Last Tuesday, July 6, Blizzard president Mike Morhaine announced on the company’s official forums that “in the near future, anyone posting or replying to a post on official Blizzard forums will be doing so using their Real ID–that is, their real-life first and last name–with the option to also display the name of their primary in-game character alongside it.”
The response was fascinating…and a little hard to gauge, given the observational undependability of the very medium Blizzard was poking with a stick. Scanning responses to Morhaine’s missive turned up a majority pillorying the decision, only a handful defending it, and perhaps a handful more shrugging it off or just joking around.
Blizzard’s unexpected reaction only three days later was unmitigated capitulation.
“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,” wrote Morhaine in a followup forum post last Friday, July 9. “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.
The media predictably had a ball, providing Google News with grist to churn all last week, through the weekend, on into today.
“Fortunately for all the people with very unique names, all the underage players, all the female gamers who don’t want to be harassed and e-stalked, and all the people who share WoW accounts with others in their household, they won’t have to put their identities on the line just to post about their epic loot or tech Zerg rush strategy.”
“It’s clear that Blizzard doesn’t give a toss if your feelings are hurt in this whole situation, and nor should they,” wrote Deleon in response to Blizzard’s initial dispatch.
“If requiring people to use their real name helps cut down on the amount of utter nonsense that goes on in those forums–the forums are completely unreadable on Tuesdays when the servers are down for maintenance–then so be it.”
Of the three, I identify most with Deleon, but that’s because I’m comfortable (and actually prefer) putting my real name out there. On the other hand, I’d never presume that’s how it ought to be for everyone, and neither should Blizzard.
Blizzard’s best bet going forward with Real ID? Keep it optional, as in opt-in (and not opt-out). Everyone gets what they want, in terms of identity and privacy, and if that means Blizzard’s boards occasionally degenerate into puerility, remember: You can always find more sophisticated spots to hang your hat, anonymous or no.