Broken Armour: Blizzard’s Forum Folly

By Alec Meer on July 7th, 2010 at 8:12 pm.

I’ve spent a fair bit of today thinking about Blizzard’s decision to enforce the use of real names on its forums thing, as anyone watching me yammer away on Twitter will already know. My ultimate conclusion is that, well, it’s insane.

Utter, utter madness.

Never mind that it’s going to discourage discussion, roleplaying and playfulness. Never mind that people want an escape from reality sometimes.

Even discounting the StarCraft and Diablo communities, World of Warcraft has 12 million-odd players, though I’d guess only around a quarter of that are English-speaking. Of those, it’s perhaps just several hundred thousand who actively post on the forums.

“Just.”

That’s far too big to be a close-knit community that helps, supports and trusts each other implicitly. That’s millions of strangers whose only thing in common is a game about bashing things: that’s a pretty broad catchment, all-told. It’s also an existing community, not one that’s been built from scratch around public identities.

That means that, right off the bat, it’s not the same as iRacing, a thoroughly respectable but undeniably niche MMO for motorsports fans which also requires the use of real names.

It’s far, far too many people who could know your name, and as a result go on to find out anything/everything about you – most particularly, how to find you. Simply by law of averages, the more people there are, the higher the chance of there being a nutter who’ll post rotten vegetables to you, send you love letters, or turn up at your door with a replica samurai sword. Or just sending you an email insulting your ethnicity, your gender, your sexuality, your mother, your face… Or posting details of your ethnicity, your gender, your sexuality, your mother, your face in public.

“People can find you via Google.” “People can find you via the phonebook.”

Yes. But they can’t look for you if they don’t know your name, and they won’t even want to look for you if you haven’t said something about how rubbish their raiding is or made some inexpert pseudo-flirting. People’s pride doesn’t get hurt by reading the phonebook.

There are a slim handful precedents for real-life forum vengeance – very few, very rare and certainly a result of troubled individuals rather than because of any inherent link between forum-dwellers, aggressive behaviour and availability of information.

I’m really not saying “there will be hundreds of murders as a result of this.” I’m saying that even one instance, just one of someone having their private life invaded (and I’m not talking only about violence, but also in terms of simple hassle, anxiousness and upset – phone calls, emails, unpleasant pictures, letters to parents or employers…) because someone on a forum tracked them down as a result of seeing their name next to something they posted is one instance too much.

The risk for women, particularly, is high. The forum equivalent of wolf-whistling is scarcely a rare-occurrence, so to give people the tools to go further (and again, I’m not talking about violence, but rather harassment – mails and texts) seems abhorrent. Most people wouldn’t. Of course most people wouldn’t. But one might. And that’s too much.

Yes, the truly dedicated/insane could very likely track down someone they were obsessed with without knowing their real name in advance. But this doesn’t make that just slightly easier. It makes it as easy as typing someone’s name into Google. Just the slightest additional chance of upset or aggression or even hassle, no matter how minor, is just not worth it, and I simply cannot understand how this system was approved at the highest levels of Blizzard. Is it really just because they want calmer forums? It’s such a big and unusual decision that there surely must be more to it.

I’m sure they’re having a huge rethink as a result of what happened earlier today. One of their staff ended up his phone number, address, photographs and details of his family members blared all over the internet when he tried to prove the new system worked, and that Blizzard devs would also be adhering to it. The fool. The poor, poor fool.

I’m afraid I not going to provide the link to that, because I don’t want to give the unfortunate chap’s phone number to strangers. That said, he’s probably changed it already. He’s certainly deleted his Facebook page following the horde of hasslers that resulted from his naive declaration of just his first and last names.

Just the work of a couple of malicious time-wasters, you might say. It was bound to happen.

Exactly, I say. It only takes one malicious time-waster to potentially ruin someone’s day, week, month, life. You don’t have to be a representative of a company that’s pissed people off to risk the frighteningly rapid investigatory ire of someone on the internet. You just have to say the wrong thing in the wrong place. And “don’t say stupid or mean things on forums” doesn’t swing it. Neither does “don’t post on the forums you’ve been using for five years if you don’t want to take the risk.” That’s a little too “they had it coming.” That’s a little too “dressing like that, she was asking for it, judge.”

(“My name’s too common for people to find me” doesn’t swing it either. It’s not okay for three dozen Brian Smiths to be contacted as an attempt to hassle one particular Brian.)

It’s possible it’ll simply be a huge deterrent to posting, and maybe that’s what Blizzard want anyway – a quiet manageable place. I suspect they don’t want a homogenous place, though, devoid of the diversity that makes virtual worlds such fascinating places, where people are quiet and careful and nothing ever happens. And I’m absolutely sure they don’t want to be in the news were something like this to ever happen again.

I hope it won’t. In fact I’m almost sure it won’t. The vast majority of humans simply don’t think or behave like that. Rude emails to someone’s mum, though? Easy. All too easy. Is a prettier forum, and a more Facebook-like Battle.net, really worth increasing the opportunity for even that to happen?

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370 Comments »

  1. Howl says:

    Great article. I’m actually in the other camp but what you said made me realize that your forum account would be easily linked to your game character and that it might not just affect forum posting behaviour but in-game behaviour. That would be truly something!

    • Vinraith says:

      It certainly gives a whole new meaning to “Player vs. Player.”

    • Chris says:

      It’s seems unlikely to work, i.e. the amount of shit-talk on random facebook pages. It’s not the anonymity that allows people to be proverbial dicks, it’s that they are doing in front of a computer screen and not a real person. A real name is still some faceless text.

    • kwyjibo says:

      No, anonymity exacerbates discussions by a long way. The stuff you get on Facebook is significantly less ridiculous than the stuff elsewhere.

      Here’s an example, if I weren’t hiding behind a pseudonym, I wouldn’t be calling you an idiot.

    • Discordance says:

      kwj for that statement I would call you an idiot irl.

    • Discordance says:

      and to make a more sensible response, while internet asshattery may be exacerbated by anonymity its the dehumanisation thats the root cause. Loss of anonymity is not going to stop trolls what retribution do they have to fear? In a normal social situation you would be shunned or deleted from facebook, on a forum there is no retribution associated with losing anonymity, you might still damage your forum reputation but thats tied to whatever your posting name is. The only possible retribution is severe facebook real life griefing and if thats what is expected to stop trolls and flaming thats awful

    • yutt says:

      Maybe Europeans don’t say insulting things to each other in person, but Americans certainly do. Anonymity doesn’t do anything to increase the likelihood of me calling you an idiot.

      False politeness apparently sacred to some. What you are getting from anonymity is, in most cases: honesty.

      Those defending such a proposal are directly promoting replacing honesty with fear. You won’t say what you truly think because you’re afraid your boss or an internet serial killer will read it and react in the real world.

      What a horrible thing to desire.

  2. Vinraith says:

    I couldn’t agree more. While I really have nothing else to contribute to the subject myself, Electric Dragon posted this fantastic article on the subject near the end of the previous thread. Hopefully it’s fine if I repost it here, as I really think it says some things that need saying:

    http://www.metafilter.com/93492/But-my-name-really-is-Deathblood-Blackaxe#3171416

    • Sam says:

      That’s a very good post.

    • 7 Seas says:

      Wow, that was an excellent summary, and also an interesting perspective from a female gamer. I knew they put up with a lot of shit, but man, I never realized the sheer amount the gaming community demands from its girls before, above and beyond the usual shitty/skeezy stuff.

      If I had to put up with that shit every time I wanted to play a game, I probably wouldn’t play online games anymore.

      Being reminded of the constant racism, misogyny and other pathetic repulsive behavior that seems to characterize chunks of the gaming/online community is rather depressing.

      Looking at that and the behavior of people on Xbox live, it’s clear that *something* needs to be done, but what? RealID is obviously half baked. Maybe we need some sort of registrar of Decent Human Beings that you lose membership from if you engage in repugnant behavior.

      One the other hand, given my occasionally passionate outbursts such a system might not benefit me, as my missive to TB on the AP thread demonstrates…. ;) Surely we can make a system where it is alright to deride someone for *specific* reasons and yet still receive social blacklisting for harassing someone because of prejudice and/or outright hatred for their social group.

  3. Michael says:

    Well said.

    I’m waiting to see what their ultimate response is. It had better be “oops, maybe this isn’t a good idea” I know one account doesn’t mean anything to them, but I will be sad to go, and sorry not to be able to play Cataclysm. I get the feeling however that their hands are tied and that theres no backing out now.

    • Chris says:

      Or a legal name change to Jack Smith.
      Goodluck to them finding exactly which one of the tens of thousands born under that name you are.

    • frymaster says:

      can I ask why forum participation is so important that you’d be willing to give up the game entirely, rather than just the forums?

    • Psychopomp says:

      To get tech support, you have to post of the forums.

    • Ian says:

      Is there not an e-mail or phone option? Because if it is forum-only then, yeah, that makes the whole thing much worse.

    • neolith says:

      Well, there actually IS the option to use the phone to get tech support. But have you ever tried it? You’re on the phone for the better half of an hour only to get told to post on the forums. Not worth it.

  4. Sporknight says:

    Well said, Mr. Meer. The only train of thought I can see for this is that Activizzard wants to cut down on how much they’re spending on managing the fora, so they’ll show everyone’s real names and people will just stop posting. If they have any brains left at all, they’ll stop what they’re doing now before it’s too late. If it isn’t already, that is – the death bells have been tolling for that game for a while, I think, and this could be the beginning of the end for WoW.

    • DJ Phantoon says:

      Wouldn’t that be great?

      Unfortunately, WoW is in no threat of dying, even with this stupidity. Other MMOs will continue to copy it and be terrible.

      Only by the grace of the Emperor will we see a decent MMO that does not have three boring class roles while still being accessible enough.

  5. MWoody says:

    This has probably been asked and answered before, but I haven’t been able to follow the tremendous amount of press this has been getting: will blue (Blizzard employee) posters be required to adhere to this same ruling?

  6. Freud says:

    Obviously this is just the first step. If this was all there is to it, it wouldn’t make sense from any perspective. But if it is the first step to some real battle.net and Facebook integration, it is logical. They have to force the technology on people. It isn’t something most gamers will gravitate towards, at least not the consumers of a monthly fee game. If it’s a crappy free to play MMO, I’m sure you can push stuff on the players to a much higher degree.

    As for the future plans of Blizzbook:

    “Our goal and vision in this partnership is to really to cross-populate the social networks and to easily find and add your friends from Facebook onto the new Battle.net service as the first step and extending it to other features in the future. … Later on, of course, we have lots of things we are talking about with Facebook. We haven’t announced anything specific, but we have lots of ideas about ways to cross-populate and share data between the two services.

    http://content.usatoday.com/communities/gamehunters/post/2010/05/blizzard-and-facebooks-friendly-social-networking-deal-launches-with-starcraft-ii-/1

    I think they jumped the shark here. Glad I got my WoW addiction out of my system years ago and while I probably will try Diablo III there is no way Blizzard will ever get my real name. This of course means I will never subscribe to any game of theirs in the future. But I simply wouldn’t trust them with my credit card info anymore.

    • MWoody says:

      Well… shit. You’re absolutely right. And in retrospect, I should have seen it coming. WoW has long been more social app than game, anyway; I guess cooperating with their only true competitor – Facebook – makes a disgusting amount of sense.

    • Jake says:

      This is the missing part of the puzzle. If Actiblizz really just wanted calmer forums they would moderate them more, or make it so you can see all characters on an account. And they would have done this years ago. Calmer forums has very little to do with it.

      By integrating with Facebook they open up new revenue streams. Even if only a fraction of gamers link Real ID to their Facebook account, they will have a new way to get at a potential market. Farmville is in a league of it’s own in terms of player numbers, many more people play that than Warcraft. Imagine Warcraft and Starcraft making posts on your wall ‘John is bored in Dalaran, why not login here and send him a cake?’ or whateverthefuck. You can already browse the AH from your phone, I expect chat will get synchronised soon, and achievements of course.

      There are 350 million plus on Facebook, and they will apparently play any old rubbish – it’s a huge target to get even a tiny slice of. Actiblizz’s secret next MMO: World of Farmcraft.

    • Eamo says:

      There was a time when I would have described myself as a fan of Blizzard. They made great games, had a lot of respect for those who loved and played their games and always went out of their way to keep those who supported them happy.

      Now, they still make games but I would describe myself as a customer, not a fan. I still play the games, I still love the games, but I no longer feel that Blizzard as a company has my interests at heart. Thats ok, I don’t hate them, or hold any ill will against them, there are many companies I am a customer of in a similar way. When they trot out the platitudes about their players being the most important thing to them it is only jarring because it used to be true. Now, it is the same meaningless corporate nonsense that so many other companies spew out in the hopes that some customers actually fall for it.

      As long as WoW lasts I think Blizzard will be fine. Most people have so much time sunk into it already that they are not going to jump ship. They will only feel a backlash when the time comes to replace WoW with something else. Fans tend not to jump ship to a competitors product, customers on the other hand, could care less.

  7. d4niel says:

    What’s most entertaining to me is that it seems none of the Blizzard staff reads /b/ – say what you want about them, but provide them with any personal information, and they can very easily dig up everything about your life .. and then ruin it.

    • Adrian says:

      Which is why anonymity on the internet can be a bad thing. No one on the chans would do anything questionable if their real name were published with each post.

    • Unaco says:

      As soon as I saw the news of this yesterday, /b/ and anon was my immediate thought. They’re going to love this.

    • Wounder says:

      @Adrian: And if you had to post your name in order to read the forums, that might make some sense. As it is, it’s just a data mine waiting to be drilled.

    • Shagittarius says:

      Ban guns and soon only criminals will have guns.

      Ban anonymity and soon only criminals will be anonymous.

    • Jeremy says:

      Nice Shag… I like that. I mean, the phrase, not the frightening reality of our barren future.

    • Jake says:

      Yes far better to hand out guns and home addresses to everyone.

    • nil says:

      Think of it as evolution in action.

    • The Dark One says:

      In this metaphor. which group of people are the corrupt city officials, and which ones are the heroic arcology employees?

  8. Risingson says:

    That’s very true in my case: there are only two people in the whole world that have the name and surname I have: my uncle and me. Obviously I use a nickname for most things around internet.

    I’m so lucky for not liking their boards…

    • Lilliput King says:

      There’s the very real question as to how much using a moniker protects you, anyway. Case in point – after reading risingson’s post I tracked him down, and now, about ten minutes after I began, I know his name.

      (Amazingly, only the one facebook result for it, too. Guy doesn’t lie, it’s a rare name).

      Now that I look back at this post, it scares me a bit. I’m posting it anyway.

    • Risingson says:

      I’m just curious… the definitive lead of my surname was at the aventura site, right?

    • Lilliput King says:

      Yes. To be fair, it required some deduction. I remembered from RPS discussions that you review adventure games, and that in particular you’ve reviewed Machinarium. So it was as simple as working out where you review games and finding that review.

      I checked the answer by checking the name on facebook, and you were using the same picture, so I could be certain.

  9. Inno says:

    All very valid arguments. I also agree with you that when looking past the PR/Marketing bs this decision probably has more to do with stifling posting in general rather than combatting trolls and flamers.

  10. Lobotomist says:

    Really , really bad decision. Reminds me of Turbine decision to introduce “alternative ways” to pay for game credits.

    But Turbine as always was lighting quick and listening. And they closed the service the next day.

    Blizzard on other hand is as stubborn and unmoving as a rock. They do have all the fans and their respect. But is that so solid as they think ?

    Best what can come out this is that 90% people just stop posting on Blizz forums.

    Worst thing is that they will alienate critical mass of fanbase which in turn will start slow but inevitable landslide of wow users.

    It was about time anyway.

    • Koozer says:

      What were these “alternative ways?” Is it terrible my mind immediately jumped to “sexual favours?”

    • Lobotomist says:

      Hahaha,

      Well not. Just prearranged marriages, Organ donating, contracted slave work.

      No wonder players got suspicious ;)

      Nah…
      They wanted you do do all those surveys for cash, or buy stuff on amazon get cash at turbine …etc

  11. Erik says:

    This isn’t about civil forums. This is about money. It’s clear that they consider all of this private customer data as something that can be monetized.

    It won’t stop with Blizzard’s forums.

    • ChaosSmurf says:

      They already have all that information – making it public doesn’t make it any more suable from their point of view, unless it allows them to put some dodgy stuff in their EULA. But then people would still have to actually post for them to get anything out of it.

    • Azradesh says:

      They already have your info, so how is showing your name on the forums about money? They can already sell it if they tweek the EULA.

      This isn’t about money, this doesn’t get then anything. This is just a bit stupid.

    • Gorgeras says:

      Data protection laws prevent them sharing stuff without a very strong and equally binding agreement with who they share it with, even if they make subtle changes to the EULA. To get round the law, they must make it big and obvious; by having the real names of their customers in the public domain if they post on the forums(apparently this change will not apply retrospectively) they can sell ALL the names and details they have.

  12. it troll says:

    no. you idiot.

  13. ChaosSmurf says:

    Yeah it’s a weird one. I think their stance is “well if you don’t want your name out there, and aren’t going to post in a way that you wouldn’t in real life, don’t post” which, while not what I would call “fair enough”, is certainly a stance. If it wasn’t applied to tech support and RP forums, I might even see their point – but if people are scared to post in Tech Support, well what’s the point?

    • jalf says:

      The problem is that even if you post in a the same way you would in real life, you have 11 million people reading who might react in a way very different from your real life friends.

    • ChaosSmurf says:

      I know, and the use of text makes it more difficult too. That’s why I still don’t think it’s okay, but maybe an idea in the right direction.

  14. Rath says:

    Yesterday, after waiting in the dungeon finder queue for about fifteen minutes, I was kicked from the group immediately upon entry, just after the group leader had enough time to scream at me, entirely in upper case “What the fuck are you doing rolling a Blood Elf Paladin on an RP server, get the fuck out.” That is exactly the sort of psuedo-elitist bullshit that could have led to a flame war on the forum, as once happened to a member of my old guild who complained about something similar and had the offender in question basically descend on them on the forum with what I imagine must have been the Tauren equivalent of a flamethrower.

    Thankfully I’m the kind of person who can simply laugh off stuff like that, but in the event that someone experiences really serious harassment, real names are going to ramp up the seriousness by quite a way.

  15. Duoae says:

    Not much more i can add to this that i didn’t already say in the other thread.

    Just a terrible, terrible idea. If they actually go through with it does anyone think that this could be the turning point of the downward spiral of the behemoths that are StarCraft and WoW?

    • ChaosSmurf says:

      No

    • Guildenstern says:

      They’d have to make your real name to show up in-game for that, I think…

    • Duoae says:

      @Guildenstern

      I thought that was the whole point? They are going to integrate the Bnet into WoW so it’s all one system?

    • RQH says:

      @Guildenstern: You have the option of making people RealID friends, in which case, your real name will appear in-game, albeit only to your RealID friends. Of course, the fact that the game has the ability to access this information at all is disturbing. It’s just begging for a malicious add-on to be written the broadcasts realIDs.

    • Zogtee says:

      If they actually go through with it does anyone think that this could be the turning point of the downward spiral of the behemoths that are StarCraft and WoW?

      No, not really. WoW is firmly entrenched in the MMO market now. Also, Cataclysm will update the visuals, thus removing another issue that might make new players hesitant of joining. I’m sure Actizzard are well aware of this and are using Cataclysm and SC2 to ram the changes through. It’s no accident this was unveiled so close to the release of those titles.

      Some players will leave the game(s), of course, but most of the long-time WoW-players have so much invested in their characters, that they will be loathe to leave, as most long-time MMO players are. When Actiblizz integrate with Facebook, a shitload of new players will rush to join up and will more than make up for those who have left. Those who come from Facebook are already used to spewing out all details about themselves to the world and wont think twice about Actizzard’s new policy.

      I think it’s sad to see Blizzard do this and I’m sure they wouldn’t have, if they hadn’t sold out to Activision. This is a cold, calculated move to pull in new players and exploiting the biggest game titles in recent memory to do so. It smells of Kotick all over.

  16. Guildenstern says:

    I’m starting to think Kotic has Reverse Midas Touch.

    • Purple0limar says:

      I absolutely agree. It’s curious that Blizzard was almost the perfect example of the do-nothing-wrong gaming company before the Activision merger. Bastards.

      Oh, and don’t worry about the guy with the samurai sword. He’s just delivering the pizza.

    • Adam Bloom says:

      I wouldn’t say that. Their zero-tolerance “no GLBT-friendly guilds” stance was pre-Activision.

    • DJ Phantoon says:

      To be fair, I think they were zero-tolerance for anything that their main audience (males 13-25) would have found offensive.

    • Nick says:

      “Their zero-tolerance “no GLBT-friendly guilds” stance”

      Woah, seriously? Thats pretty disgusting.

  17. Zigi says:

    These are all great points.

    I would also say this raises huge privacy concerns for celebrities. It’s well known that many celebrities, including Dave Chappelle and Felicia Day, and probably countless others enjoy Blizzard games. But they wouldn’t dare post their name in a forum and have it be somehow linked to their character or account, or their game experience would become horrible.

    I also have to say that it’s become quite commonplace to google someone’s name in the hiring process, and it might raise red flags at certain institutions if one of the first hits was for a gaming website. And once that’s out there, you can never take it down.

    Just a terrible idea all around.

    • Zogtee says:

      Yeah, Felicia twittered about it yesterday and seemed doubtful about the idea, but didn’t say much. She is very much into the social networks.

  18. RQH says:

    There’s also the whole issue of this coming after the mandatory switch to battle.net for your WoW login, requiring you to make your login name your email address. So now we’re to broadcast our real name, as well. It’s like they’re getting a kickback from account thieves and gold farmers and other lowlifes, making it this bloody easy to socially engineer your way into account information. Why not just identify us by our credit card numbers and have done with it, Blizzard?

    • Sonic Goo says:

      How does knowing someone’s name make it easier to steal their accounts?

    • Wounder says:

      It is easier, honest. I mean, you’d have to be highly motivated, but many of the early hacks of phone companies involved some variety of folks walking into an office and saying “My name is Foo Bar and I would like to see my records.” It’s certainly more difficult in this day and age, but some cursory Googling about will turn up other possibilities.

    • Jake says:

      Probably to do with finding out answers to secret questions, such as mother’s maiden name. Or things like birthdays to guess passwords.

    • Gorgeras says:

      The first thing an account stealer wants is your e-mail. That’s why the amount of WoW-related spam has become insane; they’re getting e-mails linked to WoW accounts somehow. They now have mine even though I only use my WoW e-mail for WoW and Bnet. I have never used this e-mail when I applied to guilds on guild-host websites. There must have been at some point a security leak at Blizzard; it could only have come from them.

      With a real name with a real known WoW account linked to it, finding e-mail addresses becomes so much easier. If you have ever linked your real name with your e-mail address anywhere on the web it will be in a cache somewhere and if someone has one, they can find the other.

  19. dadioflex says:

    Alec Meer, your argument fails. If iRacing insists on real names then there’s also a chance that murder or mayhem will ensue because of their policy. It’s less of a chance than with WOW, obviously, but there’s still a chance. You’re really insisting on a ban on anyone using their real name on a forum because there’s a CHANCE that bad things will happen if they do. You can’t look at the relative numbers, do a bit of mental arithmetic with imaginary numbers in your head and decide that one scenario is safe and another isn’t.

    Why aren’t you campaigning against motor cars cos those things’ll kill you dead quicker than criticizing someone’s raiding ability.

    • Risingson says:

      dadioflex, everytime I’ve used my real name I’ve had problems. Really, It may be unbelievable for you, but some of us don’t want to use our real name unless it’s really really necessary. And a forum board isn’t.

      It’s a privacy thing. I’ve already have problems because of google, and I don’t want them because a game. A stupid thing like a game.

    • RQH says:

      @dadioflex: Echoing Risingson here: “I don’t want [privacy issues] because a game. A stupid thing like a game.” A game that we’ve been able to play for five years now anonymously. I think WoW players have a legitimate grievance in saying “we didn’t sign up for this.”

    • DJ Phantoon says:

      Apparently you didn’t read:
      You just have to say the wrong thing in the wrong place. And “don’t say stupid or mean things on forums” doesn’t swing it. That’s a little too “they had it coming.” That’s a little too “dressing like that, she was asking for it, judge.”

      Honestly, what else be said?

      And RQH, you pay fifteen bucks a month. Activision doesn’t view you as people or even customers. They view you as economic units of payment.

  20. Muzman says:

    Good post.
    There’s someone salivating at the targeted marketing opportunities this would provide. There must be. I can’t think that it’s worth the effort otherwise. That and stealing facebook’s thunder at a stroke (and facebook are already getting in the shit left and right over privacy concerns).

    There’s a lot of people saying “But we need to clean up WoW/Battle.net forums because they’re a cesspool of idiots” But it’s the same with steam, youtube, 4chan, the internet at large. Large scale human occupation of anywhere tends to cause a build up of poo. It sounds a bit “Deal!” to say this, but while it needs managing you’ll never get rid of it entirely without ruining whatever it was that made it worth being there in the first place.

    • RQH says:

      @Muzman: I agree that’s their goal in part, to steal facebook’s thunder, and I understand from their perspective they stand a lot to gain financially. But from the consumer perspective: why? The reason I have facebook is to stay in touch with my friends, who have scattered to the four winds since college. Most of these people don’t play videogames. I can keep in touch with both gamer friends and non-gamer friends in facebook. I don’t need two social networks, one for gamers and one for not. And I’m sorry, but my non-gamer friends don’t even play facebook games. They’re not going to jump over to Diablo III or whatever. (In fact, most of my gamer friends don’t play any Blizzard games. Weird, I know.)

    • Muzman says:

      Yeah, the brain dead, me-too aspects of corporate “innovation” get quite exhausting after a while. It was unmissable, for instance, when I got GTA4 that I was running two separate social networking systems that had nothing to do with each other. One publisher specific (Live), one developer specific (Rockstar Social Club). And Steam too.
      It’s dumb as rocks. You’d think the supposedly brainy tech industry would notice that things like facebook become successful because they are independant and can be used to draw in people from all over the place. The other clowns are trying to create a social hub by brute force.

      What players should be asking about all this, now that we know facebook and the like have problems from being so open, is what are Blizzard going to do for us/them? If they’re going to enforce self exposure like this what security guarantees are they going to provide? What rules will they set up so this won’t be misused and what action will they take when it is?
      That would be the proper thing for them to say (and I actually think if they had to set things up and behave like a proper civic body they’ll drop the whole idea so fast. They might think they know how to do it, what with managing big forums and WoW and so on, but I bet they dunno what they’re in for)

  21. Heliocentric says:

    Like i needed another reason to not play wow. Who made this call? Activision?

  22. Jon James (not real name!!) says:

    Quieter forums, less maintenance cost, more profits for blizz. It always boils down to money.

  23. DrGonzo says:

    Wow I remember that German guy killing someone over a game. The flat was only a couple of hundred feet away from my girlfriends house so I could have been close by. The person who was stabbed also went to the same school as me.

    • gundrea says:

      Perhaps Activision will release their own Operating system next?

    • FunkyBadger says:

      If I recall the case correctly the people involved already knew each other, or the killer had stayed with the victems – at their invitation – several times previously.

      So not really the same thing.

    • Nick says:

      Wasn’t that over an advance wars forum? I recall reading in The Sun (someone elses copy, at work) that Advance Wars was some sort of horrific war simulator or something along those lines, which made me chuckle.

  24. Citizen Maim says:

    I can see where this is going.

    They start linking everyone up to battle net at first, then they start requiring you to go through battle net to open every acti-blizz. Is that a sale on? Check out that Warcraft pack. And then, just as its looking its most dreadful… Diablo 3 to be Battle Net Exclusive!

    It’s the Anti-Steam!

    Though on the plus side, this is how consoles will die. Launchers for all.

  25. Medina says:

    Is it London where a kid was recently sentenced to prison for fatally stabbing someone who called him a pussy on facebook?

    I’ve never visited the Blizzard forums, but from my experience with other forums/online games, Im sure much worse has been said on the Blizz forums. Actard is making a big mistake if they go through with this.

  26. Jack says:

    I’ve changed my account name before, but it’s no longer possible.

    So I cannot be “Pseudonym Thimbletrimmer”.

  27. Tevin says:

    OK, let me play devil’s advocate here.

    Is it maybe possible that people will be more civil to one another?

    Let’s not forget that this is a two way street : is BloodOathRaven lvl 80 Shaman as likely to hurl sexual slurs and barbs at other players as Tim Murphy, normal Joe and Pizza Hut manager? I mean, if someone gets nasty with you it will be just as easy for you to play the harassment card. Suddenly, BloodOathRaven’s online rep is not in danger, his real life rep is in danger. Still, that’s not much help if you start receiving unmarked packages with stuffed animals covered with semen and your name scrawled into the skull.

    I know there are crazies, of course, but because the information flows both ways I don’t see it being terribly dire. Trying to put a positive spin on it, at least, as I think the implications for this could be far reaching.

    Does anyone know of any other forum with as much traffic as Blizzard that has tried to switch from handles to real names?

    • MWoody says:

      I considered that, too, but look at Facebook. The subset of online users willing to give up their real name online is NOT the more intelligent, net-savvy portion of the userbase.

    • Tevin says:

      I guess. Though for a long time FB was able to stay relatively sane by allowing its users to keep their circle of friends relatively private, and by extension, keep a sort-of-close reign on which details were public.

      I guess my question, really, is has this ever happened before on this scale? We could all end up surprised possibly-maybe.

    • drewski says:

      @ Tevin – you can still do that on Facebook.

      The only thing a random person can see from my Facebook page is my name, the city I live in, the city I grew up in, my profile picture, and my general interests (ie music, tv and fan pages). Absolutely no private information whatsoever.

      And I only add people as friends I know well enough to trust.

  28. Batolemaeus says:

    I don’t think you can just argue from the point that the internet is a bad place. Of course it is, because of the anonymity that Bliz is trying to break and because of the anonymity of the masses.

    It still doesn’t make their move any better, though. Games are games are games. I don’t want to deal with real life in my games. I don’t want to deal with any aspect of it in a virtual space, my real name being a part of it.
    Sure, someone with lots of spare time could probably come up with my real name and address by doing long and extensive research, but that’s the point – it takes lots of digging, or, if i wanted, no digging at all. But I’m mostly in control of my rather unique real name. And if I decide that my pseudonym will be all there is to my internet identity, then everyone will have to accept that.

    With all that said, there’s still something that irks me greatly about this. Anonymity also provides people with an equal ground. Apart from the way I write, there’s nothing differentiating me from my peers on the internet. I’m what I make myself on the Net, no matter how my monetary situation, where I live, whether I follow a religion, whether my Nation gassed millions of people or is slowly murdering the population of a neighbouring country. It doesn’t matter, and it bloody shouldn’t.

    Bliz is eroding that principle. I am not amused.

  29. Bru says:

    I honestly believe that if all they wanted to do was solve the trolling “problem” then they could have just added a forum handle to the account, and that’s all you could EVER post on. If someone wanted to troll with an unknown name, they’d have to buy, and maintain, another account which only means more money for Blizzard. This is an approach that has worked reasonably well for other companies, so it would work here too.

    If anyone, including Blizzard, thinks this will completely stop trolling, I’ve got some bad news for them. It won’t. There’s a few gutless anons that won’t post anymore, but there will always be some amount of trolling, even with the method I mentioned. It’s just that my method is preferable because it doesn’t give that same gutless anon group fuel to make your life miserable. People honestly don’t want to believe that your private info is easy to come by, but once they have a key component, like your name, information isn’t hard at all to come by. And that just opens the floodgates to stupid crap, like 30 pizzas delivered to your door, to some potentially hairy situations, such as an anonymous tip to the police that you were seen dragging kids off the street and into your car

    To those who say nothing bad can come of this, I say that you just haven’t seen what the ugly side of the internet has already done.

  30. Tei says:

    My head hurts only thinking about that, and the people that don’t see the danger on this.

    • Sonic Goo says:

      People post much more personal things than just their names on Facebook and such.

      Here, have some aspirin.

    • Tei says:

      @Sonic Goo:
      Google don’t index the whole of Facebook. Is a private wallet garden. Suposedlly, only your friends see your photos and comments. And can’t like that information to other information, so you control what information you spread. Mostly.
      Also, Facebook using real names is a GIGANTEOUS error. But wen is hard to tell people that browsing with Internet Explorer with admin rights, I could understand that is hard to tell people to never post his name online. People is clueless like that.

  31. Picacodigos says:

    I’ve been playing WoW for almost four years now, and I’ve never posted in the forums. I disliked the change to Battle.Net because simply I dislike anything mandatory, and I’ve haven’t given them my RealID and I won’t do it. If that means that I won’t be able to post in their forums, there are plenty of other sites to get information, advice and so on.

    The SECOND they make Real-ID mandatory for playing, the second I quit. Forever.

    • Ford Prefect says:

      Like Picacodigos (try Googling that – oh wait, no, don’t because, well… look! Goodyear blimp!), I’ve never posted on the WoW forums in 4 or 5 years of playing and don’t intend to. So the RealID won’t affect me there.

      To a certain extent, I support it the concept of RealID. The reason I don’t post in the WoW forums is because they’re a nasty place full of trolls, spammers and nothing vaguely useful or worthwhile. I know. I looked once. It was almost like encountering Cthulhu in the hideous, monolith-crowned citadel of Ry’leh – enough to drive a man insane. Would the most aggressive of people on those forums hurl so many insults if they had no anonymity to hide behind? I’m guessing not. But they’ll be the loudest to cry foul and claim their privacy is being infringed because they’ll have to start behaving like civilized people rather than like the schoolboys in Lord of the Flies.

      On the other hand, privacy on the internet for the rest of us means being protected from the those who Penny Arcade so astutely classified several years ago.

      Even if this is the beginning of far more malign privacy moves by ActiBlizz, I still won’t personally worry. The email address I use for battle.net is used solely for that and the name I gave them was the first one I could come up with which, coincedentally, happened to be “Alec Meer”. Who would have thought a simple system could have been got around by lying, eh?

      Incidentally, just so you know – my name’s not really Ford Prefect and I’m not actually from Guildford.

  32. ExplosiveCoot says:

    As well as I can Google, I am the only person in the world with my particular first and last name, and I don’t think I’ll be posting on the WoW forums anymore at all if this change goes live. That’s a minor shame, but it doesn’t mean that I won’t still be able to enjoy playing WoW. I could understand the violent pushback if we were forced to reveal our real names in-game, but this is just about the official forums.

    The bottom line is if you don’t like it, post on some other forums. There are a ton of them out there.

  33. Shane says:

    Violent crimes have fallen every year over the past decade(+) in the U.S., where I live…7.2% last year alone. Maybe it’s different in your country. At any rate, the idea that using real names will unleash the bowels of humanity on your doorstep is just silly. It’s fear-mongering. COULD something happen? Sure. People die everyday from using guns, drugs, cars, planes, booze, ladders, stairs, you name it.

    Eh..It’s a waste of energy to fight against changes like this. One way or another, who you are online will be made transparent for the exact reasons everyone fears giving it out. Because at the end of day, it’s far better to know the identities of those around you. Anonymity protects criminals, not victims.

    • 7rigger says:

      Then why didn’t you post with your real name?

    • Shane says:

      I did.

    • Bru says:

      If anonymity doesn’t protect victims, then why does the US have a witness protection program? I’m sorry, but ANY increased chance of stupid crap happening because of this change is too much. We didn’t sign up for that. We didn’t ask for that.

    • 7rigger says:

      I tried to make a point and sound clever and you called me brilliantly

      Well played ;)

      I am on the opposite side from you in this argument however, and I don’t think just your first name is much of a problem. I don’t mind telling you my first name is Dave, but would have serious problems telling you more.

      In my opinion, this is an invasion of privacy. It’s easy to say “X number die from this and life is dangerous” but it’s no justification for making it more dangerous.

      or,

      Loads die in car accidents, so why bother protecting anyone? Kids will get old and die anyway, lets rob them of their privacy in this virtual world filled with elves and magic

    • Shane says:

      Seriously? Mentioning the Witness Protection Program in this context is unrealistic. Your talking about a system designed and implemented to protect Federal witnesses from international organized crime families, witnesses who frequently have criminal ties themselves. I could understand if maybe you teabagged the head of La Familia in Warsong Gulch, but lets be atleast a little down to earth here.

    • Uhm says:

      Yeah, people die in cars everyday. But it’s still wise to drive safely.

    • Shane says:

      It is wise to drive safely. And part of being safe is issuing driver’s licenses, and registering vehicles to specific owners…and in some countries requiring drivers to maintain some form of insurance incase of accident.

    • Inno says:

      Someone might well be using their real name and following all the rules but how do you know the other person is? And what about all the lurkers, the disadvantage of having an uncommon name as opposed to a common one, etc etc? At the very least anonymity levels the playing field for all involved.

      Basically it’s like using a nuke to kill off a swarm of bugs. Complete overkill and unnecessary.

    • Devan says:

      @Shane
      I disagree with your statement of “it’s far better to know the identities of those around you. Anonymity protects criminals, not victims.” The idea that mandatorily removing privacy will make it difficult for criminals to operate, and make it easier for the authorities to track them down is simply not worth the sacrifice, even if it was accurate.
      One main reason is that the authorities (or corporations) and their data systems are not immune to corruption or intrusion, so your personal info can be used for purposes you didn’t intend it to. The only way to keep it safe is to not reveal it at all, but more and more we see products and services that require the disclosure of personal information to participate. The more important those services become, the harder it will be to keep your information secure. Everyone is entitled to their privacy, and needs no justification for holding onto it.

      To address your points more directly, I believe it is clear that anonymity protects anyone who has it (criminals and victims alike), and a lack of privacy makes anyone vulnerable. Aside from the issues of principle when requiring people to become vulnerable for the sake of security, the main problem is that it simply can’t be universally and equally applied. Criminals won’t have to reveal their identity in order to find out someone else’s, and if they’re any good at what they do, such systems will be to their advantage as much as their detriment.

      As an analogous case in point, the government where I live has been debating whether or not to make body armour illegal, since it has been used in gang shootings and such. The supporters of this plan believe that if nobody is protected from bullets, then there will be less shooting. It’s hoping to gain peace by removing protection. I believe that is a foolish and dangerous path, and the reasons are obvious.
      Criminals are breaking the law anyway, so mandatorily removing protections will be only an inconvenience to them. Meanwhile, everyone else is required to be vulnerable. Whether you’re a paranoid pedestrian who doesn’t want to become collateral damage in a gang shooting or a loudmouth troll on a forum thread, it’s important that you have the right to protect yourself (and not in a “best defense is a good offense way”, I mean actual protection. There really should be a distinction).

    • perilisk says:

      “Yeah, people die in cars everyday. But it’s still wise to drive safely.”

      More to the point: road rage happens, sometimes. But does it help if an automated system hands over your name and address to someone you cut off in traffic? Sure, you’ll try to drive better, but people make mistakes, and some messed up people are just looking for an excuse to beat the hell out of someone. Why make it easy for them?

  34. Sagan says:

    I agree with what you are saying, but the way you said it instantly rang alarm bells in my head. When you say things like “just one of someone having their private life invaded [...] is one instance too much” you sound a lot like you are doing worst case thinking. As in, you imagine what is the worst thing that could happen and then you say we should act based on that.
    I know you only sound that way, and that large forums are aggressive places and that there should be real concern over decisions like this.

  35. id says:

    It makes a strange kind of sense for Blizzard to implement a bad, unpopular (and perhaps even dangerous) forums policy, though: from their angle, I’m not sure that they actually get anything from running those forums other than a massive, nerd-raging headache.

    If people want to form a little community, the internet is open to that and no one is going to stop them. Maybe Blizzard just isn’t interested in moderating that process for them anymore. Or maybe Activision is getting annoyed at having to fork over that sweet, sweet WoW profit to run the forum servers. Either way, if they can cut that 100,000 down to 10,000 (just the ones with real names that are already fairly anonymous and who have legitimate tech support questions for Blizzard to field, maybe), that’s gotta be a good thing from their point of view, right?

  36. Lambchops says:

    On a side not I just read the BBC’s report on this. Apparantly a Mr Brand is concerned about being a gamer messing with his employment prospects. Can’t be that concerned though, what with the whole announcinghe’s a gamer on the BBC thing he’s just done . . .

    http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/technology/10543100.stm

  37. mandrill says:

    I sit awaiting the car crash that this will become with a large portion of popcorn, I just hop that it doesn’t turn into a slasher movie.

    In all seriousness Blizztivision/Actitard run a huge risk of killing WoW, Starcraft II, and Diablo III with this. Or at least removing any sense of community to huge numbers of independent forums and discussion sites which do not require the revelation of their users real names.

    • Hmm-Hmm. says:

      Killing those games? Nah. Sheer popularity will see them live, I think. Some (i.e.: quite a lot) people are so into those games that they might complain but won’t stop playing.

  38. Unaco says:

    It is an utterly insane idea. I don’t play WoW (or any Blizzard/Activision games), but someone linked me to a forum thread last night… 12000 posts in about 8 hours. All denouncing the plans. I figured from that we’d see a climbdown by the end of the week… But then I remembered, it’s Activision. Forum profiles will require a mandatory DNA sample by the time all of the campaigns/expansions for StarCraft2 will have been released.

    This is just a bad, bad idea.

  39. Guildenstern says:

    Yeah, I know. I’m saying, if they made it mandatory in game, like it will be on the forums. Then you’d see exodus from wow.

  40. Shane says:

    Dave, I’m perfectly willing to agree to disagree. And I’m in no way trying to knock anyone for their concerns…From my perspective though, I would rather know who all of you are, than not. I want to know who’s talking to my family.

    • 7rigger says:

      And I’d rather no-one knew who my family were.

      As you say though, agree to disagree. This whole drama will play out without our involvement ;)

      AND MY NAME IS 7RIGGER!!!!!!11!!!!

  41. Larington says:

    Didn’t take long for a Hitler parody to spring up, I suspect that’s the norm though.

  42. Guildenstern says:

    I’m just completely flabbergasted by anyone dismissing safety concerns. What kind of insanely privileged lives do you lead?

  43. d4niel says:

    But isn’t that the beauty of an anonymous system? It allows you to act – both positively and negatively – in ways that you could not were your real name attached to it. Anonymity allows you to explore different aspects of your personality, sexuality, and hobbies, all things that could get you humiliated by your peers.

    This works well in gaming, too – maybe, just maybe, I don’t want girls that I go out with to know that I pretty much exclusively play female characters. That’s a weird thing to randomly see – I don’t mind explaining it, but as a first impression, it’s an awful one. Alternatively, I had a character on an RP server that was designed explicitly to be an asshole – nobody says you need to RP a nice guy. I made many, many enemies (both via the forums and in-game), and I’d really prefer not to have them be able to easily find my Facebook, blogs, and so on.

  44. d4niel says:

    Oops, definitely fucked that up. Last reply is a response to @Adrian.

  45. Shagittarius says:

    What I want to know is : Are all of my old posts going to suddenly show my name? If so I can’t have that.

    • Sonic Goo says:

      It’s not retroactive, so you can lay your bad conscience to rest.

  46. Kurt Lennon says:

    I remember when Blizzard and their games were cool. Now they’re just simplistic garbage for overcaffeinated children.

    The sooner they fade away, the better.

    • Sonic Goo says:

      Unlike the RPS comments, where people don’t post simplistic garbage at all…

  47. noobnob says:

    Not going to question Blizzard’s experience with online (and gaming) communities, but I hope they’re aware that what they’re trying to do requires a massive cultural change. This will be quite interesting if it’s actually carried out, and might just motivate even further a “forum exodus” to fanmade communities.

  48. DrazharLn says:

    Against what appears to be the facebook argument: when posting to facebook, you control who can see that information. That means that I can post happily about the drunken night I had with my friends last week where we played drinking games for four hours and Y slept with X and know that only my friends will see it, indeed, I can even select what group of my friends can see this information.

    No future employer or acquaintance need know about these grisly details, and my privacy remains safe.

    If I were to post on a forum or other public place with my real name, however, I have no control over who accesses that information, or on where it may be stored. As such, I must write expecting future employers, if not friends, to read.

    That means that I must act differently to as if I were on facebook, because I am no longer talking to only my friends.

    Therefore, the communication that occurs on facebook will continue to differ from the communication that occurs on public sites that display the users’ real names.

    Addendum: that some people share their data indiscriminately on facebook does not nullify my point, they are the exception rather than the rule and contrary to what some media outlets would have you think, facebook does allow you to restrict access to your data very effectively (as long as you do not use fb applications).

    • Lambchops says:

      Yup. good old only allowing specific people to see an album – memories of some pubcrawls are not tp be shared with those who “weren’t there man!”

  49. Cooper says:

    What a lot of people are missing (especially those for it) is this is not an “on off” anonymous or not anonymous switch.

    People may want to know who they are dealing with, but “real life names” do not provide this information.

    I am not going to know who Mr Jason Spencer (random name from the top of my head) on the other end of the forums is, because I’m willing to bet there are a fair number of Jason Spencers out there.

    But said Mr Spencer will know exactly who I am with my real life name – there’s no one, at least not google-able, with the same name as me.

    Real life names do not level the playing field. They provide varying levels of anonymity.

    And a hierarchy of anonymity in any social interaction, least of all somewhere like a public internet forum, is never going to be a good idea.

  50. Narretz says:

    Activision Blizzard considered a lot of consequences, and they surely asked themselves “how will this affect our sales?” Truth is, it won’t hurt them significantly. As long as they don’t enforce Real Names in-game (that would be a helluva stupid move, and definitely keep more people from playing / buying), this is not much of a problem for them. For every long-standing Blizzard customer who actually boycotts their games from now on, there will be at least a 100 new players, who may have never heard of the controversy. And in the future it’ll be common to give your Real Name, and people won’t be as shocked as they are now. The market is growing rapidly and Blizzard can cope with the loss of some 1st and 2nd generation players.
    This is the real danger here; Blizzard, being a huge company, sets a precedent, and others will follow.