Blizzard backs down on forums – a million voices cried out and were heard

This is the post, from Michael Morhaime:

I’d like to take some time to speak with all of you regarding our desire to make the Blizzard forums a better place for players to discuss our games. We’ve been constantly monitoring the feedback you’ve given us, as well as internally discussing your concerns about the use of real names on our forums. As a result of those discussions, we’ve decided at this time that real names will not be required for posting on official Blizzard forums.

It’s important to note that we still remain committed to improving our forums. Our efforts are driven 100% by the desire to find ways to make our community areas more welcoming for players and encourage more constructive conversations about our games. We will still move forward with new forum features such as conversation threading, the ability to rate posts up or down, improved search functionality, and more. However, when we launch the new StarCraft II forums that include these new features, you will be posting by your StarCraft II Battle.net character name + character code, not your real name. The upgraded World of Warcraft forums with these new features will launch close to the release of Cataclysm, and also will not require your real name.

So that’s good news.

And just a brief word about internet activism too – sometimes it works. So please, if in your travels you come across some other issue which hits you this hard, not just gaming related … remember this week.

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23 thoughts on “Blizzard backs down on forums – a million voices cried out and were heard

  1. You know, I am not sure how much difference the advocacy directly made, or rather, if the advocacy was the primary reason for this change. I of course have no source for this other than conjecture, but I wonder if they had an internal revolt over this as well.

    Look at what happened to one of their employees and the move they made on saying that blues would not be posting with their real names. I suspect, and again, I could be wrong, that the actual blizzard line employees and developers probably hated the idea, and it was something that was forced on them. Note also the blue posts encouraging people to continue posting what they thought about it, and that it was being shown to the people who needed to see it. This looks a lot like an internal fight, and I suspect several thousand pages of posts provided the employees the ammo they needed to kill a management idea.

    • tbh this is how successful activism usually works, I think. In any case, the undeniably huge uproar via forums, national media, blogs, and – yes – unsubs definitely gave anyone within Blizzard who wanted to argue this point the ammunition that they needed.

      • I applaud those who remained steadfast in their opinions on this, even though they were held at odds with my own.

        The response Blizzard received was nearly unanimous, and although I feel it was a mistake to abandon the idea of accountability, it is truly a wonderful thing to see a company bow to the desires of their fanbase.

  2. This isn’t repentance, it’s guilt. They got called on a dumb decision they took “a long time” to make, and they are scrambling to make up.

    The point remains that they never should have done this in the first place, and that it even got this far is troubling. This battle is won, but the war isn’t over. Not by a long shot.

    • I think you’re being rather harsh on the criticism. I agreed with their decision, not because I didn’t understand the risks (which have yet to be explained in comparison to other social networking sites we already use), but because I was far more interested in the benefit of having people be accountable for their actions to other players.

      It was my goal to try and understand and help others realize that what we have right now is not civil and that any change, even one people felt radically against, signals not just an absolute need to fix this broken system.

      Your language is rather harsh and militant and I have yet to understand where this hatred for Blizzard comes from, for you or anyone else. Why continue to maintain a relationship with a company you truly believe has, as its aim, your utter demise?

      I would rather see this not as a victory against a tyrant as so many are willing to paint it so, but rather as a great sign that internet activism can work. In the end, I feel it will be to the continued detriment of the WoW community, but the victory you should be feeling shouldn’t be “us against them”, but rather a sense of togetherness. The company listened to the community and made their decision. If they weren’t interested in the wishes and desires of that community, we would be continuing to debate the issue in other circles long after it went into effect.

      What damage was truly done? At least we now know one way NOT to try and have your users accountable for their actions.

  3. @ Kobeathris: If the internal struggle was a large as you say (and I believe there were internal debates over this) then the community still played a large part in arming those employees against the idea.

    We’ll probably never know for sure exactly what was the tipping point, but the fact is that it tipped over in favor of the community. That’s positive.

    I’ll be keeping a closer eye on their policies from now own, but for now, today, I’m happy!

  4. They did say what the point of it all was fer ta creates a community. Musta been quite a shock when they founds out there alreadies were one, even withouts RL names…

    • The idea was to create a better community where people could be held accountable for their actions by their peers.

      I hope this still remains the goal, but sadly the forums have seemed to return to their former state, albeit with a far more rebellious eye towards those that held dissenting beliefs.

      I’m far more disgusted in their current state of course, especially after this repeal. While it was controversial for me to do so, I felt Blizzard had the right in this debate, and attempted to champion my point of view here and elsewhere. I’m sad to say the WoW forums were every bit the cesspool Blizzard believes. I will be taking a voluntary reprieve from the boards in the hopes that when I return nobody remembers my civil attempts at discussion, lest I be further embarrassed and insulted for a completely valid point of view that simply happened to be contrary to the majority.

      • Was Blizz in the right when they said they wanted fer ta clean up the forums? Of course. And they say they’s gonna implement they’s other ideas ta help do this. Go them.

        Was they in the right when they said they was gonna reverse the ToS and reveal decent customers’ RL names fer all the trolls ta see? Hell no.

      • I think their goals were solid.

        And there is genuinely something very broken in gamer culture. You can tell this from the fact that just about every gaming venue which involves PvP is full of racist, sexist, smack talk — the blizzard forums are probably better than xbox live, for example. And certainly better than Darkfall.

        In fact, it’s so broken that regardless of a few psych experiments, I don’t know how long it might take for using real names to make much of an impact, if ever. And that’s time in which women get harassed and it’s not worth it imo. (most of the people supporting real names aren’t the people who would have been hassled over theirs.) So I respect your opinion but disagree about whether the known cost is worth the possible benefit.

        And yet, around that we’ve built functional guilds (and some bboards too, and blogs, and other communities) which people insist help them build solid and long term gaming relationships.

        Maybe tighter links between gamer handles and real names will eventually sort out the nastier side of gaming. Or maybe just more games aimed at a more mature audience or less focussed on being competitive. LOTRO doesn’t have such bad issues, for example.

        And meanwhile, this week proves that gamers do strongly value the link between themselves and their in game avatars and handles. It’s meaningful. And being told it’s a fake name isn’t productive. If you look at any forum, you’ll see some posters who are more respected than others and that’s because they earned their respect from the community from their posts. It’s nothing to do with real names.

  5. 7/9/2010 – the day we shook the pillars of Heaven. Or something like that.

    I read the phrase “at this time” like the words of a comic book villain. “You haven’t seen the last of me yet!” “You win… this time.” and so on…

    • Alas, if we’re to treat this like a true ‘war’, as it appears to be the normal train of thought, I fear that decency towards fellow individuals remains MIA.

      The forums are hostile, and will continue to be hostile, until further action is taken. I’m confident that Blizzard now has a far more detailed grasp of their current fanbase, something they’ll be able to use as consideration when they attempt to institute further policy in hopes that people will stop being asshats.

      • I, for one, did not treat this as war -having seen/been part of war, I despise people who would make the comparison.

        Are the forums full of hormone-engorged trolls who enjoy acting like asshats? Of course. Does Blizzard have the right to attempt to control such behavior? Of course. However, at the risk of sounding trite and cliche, the ends did not justify the means. Frankly, I think a lot of the intended uses of RealID will be a benefit to gamers. However, do not make me sacrifice my right to privacy to help you (euphemistically, of course) control your product. For, just as you have a right to dictate the rules, I have the right to decide whether or not I want to play by them.

        p.s. As far as your taking a break from the boards, Kris, everybody is entitled to their opinion and being able to promote it. If we all agreed, meaningful discussion would never ensue. But, I certainly respect your decision and hope that at some point others will respect another’s opinion without attacking the person themself.

  6. RealID is not over. They still intend to connect it all a la facebook with LIKE buttons tracking your likes, dislikes, all nicely connected to your real ID and data so that they can use it for themselves and their partners.

    “As a result of those discussions, we’ve decided at this time that real names will not be required for posting on official Blizzard forums.

    It’s important to note that we still remain committed to improving our forums.”

    AT THIS TIME … WE STILL REMAIN COMMITTED TO IMPROVING OUR FORUMS

    They did not give up, they did not even apologize, they still tell the “forum” bullshit fake reason.

  7. Pingback: What’s an Alternative to Real ID? «

  8. This is absolutely great. I found some of the responses to it a little historonic to say the least, but that didn’t stop it from being a bad idea.

    Something that does concern me, however, is people taking the wrong sorts of lessons from this. I have no doubt we’ll see attempts to repeat this at every unpopular change that comes along, Like a class nerf to a popular class. I doubt it’ll be as broadreaching, but the attempt’ll still be there.

  9. Tbh I never quite felt like an internet activist. I just wrote about how worried I was because that’s what I use my blog for. An outlet. Therapy. But I suppose every voice counted in the end, even though we’ll never know exactly what was the tipping point for their decision to change their mind on this.

    • Usually the activists are the guys who are organising. But think of it this way:

      1/ did you write about the issue and help publicise it

      2/ did you encourage readers to take part in actions like signing petitions or posting to official complaint threads

      3/ did you help spread the word about how other people were reacting (like stories from newspapers, or posts written by well known bloggers who planned to unsub)

      4/ were your posts linked and used by people who were taking a more activist stance

      I’ve been involved with stuff where all I did was sign a petition, or turn up to a rally and stand at the back (not this week though.) It’s all part of the same milieu really. And think how many more people read your words than if you just posted, “Please don’t do this,” in the 600 page thread …

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