Yesterday, Blizzard announced on Battle.net its intention in the future to require anyone who uses their official forums to post under their real names.
Blizzard, makers of Starcraft, Diablo, and the massive MMO Warcraft (you could say "Massive Massive Multiplayer is overkill, but I'm gunna run with it) recently introduce RealID (www.battle.net/realid/), initially an optional extra which allows users who wish to be friends to view each other's personal details such as first and last names. But yesterday morning (Pacific Daylight Time) plans were announced to launch a new Battle.net service, which would include the automatic display of the names of forum posters, due to take effect later in the year.
Blizzard says that these measures are being introduced to try to reduce the amount of disruption on the forums, stating
"The official forums have always been a great place to discuss the latest info on our games, offer ideas and suggestions, and share experiences with other players -- however, the forums have also earned a reputation as a place where flame wars, trolling, and other unpleasantness run wild. Removing the veil of anonymity typical to online dialogue will contribute to a more positive forum environment, promote constructive conversations, and connect the Blizzard community in ways they haven't been connected before."
This announcement has caused quite a stir. The discussion on the North American WOW forum (http://forums.worldofwarcraft.com/thread.html?topicId=25712374700) has filled up with over a thousand pages of comments, and the European equivalent (http://forums.wow-europe.com/thread.html?topicId=13816838128) currently has pages numbering in the hundreds. Although there are some who support the measures to clean up the forums, most posters are outspoken in their opposition to the idea.
There are many perceived cons to removing anonimity from the forums: prospective employers may discriminate against someone who can be seen to be active in an MMO community, identity theft may be easier and spammers could have a field day with the extra information, and what about kids who subscribe under their parent's names? Then there's the issue of safety. We've all heard stories of murders being linked to MMO. Sure, it's rare, but there are fears that real life abuse over in-game matters would become easier and therfore more common. A less extreme but equally serious concern is online abuse. Many women gamers already report being hassled by other players who surmise that they may be female, and this kind of attention can range from an annoying disruptance (requests for, ahem, "cyberloving") to gaming to much scarier harrassment. In most cases, displaying a real name will make sex immediately clear, and female gamers fear this could open them up to more abuse. Similarly it may be possible to infer other personal details such as race, sexuality, age etc. by linking a name to other online information (for example from Facebook).
So far the gamer response is a resounding "bad idea"- what's your view?
Drop by our forums and give us your opinions where we probably wont tell people your real names, or will we?
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