism personally, so I'm not trying to gain sympathy playing the victim.  But the reality is that gaming communities are often filled with prepubescent boys caught in a game of one-upsmenship by trying to be the bigger "hardass".  If they can't do it by winning a match, they do it by talking the most trash.  Having the Ahmeds, Changs, Juans, and Tyrones of a particular gaming community use their real names instead of a handle would validate the blind-fire racism that goes on all too frequently.

 

Hell, here's a gem from a topic in gamefaqs just today (there seems to be a lot of anti-American hate in it, but regardless, these kinds of people are far more common than you'd expect):

By DeadCeII:

From: Mr_X_Returns | #087
People from India are the nicest. There should be absolutely no question in that respect.
Their country is built on politeness.


Their country is built on oppression through the chaste system

---
PSN: SpaceNinja9
100% American. Don't like it, don't ****ing immigrate.

Topic in question: http://www.gamefaqs.com/boards/927749-xbox-360/55524005

Now how do you think Mr. DeadCell/SpaceNinja9 would react to my not-very-Caucasian name?
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Inspector replied on Mon, Jul 12 2010 12:29 AM

Lets just sitback and not use the system ourselves and see what comes from this!

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AKwyn replied on Mon, Jul 12 2010 1:45 PM

We already know what happens, cause it's happening right now. Generally I disagree with blind-sided racism. It's not like they're doing it intentionally, it's not like they know what those words mean. It's just words that come out of a peoples mouth, they don't know how to use the words properly, they don't know how to use racist slurs properly. Hell the only people that can cause somebody harm is people who directly target these individuals.

Basically this is just living in plain fear, whatever happened to standing up and reporting that racist SoB?

 

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Joel H replied on Mon, Jul 12 2010 5:39 PM

Taylor,

...What?

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Joel H replied on Mon, Jul 12 2010 5:40 PM

Clemsnide,

I'm assuming you're making a pop culture reference/joke here, but I've never heard of anything related to a third nuke being dropped (or considered) on Kyoto. When we nuked Hiroshima and Nagasaki, those were the only two bombs we had completed.

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acarzt replied on Mon, Jul 12 2010 6:11 PM

lol.. I think he is making the joke that in the future he has gone back in time and stopped it... which is why it never happened ;-)

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AKwyn replied on Wed, Jul 14 2010 11:25 AM

Joel H

It's a rant about how people should stand up to racism.

 

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4DWobbles replied on Thu, Jul 15 2010 11:52 AM

IMO, screen names is an essential barrier to maintaining a separation between private life, public life, and work life. If they still insist turning WOW into Facebook needs to implement there should option where they can strict the privacy control on user’s information to avoid being stalked or harassed by others.

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acarzt replied on Thu, Jul 15 2010 7:02 PM

People can still stalk and harrass you just by your screen name on the internet... They will just have a harder time doing it in the real world :-)

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deadcell replied on Thu, Jul 15 2010 11:43 PM

Sackyhack, I'm 1000% correct. If you say otherwise you are completely ignorant and just ignoring the truth so you can hate Americans. There is no need to stereotype Americans and spew such blind hate, on a different forum no less, where you think you can get away with trolling me. Why would I care if you don't have a "white" name? What would you define as a white name, you racist? America is the melting pot of the world and is extremely culturally diverse. If you were a higher social class over there you could probably learn a thing or two about the world.

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acarzt replied on Fri, Jul 16 2010 12:12 AM

Sacky, I didn't see anything racists or hateful in the quote you posted from deadcell.

At the same time.. Deadcell.. nothing Sacky said in that entire post was racist.

Either way, let's keep the conflicts from an other forum out of here and let's stay on topic.

 

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sackyhack replied on Sat, Jul 17 2010 8:31 AM

deadcell, I still disagree with your gamefaqs post and your post here even more, especially since I never made any generalizations about America since I was talking specifically about trolls in the gaming community. However, I realize that by passing judgment on your character from a single forum post, I did exactly what I expect internet tough guys and trolls would do when they find someone belongs to an ethnic minority, and for that I apologize. I don't like a grand total of 2 of your posts, but I know nothing else about you. You accusing me of being of a lower social class certainly didn't help your case, but I had equally less evidence that you're a racist, so, tit for tat I guess.

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acarzt replied on Sat, Jul 17 2010 5:02 PM

Also... I would like to reiterate... People do not need to know your real identity to stalk you lol

^^proof^^

Zip it!

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