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Jul 06, 2010



I must count myself as one of those isolated commentators, though I believe our numbers are swelling.

Would be correct in saying there is a convergence towards a merging of these before seen games, towards the rightful position , that of one more way we go about our social business, and as such transparency for that is how I see it is paramount.

With regard wannafuck misogyny,could with confidence say it is the very lack of transparency that leads to this behavior, for god forbid we could walk around in our fleshy lives with masks and disguises this behavior would plague us as it does in virtual environments.

Putting my above arguments aside we have the continued increase of usages of virtual currencies within now and future worlds whether as tokens, points or named currencies, and for that reason alone fail to see most Authorities allowing this trade connected to real currencies be unregulated with regard who is moving/earning money and assets.

Great debate right up my alley and thanks for posting.


Interesting question, and I look forward to seeing more debate on the topic.

I worry much less about harassment from fellow game players than I do about non-gamers' reactions to what may be said on forums. Most non-gamers already have some level of difficulty in accepting that "killing" someone in WoW PvP (for example) is not expressing hostility toward THE PERSON any more than saying "We're going to kill (this other team)" indicates an intent toward actual harm in a sports venue.

Admittedly, few non-gamers go to our forums, but will routine web crawlers index these posts with my battle.net ID? Will potential employers not only be able to see frat pics on Facebook but apparently violent posts in WoW forums? It's a changing landscape that makes me wonder that the next risk to our privacy might be.


Two further thoughts. The first is that this kind of shift is a further outgrowth of the kind of near-theological faith that culture is the product of design that Thomas Malaby talks about in his new book on Second Life. It's not just Blizzard: there's a new wave of "eliminate the anonymity, and you eliminate cultural problems on the Internet" thinking going around in a lot of designers' talk. There is certainly something to PvP's famous Greater Internet Fuckwad Theory, but the problem is that the design-centric theories always assume there is a short road between a design choice and a complex cultural formation, and that changing the design choice instantly pivots the complex culture as well. If there's any lesson MMO devs ought to have learned by now, it isn't so, but there you go.

A second thought on the player side: that the collective freakout you're seeing on the WoW official forums, now many hundreds of pages deep, is only partly about Blizzard's decision. It's also about a community that knows full well that it is what it is--that is to say, that within its habitus is a metric shitton of racism, misogyny, immaturity and so on, not to mention a huge amount of posturing and a lot of performative acts of counting coup. The people who dislike or have long complained about those tendencies are worried about being viewed as part of that geist (much as people in any community who don't share its seemingly dominant values are anxious to communicate their dissent and concerned about stereotypes) and the people who have playfully or mischieviously enjoyed the free space of anonymity are worried (probably very rightfully) not just at the loss of a soap box but the possibility of retroactive unmasking. The pragmatic concerns about being named are real, but this is also a kind of complex metadebate about "what are we as a community, anyway, and how did we get this way" which the Real ID puts some fire under.


Well, they've ensured that my family's not coming back to WoW anytime soon with this policy proposal! Harassment is still a problem online as well as the anti-gamer attitude that many in business or academe project. Let's not even talk about how this spoils the whole RP feel of things! So I see only drawbacks, personally, to having my names associated with the game and its forums.

I already have the most boring vanilla FB account in the world, it feels like, because that's my "real world ID" there. I'd hate to feel stifled in game from RPing or PVPing because these aren't "normal" behaviours as someone else sees that.


I think you're attaching far too much self-awareness to the "wannafuck misogyny" crowd - they're not who's concerned by this change. My take on who is recoiling:

* People who are concerned about privacy rights generally and Blizzard's poor record on them specifically (that would be me, waves)

* Women who don't want the attention that is inherent in a gender-skewed forum. An amusing proof of this problem is that in almost every forum I've been involved in (including very specialized professional ones), when profile views are measured, female names are always, by far, at the top of the list. It's not just WoW players that are unrestrained horndogs - it's pretty much males on the Internet in general.

* People who play characters of a different gender.

* People who have a name of obvious ethnicity.

* People who want to maintain a separation between their video game avatars and their real-life selves.

Which of these are not valid concerns?


One of my coworkers pointed out there's also a difference in how much you reveal about yourself depending on how common your name is. The "John Smith" can claim that perhaps that post is a different "John Smith", but if you have a unique name, your ability to claim that was actually someone else drops significantly.

I'm also curious what Blizzard intends to do about name collisions. With their number of active subscribers it is quite likely there are duplicates that are different people.


In December of last year, I distinctly remember sitting in the audience at UC Berkeley's Future of the Forum conference, watching philosopher Bert Dreyfus (of What Computers Still Can't Do fame) fighting a determined rearguard action against the encroaching utopian visions of social media and participatory culture. Nestled among such industry luminaries as Lars Rasmussen of Google Wave and Jimmy Wales of Wikipedia, Dreyfus steadfastly refused to acknowledge the possibility of an online Habermasian public sphere. For Dreyfus, true accountability was simply not possible online, as long as it remained divorced from the body in political and social space.

While I agree that pushing toward an exact convergence of virtual and "real-world" identity is not necessarily the silver bullet for trolling, misogyny, and other maladies of online discourse, let's remind ourselves of the imperfections of the status quo. As a female, minority gamer I'm often bothered as much by inaction, silence, and anonymity as I am by events, outbursts, and invasions of privacy (I'm thinking of Lisa Nakamura's writings in this regard). Playing World of Warcraft, how often have I remained quiet on Ventrilo voice-chat servers, and how often have I ignored the often racist, sexist, homophobic, and xenophobic chatter perpetually reeled out in chat channels? Perhaps Real ID and the controversy it generates provide a vital jolt to our virtual apathy about existing inequalities.


Actually, this has less to do with streamlining social networking thru the games, and more to do with advertising and partnership fees.


This is an article from May. Blizzard and Facebook are now partners.


Perhaps there's a trend now for new institutions to grow up in the space between "real" and "virtual." They participate in both without fitting in either. From this POV, WoW's new policy moves forums out of game space, out of the space of anonymous playing. It doesn't move them all the way into real space, though, since they're still online and a person can still funge much relevant information. The forums are to become a hybrid real/virtual institution.

Judging from the success of social media (which seem plunked squarely in the middle of this space between) it may well be that hybrids are the future.

The plateau of the EQ model (an awesome construction, Tim, to say WoW is both the epitome and the end) has been viewed as a pause in developments. Maybe not. While we've been watching nothing happen there, something more powerful has been happening just beyond the boundary.


I am not directly impacted, as I no longer play WoW. I can attest however that Real ID is a significant impediment to the likelihood of my ever again playing WoW, of DiabloX, or posting on their forums.

I have a very uncommon real name -- sufficiently so that were I to post under it there would be no difficulty whatsoever in tying it to me. I have an internet persona for a reason -- I want my internet postsing to be tied to a consistent persona, but I do not with that persona, nor those postings, to be found by a casual search from a prospective employer, nor a not-so-casual search from a potential stalker to be easily tied back to 'the real me'.

And yes, being openly a female gamer, even middle-aged and married, has resulted in being harassed in games, I can see no reason to make it easy to take it out-of-game.


You know, the funny thing about the internet is that its kind of a big place. If people crave anonymity in posting about WoW, a forum hosting site will arise (or become elevated) to fulfill their needs.

I'm not trying to diminish the significance of this move on Blizzard's part. In fact, if anything I see the potential here to fracture what had previously been a relatively more centralized space for conversations. Those who don't care about Real ID (or otherwise don't stop to question the consequences) keep posting on the official forums, while everyone who's wigged out by it goes and finds somewhere else to continue the party. While there are certainly further reaching implications for Blizz taking this action, the practical consequences seem to me like they'll be kind of minimal in the near term (once everyone settles down).

I do think there's another interesting question here as well. What are the substantives differences between Blizzard advancing a policy like this out of game and making changes in game (e.g. the addition of the dungeon finder)? Another (possibly more fruitful) way to ask that might be how are these sorts of actions similar?


I applaud the move by Blizzard. Anonymity has made the web an ugly place in many corners.

That being said, this is pretty much a non-issue. What likely will happen is a few community run forums will become more popular. The result being the official forums will be a more positive place where real discussion occurs. Trolling will happen on the fan sites.


What seems to have been overlooked in much of the online debate, but seems to concern a few players I have spoken to, is the in-game implementation of RealID.

It seems that you can now see the real name of your 'friends of friends' -- a feature introduced without warning and without an option to disable it (Facebook of course has this, but you can prevent/disable it).

Surely that must also figure into the wider debate about potential privacy violations?


Yes, I think it does, and in a way very similar to the revolt against Facebook a while back. Even if a feature like Real ID is explained as having limits or requiring permissions, the very fact of its existence is seen as a possible precursor to further privacy violations that will be much more involuntary and intrusive. I think this is a pretty reasonable kind of slippery slope argument, in fact, and reflects something of the one-sidedness of the relationship between software developers and web providers and the communities and activities they end up supporting. I'm sympathetic to the people who think this is part of a long series of battles along the barricades--though as with all such battles, you might look around you at your compatriots and find them a pretty mixed lot of idealists and reprobates.


My wife has been cyberstalked by someone who picked up on some random comment she made about liking a particular rock band...this stalker has called her office, called the administrative offices where we work, etc., and so far we have not been able to identify the real identity of the stalker to take legal action.

So Blizzard just made WoW very unattractive to my wife.

@MosesWolfenstein contra to what you claim, you *are* diminishing the changes. Why should someone like my wife have to give more ammunition and sources for her stalker just to ask a technical support question in a game forum? That's ludicrous.

I also had an interesting experience in WoW. My ex-girlfriend who I hadn't talked to in 15 years has by chance been playing on the same server I am on for the last few years without either of us using it. She ran across my blog, where I publicly post about my toons, and said hi.

Now that's cool for me, because I'm fully prepared for the consequences of being uber-transparent in things like this. But Blizzard appears headed toward a Facebook-style forcing that sort of transparency on everyone else. That's an awful, awful decision.


Been a while since I've commented here (although I still read religiously), but in response to:

"I think another thing that's going on, however, is something of a category error. Blizzard is increasingly looking like both like the dominant force in its field and like the last of its kind all at once, a huge success that did not inaugurate but instead capped a particular cultural form. Given the combination of relentless professionalism and market savvy inside the company, I think they must know that as well. So what does the future look like? One answer that's been discussed here at TN and elsewhere is Zynga. The effort to connect World of Warcraft, Starcraft II and future projects with social networking via Real ID seems to me an effort to capture some Zynga-hued lightning in a bottle. The problem as I see it is that casual games on iPhones and Facebook pages are something that many people don't mind having associated with their public lives or reputation capital in part because they're seen as compatible with productive work and with mainstream sociality. World of Warcraft, no matter how streamlined its process of play might become, is not and won't ever be that kind of activity. Joining the office betting pool and going bowling for three hours are intrinsically different things in terms of time and process and compatibility with other activities."

There is speculation that they are going the Free-to-play route that is so incredibly popular (and successful) in the Asian countries and is being rapidly embraced by Western culture. SC2 has already announced as being basically such. Other MMO companies have already taken some of their games that way (see Turbine's DDO and very shortly their LotRO). While they haven't yet said they are dong it with WoW, they have acknowledged that it may be the future of the game:

Blizzard discuss making World of Warcraft free

This whole RealID could be another step toward that point.


First of all: Trolling is a art. ;)

I guess my wish is simple (but then again, perhaps not so simple):

I just want my private life to be private.

I want to keep playing/discussing/working under an alias or anonymously during my free time. Not because I'm afraid of future employers or stalkers (though those are quite valid conserns), but simply because playing WoW is a hobby that lingers on the border between public and private and I would like for it to tip back towards private. Also, to be allowed this privacy without being accused of having something to hide (like wanting to slander, stalk or troll my fellow players).

The lack of active moderation on the public WoW forums have all along supported a need for other foruas to discuss the game. MMO Champion, Elitist Jerks and the WoW.com commentary are just some examples of places that are already highly visited and used because of distaste for how Blizz runs their forums.

It's worth noting that those exact places do succeed in keeping the masses of trolls out, because they opt for the "third way": registered users and heavy moderation.

Removing the right to be anonymous is not the only solution, nor the best.


Karen: Interesting thought.

The North American/European MMO model does seem to be segregating into three business models:

1) WoW's subscriber model: fairly high expenditures on design and live maintenance recouped through high monthly fees paid by large and very brand-loyal user population. EVE is a lower-pop version of the same.
2) Cryptic's model: quickly churn out a seriously underdeveloped product that's attached to an intellectual property with an established (and somewhat MMO-naive) fan population; recoup investment through box sales and two months of subscribers; as subscriber base plummets, remnant revenues through additional paid content. Repeat as necessary to maintain annual revenues.
3) F2P from the outset. So far it seems to me that F2P outside of East Asia has been what MMOs that wanted to be Blizzard do when they fail to be Blizzard; Guild Wars is a notable exception.

Now as to whether Real ID is preparation for Blizzard to go F2P, I'm a bit doubtful. I don't see why they'd want to at the moment: they're having their cake and eating it too, introducing paid content like pets AND collecting a lot of money from subscriptions. But they may be thinking down the line that if no one else is offering a subscription MMO, it may be hard to sustain this combination.

More likely in terms of a business model is a plan to set up Battle.net as a comprehensive portal service like XBox Live for which one pays an overall fee--but I think that's truly a bad idea if that's what they're thinking.


Kristine Ask said, "I guess my wish is simple (but then again, perhaps not so simple): I just want my private life to be private."

Why is posting on a public forum a private act?

Actually, this has less to do with streamlining social networking thru the games, and more to do with advertising and partnership fees.


...the very fact of its existence is seen as a possible precursor to further privacy violations that will be much more involuntary and intrusive.

Some previous changes now take on new meaning. And yet Blizzard/Activision is trying to sell this to us as a way to combat trolls and police the forums. It's deceptive. It reveals who and what we're really dealing with inside the company. That's a real shift in my perspective of Blizzard. I canceled my 3 accounts.

>>I just want my private life to be private.
Why is posting on a public forum a private act?

Who cares. She's a paying customer and she's told us what she wants to get for her money. End of story. No IFs, ANDs, ORs, or BUTs about it. Think of the other companies where paying customers are ignored, how they worked out, and how much you enjoy doing business with them.


Well it seems Blizzard have listened to their customers, and gone back on this policy about 3 days after it was announced. (http://forums.wow-europe.com/thread.html?topicId=13816839821&sid=1)

It seems they're going to stick with the in-game Real ID system however, so we still have the 'friend of friend' exposures, but that is at least less public than the forums.


"The result being the official forums will be a more positive place where real discussion occurs. Trolling will happen on the fan sites."

Unfortunately for your claim, most fansite forums are actually better moderated than Bizzard's is, and they've generally been the better place to go for intelligent discussion as a result. Blizzard's WoW forums are terrible because they are poorly moderated, something that has nothing to do with anonymity vs real names.


If I can indulge my cynicism for a moment, I think the category error I referred to is still very much in force, and because of it not only will the discomfort shown by many players likely remain relevant, but also I fully expect Blizzard to come back and try once again to get the real names of players into various public kinds of circulation, including the forums. One tactic I'd look for is to try and incentive players to buy in to a social networking vision with special pets, mounts, titles and the like, an approach which has worked very well for them in the past (say, in encouraging the use of authenticators).

I don't really get the sense that the drive to reenvision their products as social software has been blunted or rethought.


Two things:

1) The RSS feed for this site has been broken, apparently, for months - so some of us had just assumed it was dead... Fix please someone?

2) http://habitatchronicles.com/2010/07/realid-and-wow-forums-classic-identity-design-mistake/ for my thoughts (and a pointer to a few interviews.) Nothing (traffic-wise) compared to Lum's great posts on this topic, on the WoW boards themselves this was an historic event. Never has there been traffic at these levels. I'm imagining there was a proportional uptick in cancellations, the ultimate signal to management. :-)



Maybe intellectual isolation is causing this abnormal view of humanity as it relates to anonymity. Playing WoW puts you in regular contact with a lot of humanity that doesn't exist in your bricks and mortar gaming life but if you spend time roaming the undesirable areas of the B&M world you will find that you gain experience faster than a Big Blue leveling bot. People act out their inner online anonymity in the real world all the time but some of us exist in environments where this is infrequent or watered down by layers of intellectual protectionism. The common player in WoW may be quite willing to reveal misogyny or racism in a face to face meeting as quickly as they do in general chat.

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