I was recently CCed in a tweet referencing this article “Why Real ID is a Really Bad Idea“about World of Warcraft implementing their version of a “Real ID” in a way that violated the trust of its users.
The woman writing the article is very clear on the identity “creep” that happened and got to the point of requiring users to use the Real ID account within the system to post on forums and EVEYWHERE they interacted on company websites.
She articulates clearly why this creates an unhealthy climate and a chilled atmosphere for many users.
She articulated why she chose initially to sign up for the service using her “Real Name”
When Real ID came out a few weeks ago, I threw caution to the wind. Although my name is fairly uncommon, I immediately added everyone in my guild. I did this mostly because I like my guildmates, I trust them, and I’m an officer of our guild; it would be strange for me to not use this service. We killed heroic Lich King together, we make all kinds of obscene jokes, and although I’m one of two females in the entire guild of forty or so people, harassment is never an issue. I’m an equal. I’ve been here for over a year, and as such, giving these players my real life name wasn’t an issue.
Listen to her language carefully – she says “in this context” I trusted sharing my real name and my gender which is likely given away by her real name. She knows her guild mates and they don’t harass her.
there was a smaller problem. The guildmates I’d friended had friends who could see me as well because of this. For some reason, Real ID came with the feature that everyone can view other people’s friends–that is to say if I friend Joe, I can then see Joe’s friends and Joe’s friends can see me.
In the process though her “real name” was leaked beyond this trusted group to their friends. Some of whom may not have known her gender.
Now their “Real ID” system is being extended farther.
Blizzard announced today that all posts on their forums will be now using Real ID. This is mandatory–if you want to post, you have to post this way….real life names will be next to those who post. This will affect everyone, even Blizzard employees. They are also adding a karma feature that will be a lot like Reddit or Digg.
You think why is this “so bad” we should all just be comfortable being “out” about our gaming life or what we say online.
1st she highlights why anonymity is good:
The internet is largely what it is because of its anonymity–for better and for worse. Many great discussions have been had solely because someone could submit their words without worry of being judged.
She acknowledges “greifing” happens because of this but that this is mitigated by moderation.
She says those who really do want grief other people are being given more tools to do so with by actually revealing people’s real life names, and addresses (in physical or online space).
by using a full name, players are tied to their real life persona and unable to separate themselves from their online one.
Taking away the freedom to “disaggregate” yourself is where the issue is. People need to be able to be gamers and NOT have it leak into their real lives where it could affect their livelyhood or standing in a totally different community.
In this system, it becomes linked forever in search engines. This means potential employers could find out if a player was a World of Warcraft fan and even the characters they have with a simple search.
If you don’t think it is an issue perhaps you are not in a minority or in a “target population”
Women might find it harsher with new avenues of harassment opened. Transgendered people could be inadvertently outted when someone sees Sally, the friendly Paladin chick, posting under the name Steve. Someone could have a distinctive name and be disregarded solely because their name sounded like a person of a certain background, race, religion, or otherwise. And if someone’s a minor–or even major–celebrity, having their name exposed could be damaging.
Those in charge of and designing systems need to think twice before making changes.
Like I said, there were options. Unfortunately it seems Blizzard executives chose not to look into them and then turned a blind eye. It’s just a shame that this lack of foresight will probably at the very least result in the harassment of many thousands of individuals–if it doesn’t end up causing something worse for a select few.
As for me, I haven’t forgotten about the person from France who spent over six months to track down and attempt murder on a guy who fragged him in Counter-strike (NY Daily News). Call me pessimistic all you want, but I have to wonder if Blizzard’s marketing department even thought about it.