Posting on the Official WoW forums and likely the newer Blizzard forums for games like StarCraft 2 and Diablo 3 will soon show your real name just like it does in-game with the Real ID friend system according to a Blizzard forum post. Below that you’ll have the option to include your character’s name or handle.
Awesome idea. No, that’s not sarcasm. I think it’s a great idea for people to be held accountable for what they say online. All over the internet there are far too many ways for people to hide behind anonymity that allows them to be someone other than the person they would be if their identity were attached.
I have been a forum moderator, assistant site administrator, and worn other hats that have in the past had me dealing with forum trolls. I’ve been able to see their real names, IP addresses, and personal information that the people in the community have not had access to but it has always been against policy to reveal that information — I’ve even moderated on sites that do not let us reveal who the owner of a troll account is even if they’re a prominent member of the community by another name. With a system like Real ID, what you say gets attached to your real name or at least the name you provide which is potentially fake-able, mind you. People will have some level of accountability.
As for a privacy issue, I don’t believe it to be an issue at all. (I will recant this statement. There is a degree of privacy invasion here. To the point of it being an issue or that big of a deal is where I say it’s not that big of a deal). My real name is available all over. In the real world we drop our name wherever we go to strangers we have never met. The business world is all about giving out your name. At game conventions I’ve attended it’s always been a scene of business cards and networking and at most your real name is on your credentials hanging around your neck. Why is it an issue to have your name shown online to a forum? If your address or some other way of locating you were listed then perhaps we would be entering into the realm of privacy issues. (This is where the issues arise with people looking up names and finding addresses.)
Now, if you’re trying to hide the fact that you play video games and post on forums about games and don’t want the Google-foo to find you… can’t help you there.
Update: While I think it is a good idea to remove the anonymity of online forums, I think all good ideas have their limitations. This has gone from a good idea, with great intentions, to an idea that is hated by so many people that is simply can not be good for anyone. Ironically, those who are against real names being used because people will seek out and expose their private information are the ones who are doing it to those who are innocent and undeserving of the invasions. I fully expect Blizzard to withdraw the idea gracefully as it would be the right thing to do under these circumstances. As such, I’ll go ahead and lock the comments section here since I believe we have enough commentary on the subject. One day the world may be ready, but not today.