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RealID For Your FakeOrc

World of Warcraft forums blow up, y0. 479 pages last time I checked, and about 5000 closed threads with the note “dear god please keep it to one thread oh god my head it burns”.

Some official comment by the completely calm and not at all stressed Blizzard community team:

We put a lot of thought into this change and have a long-term vision for the Real ID service and wanted to make sure that we communicated ahead of time and very clearly as to what will be changing and how. Keep in mind that posting is optional, and we recognize that some players will choose not to utilize the Real ID feature in game or post on the forums and support everyone’s individual choice on using or not using it.

This is obviously new ground for us and for you as well, but we want to make sure we’re creating a great social-gaming service that people will want to use.

And that’s really the heart of the matter, isn’t it.

So as my snarky comment initially probably made clear, I’m not happy about this. Why?

Blizzard is embracing the Facebook model of social networking. Specifically, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg’s view that you should be you, and that the idea that you should ever choose to present something other than you is fundamentally flawed.

[Zuckerberg] disagrees with the notion that people have different identities. To him, the idea that someone is different at work than at home, than at a rock concert, is dishonest. Says Kirkpatrick, “He believes that he will live a better life personally, and all of us will be more honest, and ultimately it will be better for the world if we dispense with that belief.”

Well, that’s great for Facebook. Actually it isn’t. Facebook actively purges its rolls of people they consider dishonest, such as Second Life avatars who prefer to remain anonymous. In fact, just having an odd name can put your Facebook account at risk. But obviously that’s a very small subset of the millions of people on Facebook, all of whom are quite happy to poke around their virtual farms and post the same 12 funny videos and inform everyone what they had for lunch. Oh wait, that’s Twitter, which is fine with having a pseudoym for an account name. Hrm.

But anyway, when you have as a core belief that people who want to be anonymous, for whatever reason, are lying liars, then providing opt-out features seems kind of beside the point, doesn’t it? And Blizzard really, really, really, for whatever reason, dislikes opt-out features of any sort. The only way you can opt-out of the RealID in-game system, for example, is through a “Parental Control” system that is intended for children. And, not coincidentally, required by law. The features of RealID chat in-game that arouse the most ire – the inability to set an alias for one’s real name, the inability to flag alt characters out of visibility, and above all, the inability to block people from browsing your friends list – are all easily fixed via code. Yet Blizzard won’t do it.

Why not? Well, look at this response from another privacy hullaballoo – Blizzard’s refusal to allow people to opt out of having their character data displayed online – for a clue.

(checks)

Oh. There’s no any mention of opting out at all. OK. Well, there’s that time they made fun of people who wanted to. I suppose that’s a response. Wait, here’s a post from 2007!

Can I “opt-out” of the Armory?

No; this particular option is currently unavailable. While we do not possess any present intention to allow our players to opt-out of basic Armory features (character display, talent build, arena teams, and reputation), we do plan to introduce more complex functionalities; these upcoming functionalities will be “opt-in”/”opt-out,” thus granting our players the opportunity to display or omit correlated information as desired.

Clearly, they got right on that.

The irony, of course, is that Facebook has had their own well-documented struggles with privacy and opt-out features.

The site’s privacy travails have rattled Facebook employees and put pressure on Mr. Zuckerberg, who has argued for years that its users should be more open with their information. He has at times over-ruled employees who argue Facebook should make more information private, by default, according to people familiar with the matter. He has instead pushed to offer tools so users can control their information, these people said.

Yet Blizzard doesn’t offer those tools. Their answer for controlling the flow of information from your account is simple: don’t use it. After all, if you want to create a social network, you know, it doesn’t work if people are listed as Zhar’lynn the Blood Elf instead of Jennifer Smith. It really doesn’t. Look, we don’t know why it doesn’t, but Facebook does it and Zynga is making a ton of money and this is how games are now, OK? Deal with it.

And quite a few people are willing to excuse Blizzard for it, because… well, it’s Blizzard and World of Warcraft is fun and they should be allowed to do what they want. To quote one person whom I argued the point in IRC:

Blizzard is just making the decision that your name isn’t private info any longer.

Well, you know, maybe I think that shouldn’t be their call.

But hey, it’s just a video game and not… whatever the hell Facebook even is any more. And not only that, there’s nothing stopping you from not accepting RealID friend requests. Or not posting on forums. Or not playing Starcraft 2. Or not buying Diablo 3. Or not playing World of Warcraft.

Especially if you’re female. Because in the New Facebook Order, levelling while female is the new driving while black. Of course, if you don’t want people to treat you differently for being a woman, you could just not post in the forums. Or play Starcraft 2. Or not buy…

A completely un-related programming note: you may note that I have removed a good deal of Facebook integration from the blog, save automated login which is used by some users as a convenience. This is, as I said, completely unrelated and a complete coincidence.