The battle(.net) for your real name

Blizzard yesterday unveiled their plans for the Real ID features. In the of the future, there are only real names and if you want to chat to people across realms/ games then you will need to use them.

Not only that, but by agreeing to use the Real ID feature (and it will require mutual agreement on a per-person basis) you will also be able to:

  • Check what games your Real ID friends are playing and what they are doing
  • See all of your Real ID friends characters (i.e. all the alts on that account)
  • And obviously, you will be able to see their Real Names ™
  • … Oh and the names of any of their Real ID friends, even if you aren’t mutual Real ID friends with the person yourself.

What could possibly go wrong with this scheme? Surely no one would give our their Real ID unadvisedly. Or seek to harass someone on all their alts after having an argument in game. Or worse, use the real life information for grooming underage kids. (Note: Blizzard do say there are features for allowing parents to control their kids’ access to this feature but we all know that a lot of parents won’t know or care how to use that.)

And, of course, it is going to link in with Facebook.

It’s not quite as bad as it seems at first glance. You can still maintain a second level of in-game friends, similar to your friends list at the moment. You won’t get the cross-game chat but you will be able to see whether they are online before logging in yourself (a useful feature for avoiding annoying people, I find).

Are we seeing the end of virtual identities?

Blizzard alone won’t change the culture of the internet, but there have been stronger and stronger moves towards using real ids online from all the social media sites.

And for those of us who enjoyed being able to be different people online, it’s the beginning of the end of an era. Your boss will know which games you play. Your facebook friends will know the names of the people you play them with.

And all the cries from people who say, “But I liked keeping parts of my life separate!” will be waved aside. Maybe it’s only a matter of time until your in game id will be shown as RealName:CharName … or maybe they’ll just drop the character name and use a randomised number instead.

Maybe we are just the old guard, the people who don’t play with our real life friends because our real life friends don’t play online games. We are the people who made friends through our games because it was the best way to find people with hobbies in common. And those friends never needed to know our real names because they weren’t part of that side of our lives.

Not to mention that many of the real life people we know might not be friends, per se. Family, work colleagues, co-hobbyists from completely different hobbies – in real life, they don’t need to all know what we do in every minute of our free time. But online, because it suits the advertisers and marketeers to be able to know this, everyone else needs to know it too.

I blame the culture of F2P. Nothing is ever free. And those people who are paying via adverts want to know your name, where you live, what you do in your free time, and anything else about you that they can use for marketing purposes. And they are driving the social networking trends, because they are paying for them.

And finally, real names are nice and all. I like mine. But there are a zillion other people in the world called Jo Ramsay, and the virtual id is still useful to figure out which one of them is me.

38 thoughts on “The battle(.net) for your real name

  1. I can’t be really upset about it. But then I don’t have any Facebook page and won’t have any reason whatsoever to hae any RealID relations in the game. So I’ll stay under cover, known to noone and it’s business as usual. On the other hand if they’d make it mandatory – then I’d probably quit. But I can’t see any reason why they would.

    • Yep, that’s pretty much me as well. I’m lucky to not have any friends anyway, and even luckier to not have a facebook page.

      And to some comments below, particularly @ Uzi, state law governs employment law in the US of A. The state I live in, for example, is an “At Will” state, which means that your boss doesn’t even have to give you a reason why he fired you. Specific employment contacts can overwrite at will laws if both parties agree to it. There are many “At Will” states, but not all. I don’t know about government contracts, however, sorry.

  2. Like you, I’m not really bothered about using my real name but I also have a relatively common name (although I suspect girl’s names might be easier to snag :p). I do worry about younger children though (and by younger I mean early teens.. ) as I have always told child not to use her real name or anything close to it in games she plays.
    I’m not overly keen on linking with facebook, only because I get utterly sick of farmville etc updates from friends and don’t want to be that annoying person!

  3. Problem is, not so long ago I kept my identity strictly secret, no one knew my name, what I am doing for living, or where I live. I liked it, and thou at some point I decided, that a little bit more openess will be ok, it was decision made after 3 or so years of play.
    Now, my name is unique enough, and I am “visible” enough to generate quite alot of hits in simple Google search, almost all pointing to me and my work. I don’t mind sharing this info with friends, but if/when RealID becomes mandatory for raiding groups, raiding is over for me, because I like my privacy.
    Another thing, I keep my horde and alliance identities separate – I don’t raid on both, I just like to “chill out” on my horde character (and used to PuG on him before GS craze) but I’d rather keep my hordie secret from everyone.
    Overall, I like multirealm/game functionality, and as long is it won’t become mandatory to play, I am almost ok with it. But uh, just like with Armory, I have serious doubts.

  4. I read the whole facebook thing as being optional. I like rolling an alt nobody knows about and just level away freely. i like not having my mom not knowing that im playing videogames instead of producing her a grandchild (seriously, do not get married ever, oh the expectations).
    I like keeping my gaming world separate from my real world, like you said, I like logging on and not being myself, but being a dwarf Death knight who slays kings n dragons. Hopefully this will come with various levels of “friendship” so that I get to decide who will be allowed to see what about me.

  5. Can’t say I like the idea that my boss could be seeing me log into WoW at 3am on a work night.

    Well, this settles the question for me of whether mentioning games at work is doable – it’s not unless I want anyone I work with to know I spent 40 hours in Eve last week or whatever.

    My official hobbies are now reading and philosophy.

  6. This system can easily be abused, and it is only the top of Blizzard giving a damn or being totally oblivious about anything related to the term “privacy”.

    I want to play Diablo 3 and wanted to try StarCraft 2 which I am not that much interested in. With this system in place, I will for sure not bother to buy StarCraft 2 at all.

    I will have to do some more research, I guess playing Diablo 3 in offline mode (just the campaign) will be no problem.

    I am looking forward to the day a personnel manager just surfs to my Facebook page and determines I am playing by far too much (insert contemporary MMO) to get promoted or hired. :>

    Or my significant other tracks my facebook page, notices and worries I did not play a MMO at night as I do usually and goes on to check the identitites and locations of all my linked female buddies on Facebook?

    I also can put it bluntly and say for whatever possible reasons, the ability to stay anonymous and/or use a handle of the internet is very important to me. Marketing is tracking my habits already more than I want them to.

      • You are right. They will want me to log in to just to play the game, even if I play it all alone (very good copy protection).

        I am so looking forward to informing all my friends when I play and vice versa. Sigh…

  7. Yeah, we may see the end of the virtual identity creeping up, but maybe, just maybe, that will help to fight off trolls a bit?

    I’m with you on the common name thing… My name is Richard Watson. I think everyone here knows at least two Richard Watson’s. Upshot is that no matter how hard someone tries, they won’t be able to dig through the 83 pages of google results before they find something about this Richard Watson 😉

    • Lucky You!
      My name is unique enough to get exaclty 8 hits when paranthesed, all directly pointing to me. Doesn’t matter, that nothing displayed thereis probllematic NOW.
      Privacy is important. Nothing except WW3+ is able to erase anything ever released to the internet. Who knows, how long massive gaming stays legal or isn’t considered a mental illness, even if done in the past.

  8. I do think at the very least they will need to put in a switch to let you choose whether or nor your friends can share your Real ID or not.

    I mean, I could easily imagine hardcore raid groups deciding to share each other’s Real ID so as to get hold of people if they need them. But that means that if I am friends with someone who is in one of those guilds (and share Real IDs with them), their entire guild might have access to my ID whether I want it or not.

  9. Imagine that you are sick for a week. Next Monday you show up at work and your boss awaits you with a filled “you are fired” document. Why? Because he saw you did daily HC on your armory feed, and due to your real name he can find your character.

    • If you’re boss fires you exause you were sick for three days and during your recovery time you decided to play a game, you have an excellent case for a wrongful termination suit! In which case, you can continue to play games while filtching fom your earnings from said suit.

      Not to mention that if you are off for three days in a row, you should have a doctor’s note. Even then, there is a level of expected activity that occurs dying sikness periods. Watching TV, playing games, reading, those are all normal things to do while sick because they don’t require you to leave the house.

      Saying something like that is about as tin-hattish as saying your boss would fire you for being on Facebook on your sick day… Theoretically /could/ happen, but realistically won’t because people are generally not that ignorant.

      • I would prefer not to file suit and all that just because I played a game while being sick.

        Sometimes people just look for an excuse to fire someone, and Facebook delivers them the ammunition.

      • Depends on your contract and local employment law.

        A Brit for example can self cert as sick for up to 7 calender days with no doctors note. At that point a employer would basicaly have no case. If however certified by a doctor on day 8 as unable to use computer equipment then the employer certainly would if that person continued to use their account. Although ‘my kid brother shares my account/I was hacked guv’ would be a excellent defense.

        In the US of A if your contract is ‘at will’ your employer can fire you just becuase you play WoW, smoke, ‘your face doesnt fit’ etc etc. As I understand it most US non govermental employees are on ‘at will’ contracts. Please correct me if I’m wrong someone.

        The Gawds of t’internet alone know whats legal in China/Sweden/any other place.

  10. My concern is not so much that this exists, but that people will sign up for it without realizing the ramifications.

    They may not realize that giving out an e-mail address that does not contain their real name might expose their real name (hell, I give out my non-real e-mail address all the time, on the blog, etc without any danger of exposing my real name.)

    They may not realize that friending someone exposes your real name to all their friends. You could friend someone totally “safe” like your cousin, but if your cousin irresponsibly friends people, then your name is very much OUT THERE.

    In a perfect world where everyone read and understood the fine print, this would work great. But in the real world we all scroll through the Eula saying “yeah yeah whatever, get me to the character screen.” I worry about bad results through acts of ignorance.

      • *chuckle* Aye, it just looked funny.

        The social networking stuff really doesn’t work for me. I was dragged kicking and screaming into Facebook, and to date, it’s still just something I maintain as a tool in case I need to find a new job. I *like* that I’m pretty much anonymous to anyone who lives more than a mile or so away from me. I think it’s healthy.

  11. We seemed to be getting paranoid over something that is entirely optional. *I don’t believe Blizz is forcing anyone to use this. And I personally will not be using it. Unless folks here know something differently, I’m not going to worry too much about it.

    *Qualifiication: If you guys decide to use it…your concerns maybe valid. But that’s the risk you guys will be taking when signing on to it. I highly recommend you don’t if any of you value privacy. You can always message your friends if you’re that desperate to stay intouch.

    • I agree that it’s optional, and the default is to not participate. However, I think people may not be well-informed and opt-in without knowing all the details. We can’t protect people from stupid decisions, but I wouldn’t mind a few more safeguards in place since we do know that there are ALWAYS people who are going to make decisions without doing any research or reading.

  12. Are we seeing the end of virtual identities?

    God I hope so. A virtual identity allows people, and teaches kids, to run around and treat other virtual identities like douche bags without any social repercussions. If it doesn’t lead to IRL douchebaggery, it probably should.

    Do you really care if your guildies know your real name is Keith? Would it really spoil that magical immersion spell?

    That whole virtual identity thing is stupid and needs to go away. Basement gamers need to rise up and show us who they are! Power to the DeathKnights named Keith! Wear your GearScore proudly on your chest!

    TBH, your post sounds a lot like a 20/20 expose about the hidden dangers of MMO’s. “Parents take warning, your kids/brothers/husbands/wives may be playing online computer games with ACTUAL people!!”

    • Well, is Bristal your real name? It may well be that in a year or so, this will look very old fashioned, true. But internet handles have been part of online interaction since .. well … the beginning of the internet. If that’s changing, it’s a big change. and still won’t solve the problem of multiple people with the same name.

  13. It had BETTER be optional. I would rather deal with the multitude of anonymous floor lickers than have to worry that I could be stalked by some irate nutcase.

    When I log in to my bank, my investment sites and my employers website, of course I use my real ID, because the actions I take on those sites have real world implications.

    WoW is a game. There are no real world implications, and any in-game interactions need to stay that way, unless I specifically work with someone to change that.

    The really strange thing is that I’ve been SlikRX for a decade or so, and many of my RL friends thart I’ve met online refer to me as Slik, not my real name (Jeff)

    Maybe I’m odd, but to me, my online persona is in some ways more “me” than the name my folks gave me. True, there is no inherent power/magic in knowing a person’s name, but ID theft and other RL douchebaggery often ensues when real identites intertwine online.

    I don’t use my real name on Facebook for many of the reasons people WANT to. *shrug*

    I certainly wouldn’t trust Blizzard/Activision to have proper safeguards in place…. names, creditcard info all attached to my real name and online identities? No thank you…

  14. Yet another reason to delete my Facebook account. I have absolutely no objections to people knowing my real name (it’s Sara Spaulding), but I hate the idea of people who only marginally know me tracking my every move on the internet.

    Is it tin hat? Some might think it’s pretty egotistical to think that people care what I’m up to every minute of the day… but Facebook has proved just that. Even my FATHER checks in five or six times a day to monitor the routine daily activities of people he hasn’t seen in forty years. So yeah, people are watching you.

    I don’t care who’s playing Diablo or Starcraft. So I’ll skip RealID for WoW purposes. I don’t need real names to have real friends.

  15. Ouch. Oh dear. I am staunchly against all this social networking crap but sometimes it catches up with me regardless. I don’t know why there is such interest (such perceived interest?) in everybody knowing what everybody else is doing all the time. *grumble* In 5 years time I’m clearly going to be living in a cave somewhere…

      • The trend is because people want to sell stuff and will buy our personal information to help them do that.

        For example if they know if you’re single they can push those annoying “in your area” ads at you. If they know you play MMOs they can push Allods or Champions Online ads at you.

        It’s like the new Like feature you see on some blogs. It’s there to help marketers figure out how to spam you.

  16. I’m maybe…a little disappointed in some of this. Not up in arms or anything, but I guess I was hoping for something less comprehensive. I’m leaving WoW when SC2 comes out and I have always liked the idea of still being able to talk to my WoW playing friends. But if the only way to do that is to expose myself to this degree, I guess I’ll have to pass. I don’t even want to give my realID to people I know in real life, not if it means they can always tell exactly what I’m doing (albeit only when I’m playing a Blizzard game).

    I was hoping more for a system where chat channels were all on the servers and I could, say, join my WoW guild’s guild chat even while playing SC2 (or Diablo 3 eventually).

  17. Pingback: and RealID « Love and War in Azeroth

  18. How about making an all new facebook page with a gimmick name, and then tie that into the account? At least it would give you some privacy if you have a main facebook account.

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