Real Names, Real ID, Real Lessons

Now that I’m back and speed-reading through over 2500 blog posts in one evening, I know I’ve missed out on a lot of this Real ID/Blizzard forums discussion.  And that’s okay, as a lot of people have said what I would’ve anyway.  However, I do have a few parting thoughts as to what we might take away from all this:

1. The community has the power to change MMO companies’ minds

We’ve actually seen this a few times this year already — with Turbine’s awful Offer Wall for DDO and with Allods’ wonky cash shop prices.  While segments of the community always complain about everything, when the rest join in (in addition to voices outside of that game’s community) to voice opposition to something, it really and truly has the ability to stop a dev team from pushing forward with a bad decision.  I’m not saying that we should be rallying against every little thing that upsets us, but complacency helps no one when it comes to the important issues.  It’s better for both the game company and the community if these things are nipped in the bud.

On the flip side, MMO companies are actually listening.  I would’ve bet real money that Blizzard wouldn’t have backed down on this, because they historically never back down on controversial decisions, and they’ve developed a well-known attitude of “Well, we run the most successful MMO on the planet, so we don’t have to listen to the likes of you.”  But — and here’s a slightly awe-inspiring thing — they did.  Sure, they’re not scraping their heads against the ground in apology or anything, and their statement still has an arrogant streak to it, but something got through to them that this wasn’t just a normal pushback for a decision, it was a tsunami of opposition, and that it was better to save face now than deal with the troubles later.

2. Name-calling isn’t just for elementary school kids

While a lot of the discussion and debate around the Real ID fiasco was pretty intelligent and civil, I found myself grimacing quite often at people who would stoop to childish insults and name-calling at anyone on the other side.  It’s always a low-brow tactic when people do this, because it’s as if they know their ideas or perspective can’t stand on its own, so they need to fling out a few choice labels to shore up their cause.  I’m not a “fear mongerer” if I have a legitimate concern (to cite one often-used example), and if you have a problem with what I think, then address the thought instead of the person.  I gotta say, I became disappointed with quite a few people on Twitter this past week.

3. It’s made a lot of people reconsider their approach to privacy online

A lot of the pro-Real ID crowd (and Blizzard as well) used Facebook as an example of how cavalier we tend to be with our online information and identity, and while it was not the same thing as what Blizzard was proposing, there’s a good point to be had there.  We are often careless with what we post, not realizing just how much everyone can learn about us.

So two really great things have come out of this: (1) I’ve seen a lot of folks re-examine their privacy elsewhere online and take steps to protect it more, and (2) we see that online privacy does indeed matter to a lot of people.  Sure, maybe the same people are careless with their info, but when these issues are brought into the spotlight, people show they do care about what’s being shared and spread around.

Oh, and to those who brought out that hoary chestnut of “If you don’t want to use your real name, then you must be trying to hide something!” flawed logic, you need to realize just how often that line is used to support any loss of liberties.  Nobody needs an excuse to have privacy or to choose to not reveal something, and we don’t have to rationalize it.

4. Few if anyone is debating that Blizzard needs to clean up their forums — just how they should do it

Hey, I’m all for Blizzard taking steps to clean up their forums, even radical steps.  It’s just that this particular idea was a terrifically bad one, and should’ve been thrown out a long time before it was presented to the public.  WoW’s forums have rightfully earned its place as the dregs of gaming humanity where thoughtful discussion, real help and civil chat is buried under mountains of manure.  Blizzard’s needed to clean that up for years, and it’s good they’ve made it a priority — they just can’t become so focused on that goal that they use it to justify whatever it takes to get there.

8 thoughts on “Real Names, Real ID, Real Lessons

  1. moxie July 10, 2010 / 9:09 pm

    I’ve heard from several different places that the employees at Blizzard were just as upset as the players were, and that there was a bit of an internal struggle going on behind the scenes. While that’s just a rumor (so take it with a grain of salt), it wouldn’t be surprising to me if this was being pushed down more from the Activision side of the company, rather than Blizzard.

    But I also don’t think we’ve seen the last of this issue yet. I would bet money that it’ll be brought up again after Cataclysm.

  2. Alamia July 11, 2010 / 3:10 am

    I’m still a bit skeptical because they said that “at this time” they decided real names won’t be required. What about the next time then? *sigh*

    I think the Facebook argument is flawed anyway, though. Facebook lets you change your name! As I didn’t enter a “contract” in the sense that I paid Facebook for their service (but am instead targetted by ads), I didn’t give them my real name nor my address. Since I’m paying Blizzard (or did pay, rather), I gave them my real information. So for me, Facebook is perfectly safe because all they got was my spam email address and a fake name. Blizzard doesn’t let me change my name just like that.

    Still, I’m glad to see that all the protesting worked. Even if just for now…

  3. mbp July 11, 2010 / 3:32 am

    Personally I buy into the “Facebook integration” conspiracy theory Wilhelm has a great post about it over on Ancient Gaming Noob.

  4. Stabs July 11, 2010 / 5:18 am

    Well it’s certainly not over. We’ve won a battle but we’re losing the war.

    The repercussions of the attempt to push this through are not over for Blizzard. Here in Europe national privacy watchdogs have been receiving numerous complaints. EU law on privacy is considerably stricter that US law. Expect to see Blizzard fined and ordered to tighten up a few months down the line.

    And a considerable number of people have left WoW. In some cases we’ve been forced to choose between risking our jobs and playing WoW. What concerns me is a lot of 17 year olds, who don’t now care if a gaming rival posts that Randolph McTweedle is a thief and a ninja and a scumbag, don’t realise that in 30 years time when they are applying for a job as a bank manager the personnel manager might be reading accounts of the drama.

  5. Hunter July 11, 2010 / 7:19 am

    I agree with your point about the sometimes insulting, almost always patronizing tone that people who defended real ID took. Sure there were people who irrationally were against it, but what about the plethora of good points brought up?

  6. Utakata July 11, 2010 / 3:28 pm

    My finger is on the *Unsub* button Stabs if they pull this or another stunt again…I’ll tell you. This is added by the effect of I’m not liking some of the direction of the game mechanics are taking in Cat. (ie. Diminishing returns with tank threat, locking out skill Trees why leveling, etc.) If it wasn’t for a roller’able Goblin race…I might of just let my account die. The Real ID nonsense was almost the anvil that broke the camel’s back for me. 😦

    Actually those against far out weighed the pro’s on this Hunter. With multiple hard evidence weighing on their side that this was not a good idea…even a dangerous one for players who stuck with the game. And there are other more contructive ways of reigning in the nastiness of the Forums without violating anyones’ privacy.

  7. Buhallin July 12, 2010 / 2:18 am

    I’m glad the “community” is patting itself on the back over this. Honestly, I think it’s kind of sad.

    Blizzard suggested a change that a lot of people wouldn’t like. How did they respond? They went into a borderline riot, screaming about risk and threats and privacy and how nobody’s safe from each other.

    To the extent that anyone outside the “community” cares about this, doesn’t anyone wonder how you just made yourselves look? Pretty much every line of defense on this change pointed out just how many stalkers, pedophiles, racists, misogynists, and all-around horrific people populate our games. The least-offensive excuse I saw concerned people who were simply ashamed to play MMOs, and didn’t want anyone else to know they did it.

    The overwhelming message of the last week was “You can’t trust us with your real name!” Several bloggers went so far as to PROVE that you couldn’t trust them with your real name – all in the name of good of course – they were only calling people’s homes and workplace to prove a point. The harassment was all for a good cause, which makes it OK.

    Yeah, you won a fight with Blizzard. Goliath fell to David – Bravo! But you did it by tarring the “community” as a dark, evil place that reinforces the darkest Jack Thompson stereotype of gaming and gamers. If any of the anti-gaming crusaders are paying attention to this, you just gave them more than they could have dreamed.

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