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.