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RealID: Blizzard Heard You

Really.

We’ve been constantly monitoring the feedback you’ve given us, as well as internally discussing your concerns about the use of real names on our forums. As a result of those discussions, we’ve decided at this time that real names will not be required for posting on official Blizzard forums.

Blizzard taught us how to come together as a community to slay internet dragons. Sometimes, Blizzard doesn’t like what internet dragons we choose to slay.

Lissanna, commenter, WoW.com

So, initial WOOHOO rush aside, some comments:

  • Yes, this blog has been all WoW RealID all the time the past few days. I think it’s justified. This has been a pretty big deal. World of Warcraft is, by most metrics, one of the if not the largest MMO in the world, and has the most active community. When Blizzard decides to change the paradigm of how people play its games, from avatar to actual (which I still believe the primary goal of the RealID push to be), it’s a big deal.
  • Does this announcement mean that Blizzard suddenly discovered religion on privacy issues? Of course not. There’s still some not so minor quibbles with the in-game RealID implementation, the lack of any ability to opt out of publishing in-game character data, and a game client that isn’t shy about searching your PC looking for signs of misbehavior. Blizzard is still one of the worst offenders in the gaming industry in terms of abusing its users’ expectations of privacy. However, they also now know that their customers do not have an infinite patience for having their privacy stripped away. This is an important, and necessary achievement, before further progress can be made.
  • The debate by those in favor of Blizzard’s actions have been largely to the degree of “well, I don’t mind if my real name is out there, so what’s the big deal?” As noted by the fact that these blog posts are authored by Scott Jennings and not Lum the Gnome Warlock, I don’t particularly mind, either. However, I made that choice. One should not deny others the ability to make choices regarding their privacy simply because you did not find them necessary.
  • One undercurrent that has been unspoken by many of us, and commented on by the mass media, is that the reason this is such a problem is that gamer culture in general is a mean, ugly, misogynist cesspool. Removing anonymity won’t fix this. Honestly, I’m not sure what would. Consequences for one’s actions? Self-awareness within a tighter, smaller community? Giving me a shotgun? I’m not sure which solution would work but the fallout from this week shows one is definitely needed. To quote Simond from F13:

We won. For now. And all it took was threadnoughts on the official forums, every single mmo blog bar about two saying “This is a fucking terrible idea”, the mass media, a Penny Arcade comic, and the destruction of one CS minion’s life.