Experienced Points

Experienced Points
Blizzard’s Unreal Real ID

Shamus Young | 9 Jul 2010 17:00
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Everyone is talking about Blizzard's new Real ID system. Some people say it's an insidious privacy-invading big brother system, but other people are claiming it's just a run-of-the-mill sort of privacy-invading big brother system.

How the system works is that your real, actual name - the one on your credit cards, your social security card, and your Steve Butts Moustache Fan Club membership card - will be attached to your Battle.net account name and will be visible to other players. If you post to the forums or add someone to your friends list, then they will see who you really are. Friends will also be able to see what you're playing and even where you are in the game, so don't bother telling your Starcraft-playing friends you're spending the evening delivering baskets of chocolate-covered kittens to orphaned grandmothers if you're just going to be leveling an alt in the Outlands, because your feeble duplicity will be laid bare by Real ID and your friends really hate it when you lie to them like that, jerk. You can also post "updates" to your status, so you can thrill your friends with reports of your taco-eating, sleep-getting, not-liking-your-boss escapades. Blizzard helpfully refers to this feature as a "corkboard" so you don't confuse it with your "wall" in Facebook.

(I am always sensitive to the fact that some people don't like it when my columns are overly wordy. To help with this, feel free to read this summary of Real ID instead of the previous paragraph.)

Non-blind people will notice that I use my real name on the forums here. I blog under my real, actual name. I use my real name on forums and when leaving comments on other blogs. I'm obviously not a person with a lot of privacy concerns, and even I can tell this is a bad idea.

I can understand some of Blizzard's motivation for this. The internet is populated by rabid and unrepentant assholes who will wade into a reasonable discussion on Zerg vs. Protoss and begin an argument over whether or not Obama ordered NASA to create the Twilight movies as a smokescreen to cover up the fact that the Xbox red ring of death was caused by gays in the military. The thinking is that putting your real name on your forum posts might encourage you to be less of a douche. Also, Blizzard wishes they were Facebook. But as solutions to problems go, this ranks right up there with burning your house down because you're sick of vacuuming. Psychotics aren't the only people who want to remain anonymous on the internet. Other people do as well. For example, people who want to hide from all the psychotics.

People are objecting to this system because it will expose guys pretending to be females. It will put your name out there so that your employer can see just how many characters you've leveled to 80. Your abusive ex-boyfriend will be able to find you and invent new ways to harass you without violating the restraining order. Your Alliance-playing pastor will threaten you with damnation when he discovers you only roll Horde. Your daughter could be scarred for life when she sees that you actually missed her piano recital because you were raiding instead of because her playing is horrendous.

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