Real names on Blizzard Forums

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.

  • Say your 5-man is hopeless. You bail, re-queue, and go for a fresh drink. Then the phone rings. Your kid answers and gets an earful of colorful names from the tank whom you let die because he was a moron.

    This MIGHT encourage some borderline or occasional trolls to behave better on the forums. It WILL encourage some borderline nutballs to engage in real-life harassment.

  • I’m confused… how did you make the jump from having your real name shown on forums to getting phone calls from PUGs?

  • I hope none of you have facebook, myspace or email accounts with your names on them.

    If so, people will call you!

    Its just your name. Its not your entire bio and life story.

  • The last line in the post is the problem. Most RL workplaces still frown on gaming – many prospective employers or potential clients would turn down applicants or vendors who are known to be gamers or bloggers or etc. It is a fairly draconian method to kill trolling.

    And it absolutely will make e-stalking easier, sadly.

  • I’m not really a fan of this change because I would rather not share my real name with all of the interwebz. Yes it’s not really a big deal but gaming is gaming and that’s all I want it to be, I don’t feel like I have to put my name as my online handle or else I would. Again keen is right they won’t be able to find out out of the millions of other people that have your name unless they look up your IP which they really can’t through wow or anything, at least I don’t think.

  • wow I read the forum post after reading your post keen. People are PISSED like half of the people posting are saying they are going to quit, and even if that doesn’t happen a lot of people will stop posting on the forums because they don’t want there real name out there.

  • Watch out for 4chan people. They play WoW too and if you tick them off enough, they have the means to find your phone number, address, etc. Even for less talented and malicious people, it’s not really hard to find your personal information as long as you are willing to shell out a few bucks and can attain the person’s ip address for their general location.

    I believe it’s best to leave as much personal information from the public view as you can as a preventive measure from harassment and identity theft. The more you put out there, the more risk you take. As for facebook and myspace, yes the websites can be hacked just as all websites can. You don’t really need to have a facebook or myspace account to be in jeopardy. Banks and other institutions you can access online have back doors that can be exposed as well. Why do you think you keep reading about 100,000+ people’s personal information has been stolen from such and such? They aren’t just from lost backup tapes.

    It is all about being as secure as you can be regardless of how harmless personal information may seem. And if that means not posting in the forums to put your real name out there or using a falsified name with Blizzard, then so be it.

  • It is very easy to find out personal info on the web, especially if you have a few additional identifiers such as hometown, profession, hobbies, which can easily drop into casual convos; try searching for your name and see the variety of relatively low cost services that are offered to track it down; it gets worse the loder you are as you accumulate past affliations/identifiers. Bad idea…

    They will change it secondary to a community uproar, or potentially after a legal privacy challenge following first the first stalker incident.

    It is easy as guys to say no big deal, but women get harassed enough as it is in game; I played a female toon that I was using to level a girlfriend up, and it really opens one’s eyes up to the degree of sexually abusive players out there.

    In any case, it is almost less important whether you believe that it will be easy to track down a person’s identity, as perception is an individual’s reality; I don’t care to share this info with others, as I see privacy as a right in our society. I would predict that the female community will react the most strongly against this, which could lead to a decrease of female player base.

  • Why would having your real name there stop trolling? If Blizzard thinks it’s not a privacy concern the real name should do nothing to stop trolls from doing what they do. In reality, your real name can be disastrous in the hands of some 4chan lurker or similar cretin. That is why trolling will lessen: the fear of your privacy being compromised. What a horrendous idea. It doesn’t affect me at all because I never use the forums, but it’s still a bad idea.

  • I hope no one has employers that google them and come up with WoW forums posts and decide not to hire you because they know mmos are time consuming and you might post at work and not work late to go raid. People already discriminate this way.

  • I’m going to take a quick google scan and guesstimate this is you?

    (Yes, Thallis posted my address because of my registrar not keeping it private. Going to remove the info posted in this comment. You have good Google-Foo. -Keen)

  • “I’m confused… how did you make the jump from having your real name shown on forums to getting phone calls from PUGs?”

    My real name is unique. I guarantee you I am the only person in the world with this name. If I post on the forums, it’s a cakewalk to find my home phone number and address.

    My wife runs a guild and leads raids and frequently uses the forums to update recruitment status or drum up PUG raiders when needed. She cannot do this without effectively revealing her position on Google Maps.

    Blizzard argues that this will increase accountability, but the way I see it, it only increases accountability for those who are willing to use “I know where you live…” as a means of coercion.

  • My info is available due to a lapse in my registrar’s duty to keep my information private — a problem for them which I have already put in a call to address.

    So yes, while you’re easily able to do a whois on my domain and get my information from a few websites this is not indicative of the majority. Additionally, I put this information out there and in doing so have accepted the risk as most all of you do.

    If one good thing has come from this already it’s that I’ve been made aware of a problem with my domain name host.

    I still like the idea, however I can also see why people are legitimately not wanting their name out there. I do not consider a name to be private information, but I do see the absolute need for a better solution that doesn’t make people so angry. For me it’s not a big deal.

  • Keen,

    I didn’t get your info from your whois, the two I tried both showed it protected.

    I got it from a website called spokeo.com. Though they didn’t have your phone number, and listed you at 40+, I still figured it was you.

  • Clearly Keen has not been following the Google Buzz “fiasco”. And that did not even reveal your real name to the public, but it did reveal who you associate or communicate with. The term “e-stalkers” is not nearly being used enough it seems.

  • ^^^^^
    Same here. I also have a business that can easily found by googling my name. Do I want some half wit posting aweful reviews of my services on Merchantcircle just because he/she disagrees with a point I’m making on some game balance issue?

  • Well, I will say that you have a valid reason Coppertopper. If your business would be sensitive to online trolling then I think you might have one of the few reasons that I would respect opting to have a name hidden.

    When it comes down to it, I do not think having a name visible is by itself a bad thing. That information is simply public whether you like it or not. The fact that it’s being blended with a hobby like MMO gaming is causing rifts.

  • You have to look at both sides of the coin here. People hide behind the internet. They may not do something malicious when meeting you in person but knowing your name over the net.. People will h act as they always do when they can hide behind that computer.

    One thing that bothers me with Real ID to begin with is sharing personal account information with everyone you add (and now the forums). Your account email address and your name. I’m very big on account security and this seems the stupidest idea yet- adding real names and email into the picture.

  • I am not sure about this. My personal reason is that my name is very unique, to the tune of I will bet there aren’t more than 4 or 5 people who have my first and last name in all of the US. The reason i say that is it would be very east to RL grief someone. Someone could run an easy check on Google and come up with exactly where i live without much trouble. If my name was Joe Smith, i wouldn’t mind as you would not be able to know WHICH Joe Smith i am, just that it is my real name.

    This has less to do with me trolling, which i don’t, its just that in this day and age, the less people who have my name the better. I have no problem with people i know knowing my name, but completely random strangers i will pass on.

  • “When it comes down to it, I do not think having a name visible is by itself a bad thing. That information is simply public whether you like it or not. The fact that it’s being blended with a hobby like MMO gaming is causing rifts.”

    Exactly. For a 20 something blogger who doesn’t mind, it’s not a big deal and nice to stop the trolls (which it won’t). For many, many others, it simply kills the forums.

  • I’ll recant the statement that it doesn’t involve privacy issues. I suppose that it has been proven it does indeed bring some to light when you’re as exposed as I am — something that I opted into by having a website and getting that info out there.

    The idea of accountability and the removal of anonymity is still important. Important enough to piss off this many people? Nah. It’s a losing battle and not worth fighting. Blizzard should just cave on it.

    Good idea, and I think Blizzard had good intentions beyond exposing the trolls, but in the end just not worth it.

  • Someone brought this up on the Ars article they ran:

    “Is Starcraft 2 age 13+ or 17+ ? Either way, no one under 18 should ever be forced to sign their real name to anything on the Internet.”

  • I understand the intention that Blizz has in this, but has anyone ever been to a forum that is helpful and has no trolls? I understand that does not mean that because it hasnt happened it never will, and you should never try, but I do not think this is the method to help.

    The other thing is what is to stop people from just using pseudonyms to create their accounts and being equally anonymous. Instead of being a helpful place you will weed out the people who want to post something constructive because they dont want 96 twelve year olds to know their name, and two steps closer to hacking an account or stealing an identity.

    Why not instead need to pass a review of some sort. Have staggered tiers of forums that you can access, and peer reviews, or thumbs up allow you to monitor who can access what. Blizz can afford a few people who swing a ban hammer, and if you troll or flame, you get dropped a peg. The BLues would then simply post in the upper echelon forums and leave the trolls and flamers to the dregs of the forums where it doesnt affect the ones who are trying.

    The approach they are taking is making the assumption you can reform everyone, instead of punishing those who deserve it. By that logic Blizz would rather put ankle bracelets on everyone because some cant behave. Or Jail everyone because the scum cant stay clean, so everyone suffers. This is what is called the proverbial slippery slope, and if it sees the light of day i would be amazed.

    Having friends that you accept knowing you name i dont see as a problem personally, you are in control of who has what information.

  • Another good take from MMO champ comments:

    I won’t be using the WoW Forums after that change goes through. It’s not that I’m paranoid or anything, it’s just not worth the potential risk of someone disagreeing with my post, finding me on LinkedIn and sending God-knows-what to all of my professional references, clients and employers.

  • @Sleepysam: Yeah, that’s true too. It speaks to the problems with a site like LinkedIn though and all of these social networking websites.

    @SardonicGamer: There are good forums out there. They’re not good because they have any anti-troll measures that others lack though either. Blizzard could do with some good old heavy handed forum moderating anyway.

  • I think it’s beyond overkill and not that I play wow or posted on the forums when I did but still it’s a horrible idea for a variety of reasons not the least of which is kids having their names thrown around in a place like that.

    As was said before Keen you are a blogger and certain things are just different with you from kids or the average Joe like me. I don’t even like the idea of my full name being on friends lists much less on forums.

  • Let me put it quite simply.

    There is a reason that I reason I rip out all of my account details and names before I put stuff in the recycle bin. It’s called identity fraud. I go out of my way to make it difficult to find my details. This is a game we are talking about here, the only details I want it to hold, are those which validate my identity to blizzard. Of which I imagine those will now become available with some software to cross reference with addresses.

    Actually I think it’s a great idea, since this change will provide a willing pool of idiots to be ripped off.

    To be honest, this will probably effect my decision to buy Starcraft 2 and Diablo 3.

  • I think Blizzard are starting to lose the plot. It kind of falls into the same category as Apples decision to tie MoblieGo and allowing Itunes purchasing.

  • You are not forced into posting on the forums, so just don’t. This is for Starcraft II and future forums. The old forums are not being converted at this time.

    Just don’t post. Its not a god given right to be able to post anonymously.

  • I’m noticing a lot of people mention Identity Theft. I think that’s overreacting. I’ll concede the privacy issue but identity theft with just a name is silly.

  • There are a lot of employers that don’t hire or fire people who participate in WoW or other MMO’s because of the mainstream stigma that they are addictive and distracting. I myself won’t be posting on their forums if I ever do return to WoW,

  • This is an interesting resource if you are curious about the uniqueness of your name, and your likelihood of being found: howmanyofme.com.

    For me it says: “There are 1 or fewer people with your name in the USA.” I hope it is not “fewer.”

  • I see and agree with most of your points, Keen. I wanted to toss my own two cents in regarding identity theft. I worked at a Chase Bank call center that handled, amongst other things, fraud claims. With just a name, it’s unlikely your identity will be stolen. However, it’s absolutely possible that if someone were to get your address along with that, that they could sign up for services in their name. It’s also possible to buy products using a CoD option or an account number spoof. It doesn’t apply to everyone, but it does apply to anyone who can be looked up in online phone books.

    I think that the majority of gamers will be fine. Sooner or later, though, someone will be the victim of harassment, e-stalking, or *something*. All it takes is one weirdo.

    Case and point: Man Spends Six Months Plotting Murder Of Counter-Strike Rival

  • The official WoW forums are one of the dumbest places on the internet. Holding people accountable (and keeping them from using low-level trolls) is a long time coming

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