Damn you Blizzard. The day that I finally get around to posting a blog about RealID and you have the balls to release something that almost makes me change my mind about RealID. In case you missed the firestorm yesterday, Blizzard announced that the WoW forums will use the RealID and show people’s actual names. Parts of this sound fine and part of it sounds like the worst idea possible for Blizzard.
Here is my initial thought on this. Blizzard is doing this to cut down on trolling. How likely would you be to call Blizzard a retarded dumb piece of shit if your name was associated with your comment? Probably not. This goes back to what I mentioned yesterday about the John Gabriel’s Greater Internet Dickwad Theory. You take out the anonymity and you take out the dickwadness of the forums. This sounds like a great idea and I’m sure it will cut down on the trolling although it will not eliminate it. For proof of this, check out Warcraft’s Facebook page where people post their Facebook picture and still troll. However, it may also backfire and cut back on airing legitimate concerns about any Blizzard game.
Second, a lot of people are complaining that this is taking something that is voluntary and making it involuntary. To a certain extent, I agree. However, this is not necessarily a bad thing. Every WoW player is going to or already has somebody in their RealID. Even more people have Facebook where your name and picture can appear on a complete strangers “People You May Know” just because you share a few friends. Even if you have your privacy settings to the max, they can still see your picture and name, which is even more than what WoW is doing.
One of the legitimate issues I have heard about RealID is players who roleplay. As weird as I think it is to always pretend you are your character in game in actions and speaking, I can see where having your real name versus your character name on the forums would kill a roleplaying experience, no matter how little of it goes on anyway.
The biggest issue that I think Blizzard is opening itself up to is litigation. Now, it seems weird that I would mention this, but here is my theory behind it. World of Warcraft’s ESRB rating is T for Teen, which means children as young as 13 could be playing this game and posting on the forums. As much as I like to think that no pedophiles play WoW, I would be naive to say that is true. I could see a situation where a teenage boy or girl starts being stalked by someone because their RealID is on the forums and it leads to a situation that Blizzard would never want to happen to any of its players, especially teenagers. If something did occur, it would just open up Blizzard to a civil lawsuit over something they could do nothing about just because they forced the RealID on the forums. Add in the negative publicity of a situation like this and the cost to settle a civil lawsuit and you could be looking at the end of Blizzard in a worst case scenario. Hopefully, something like this would never occur, but they are opening themselves up to it.
So is there a solution? I feel that there is a solution that would work and involve two things. One, make it an opt in. Give players the option for their RealID to appear on the forums. As I mentioned before, I personally wouldn’t mind because all the places where my info is currently anyway in social networking so I would opt in if I actually posted on the forums, but a lot of people wouldn’t for understandable reasons. The other thing they need to do is make moderators moderate. This would cut down on trolling drastically and not make RealID a necessity in order to cut down on trolling.
Also, I want to take this time to remind you about the contest we have going on right here. I would encourage everybody who can to participate. Either that or I’m getting a WoW mouse, FigurePrint, and PrintWarcraft for myself.