Getting Out of Hand

RealID.  Thus far, I’ve ignored the topic.  You either choose to use it or not for whatever reasons feel right to you.  Some people love the connectivity, some people hate losing the ability to protect any part of their identity.

I chose not to opt-in to RealID, not for security reasons, but because I am a big proponent of controlling my own time.  My game time is only a part of my time, and often my solitary “me-time” that I do not want cluttered up with chatting with the guys and gals or getting logged in, nicely settled into a leveling spree, and then being asked to run something.  I’m a sucker–I’ll say yes even if I don’t want to go.  Masochism for the win.  Knowing this tendency, I am studiously ignoring any and all RealID options in-game.  Doesn’t affect you, me, or the postman.  Who cares, right?

Now, RealID is changing.  If you use the World of Warcraft forums, you will be forced into using the most annoying function of RealID–your name.  I’ll let you read a number of very good reasons why using your name in the internet world can be bad; not necessarily, but definitely understandable if you don’t want to throw it out there, particularly if it affects your ability to keep your current job, or adversely affects your ability to get a new one (hey, we all gotta eat people).

However, on top of the real-world consequences that can affect people not having a choice in whether their game activities are public, there is also a serious, serious immersion problem with requiring my name vs. a handle.  Every online community I have been a part of has been as a handle.  In Warcraft I have several: at BlogAzeroth I’m Windsoar, Lyre at MainTankadin, Zala at PlusHeal.  I chose the handles I did at those respective sites because at the time 1) I was not actively involved as a blogger and 2) My handles matched my in-game characters who utilized those forums.

When I go to the World of Warcraft forums, I tend to do the same thing.  If I’m recruiting for my guild, I use my raiding character, if I’m chatting up about priests, I toss in my priest character, and so on.  Part of this is because it allows fellow readers to “check” my authority in contributing to the discussion by seeing how lovingly I’ve decked out my characters, the encounters I’ve run, and the like.

The other part falls into the immersion of the thing.  I’m not some chick named Anne in Warcraft, I am Windsoar, a restoration shaman who will chain you up in lovin’ heals.  When I talk to other people from the same game at a third party site, I want them to associate with Windsoar, not Anne.  Anne is irrelevant.  She’s just some chick sitting at the computer. The important one is Wind.

Part of the “comfort” of online forums is the ability for people to not track you down and harass you in other mediums.  Good luck finding out my handle for DDO, not to mention any non-gaming sites I may enjoy.  By sharing my real-name, I feel like I’m losing that cozy little blanket of comfort between Anne the player and Windsoar the shaman.  I want that veil, and without it, I will not be pursuing the official forums as a place to discuss Warcraft.

Now, you may be reading this with a bit of disbelief as I have chosen to license my site using my name.  Part of the reason I chose to do so is that, honestly, it’s not my legal name. Since I’ve gotten married, I also have a name more common than anything.  My maiden name was a long-garbled affair that was distinctly German, and spelled in a very unusual way.  If I had started this site with my maiden name, you can bet your butt that I would have it scrubbed industriously from all portions of my site–there are some weird people out there despite my personal luck with finding really good friends.

On top of that, I would’ve been very antsy about sharing that particular name with a range of unknowns.  I’ve had very strong reactions to my name that have been unpleasant, and no, I’m not really interested in seeing what the WoW forums will do to some very nice people who have “different” names.

What really baffles me is this comment in the official announcement:

With the launch of the new Battle.net, it’s important to us to create a new and different kind of online gaming environment — one that’s highly social, and which provides an ideal place for gamers to form long-lasting, meaningful relationships. All of our design decisions surrounding Real ID — including these forum changes — have been made with this goal in mind.

I’m sorry, did I read that correctly?  You are required to create a social environment above and beyond that which you already provide?  I’ve found on-line gaming to be excellent at providing a medium for people to meet, interact, and form lasting social relationships without any interference from the distributor other than providing the product–the game.

Yesterday, I shared a story of a friend that I made on the Realm Online: with a 60 some-odd year old Floridian.  I had no idea of the age difference when we met.  We were freaking AVATARS.  Yet she became a very close friend, we shared more than our in-game names, we exchanged addresses, phone numbers, and spent many a long night in game talking about life.  She was my spear-sister in the best sense of the word, and I miss her terribly; however, we became friends first and foremost because a video game allowed us to interact outside “socially acceptable limits.”  Would you talk to your friend’s grandmother about the difficulties of her daughter’s abusive relationship?

Sharing a name in on-line games is a first step, often a long-awaited and cherished time in a budding on-line friendship.  RealID is increasingly taking this choice from our hands and denying us that initial contact that may prove a blossoming point in a relationship.  Our name is a keystone to our view of ourselves, an inherent part of our identity, and when and where to bestow our name in an environment that has limited cues that our body uses in everyday life to alert us to who is worthy of trust.

While over time I have become more open with sharing my name, I still jealously guard other aspects of my personal life such as my IM, phone number, personal e-mail address, etc. because these have become the new limits of my personal space in the on-line world. However, when I receive a person’s real name, I still treat it as a precious gift, bestowed from a mutual love and trust, and I cannot and will not accept that I am the only one who views it this way.  I want the choice over where my name is bestowed.  Right now, on the forums, that choice is becoming null, so I shall not participate.

I am absolutely baffled by the idiocy of the market-heads at Blizzard who think that requiring their network of sites to display names instead of handles will make the forums a better place in any form or fashion.

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12 thoughts on “Getting Out of Hand

  1. "however, we became friends first and foremost because a video game allowed us to interact outside 'socially acceptable limits.'"

    As always well thought out and well said. Anonymity can make some of us jerks, but it can also make us equal. Online, the fact that I have 2 advanced degrees doesn't make my opinion any more important than that of the guy with a high school education.

    • It seems in all walks of life we tend to lump ourselves together into a goo of homogeneous humanity, when in fact, that is never the case. There is no single gamer experience, but a multitude of experiences that is unique to each of us. Yes, I can understand people who want to use the RealID system in-game to keep connections and enjoy that facebook-like updating; however, I am not nor ever will be of that mindset. This new plan, however, flies against the comforting veil of anonymity that has allowed me to be friends with a number of different people from all walks of life, and I don't want it taken away, and surely not without my own choice.

      Forums ARE different, and I wouldn't interact in ANY forum community that required me to display my full-name. Period.

  2. Very well put. This really bothers me, and I cannot believe that they don't seem to see the huge issues with this. Give us a normal handle system (as you suggested on Righteous Orbs) and it'd be fine. But this is NOT okay. Privacy is important. And I can't imagine that this will improve the atmosphere on the forums. If anything, it will likely drive many people away. Women who don't want to be harassed by the testosterone-poisoned wanker crowd. People with rare names who are rightfully concerned about stalkers tracking them down in the real world. People who already have been or are still stalked by another player. People who are concerned about their career. And I can only hope that everyone who has kids playing this game finds out about this before it goes live (what are the odds of that, with so many parents knowing little about their kids' activities and less about the internet).

    All these people, and everyone else who is concerned about privacy and refuses to "support" this system by continuing to use the forums, will no longer be able to use the forums to help other players, advertise events or guilds, or post feedback for the developers. I already stay clear of the official forums, and (as a woman with a rare name and big privacy concerns) this only seals the decision never to go back.

    • Wouldn't it be awful if you had an under 18-year old child using their World of Warcraft account (including forums) and you got called into the office over it? Had someone show up your house asking for you (and really looking for your kiddo). When you're kids are under 18, the account is under the adult's name, not the child's, and I do imagine that there are some parents who don't keep up with news that has nothing to do with THEIR past-times.

      I think the whole thing is going to be a huge hairy mess. Handles is the obvious choice to allow people to share what they're comfortable with instead of forcing an unknown on a very large player base. I see it limiting the connectivity of the community, especially as regards realm/recruitment forums, and I think that sucks.

      • Also, what if you get hacked? Congratulations, now your real name is linked to whatever idiocy the hacker posted under your name! This could include links to porn, phishing, gold-selling or other websites of questionable or downright illegal content.

        This is so messed up I can't believe it.

        Even without this idiocy, even if RealID didn't give my name out to friends-of-friends without my consent (something else I learned today), I would not use it. Some days, I need to be able to log on and just play by myself without having problems, requests and expectations shoved at me — no matter how nicely. And I prefer to be called by my main's name simply for the sake of putting some distance between the game and the real world.

        • I actually "leafed" through a few pages of the thread of doom on the official forums and saw the argument that "it allows the moderators to control the forums better since they will know who the trolls are." Excuse me, Blizzard already HAS my account information. Now I remember why I tend to stay away from these issues, the idiocy is just astounding.

          I agree absolutely with the sentiment of protecting your free-time, and I feel like Real ID violates that to some extent which is the primary reason I do not use it in its current form. The implications in a more public setting, while they may be few and far between, are just too scary to contemplate.

  3. Hear, Hear! I agree! I rarely post on the official forums for anything other than guild recruitment or progression, but I posted a big fat NO on that thread.

    My FaceBook friends are my choice and I have control over what they can see. I have chosen my few in-game RealID friends very, very carefully. Knowing you, I knew how much you value your alone time, so I didn't send you a RealID friend request. You know how to reach me and if you want to chat, you can find me. If you're on a toon I don't know, I figure there's a reason you want to be alone. :)

    • And that's why I love you and you're one of the few persons I thought "maybe I should;" however, if you've got my phone number and/or IM, you know you're golden with me, because those are pretty much my last stands on personal information :P

      While I'm not going to quit the game over this issue, if I am ever directed by Blizzard staff to post on the official forums once this change goes live, I will have serious issues with whether this is the right game for me to be involved in.

  4. I already don't use the official forums… and I only have one RealID friend: My IRL best friend who has trouble remembering to friend all my alts. Her only RealID friend besides me is her husband, so I am not worried about the friends of friends thing.

    I would be worried if I was a forum type and I wanted to browse while home sick from work or something. I already know too many employers who check up on absent employees through Facebook. If they find I've been to the beach, fair enough, stupid me. I don't want them finding a stray forum post though and assuming I skip work to play WoW. WoW already has a negative enough public image that I could imagine getting fired for that.

    • I have used the official forums, mainly for guild activities, but also to research/post information about class questions, and to connect with other people on my server, and even to report bugs. As much as I enjoyed my last stint in the beta, I wouldn't be willing to be involved in the current one if these changes will be going live during the beta testing phase because, guess what, beta testers spend a ridiculous amount of time on WoW forums posting suggestions and providing feedback to the company about the proposed changes/implementation.

      I've googled my name…. I'm one of those lucky people who ends up on page 40 something whether I use my legal name or the one I use in day to day activities. I know other people who pop up first everytime. If I used facebook as a place to update my address/phone number for friend and family members, I would be comfortable doing so if I also wanted to continue using the WoW forums when this change is implemented. Blizzard's stated goals and the implementation of this system seem to be working at cross-purposes. If you want people to make friends in-game, butt out. If you want to decrease the cost of maintaining your boards, then forge ahead, because that's the only possible "positive" side-effect that I can see from this action.

  5. I, too, have had the pleasure of meeting someone in-game who is much older than I am. She's become, in the last couple of years, sort of like the big sister that I never had. (What with my being a firstborn.)

    "Sharing a name in on-line games is a first step, often a long-awaited and cherished time in a budding on-line friendship."

    I agree wholeheartedly. There have been a good half-dozen or so people with whom my friendships blossomed over the courses of weeks or months, and the moments in which we exchanged names, e-mail addresses, etc., were always specials one for me. I'd like to think that they were special ones for them, too, but I can't read their minds.

    The people whom I have met in WoW since I started playing, and the connections that I've made with them, have made me reevaluate the way I look at "online" versus "real-life" friendships. The bonds that are made are real, regardless of medium, regardless of geography.

    However, the most vitally important thing to keep in mind during all of this is that when I exchange my name, my e-mail, or something as trivial as my eye color with someone, it's always on MY terms and those of the individual that I'm exchanging that information with. I treasure the friendships that I've forged via WoW very, very much.

    But for Blizzard; who has our information to begin with, keep in mind, to take it upon themselves to share our identities with the playerbase at large, is both unethical and an extremely poor business model.

    I speak only for myself, of course, but I'm more than capable of deciding with whom to share whatever details of my existence I deem fit to share.

    • I think there's a disconnect in the company that looks at the enthusiasm shared between players as something that could be "improved." You can't make friendships. The LFD system, in many regards, has broken down the "normal" way for me to meet and connect with people as I cannot keep track of people I actually like whom I meet cross-server. If they wanted to facilitate connections between players, that would've been a great place to start!

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