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.