Blizzard's Real Name Forum Policy Has Fans In An Uproar

Blizzard's decision to use players' real first and last names in the StarCraft II and World of Warcraft forums draws strong negative reactions from fans. Why are they so upset? Let's take a look.

Blizzard posted the news yesterday in its official forums that, come the launch of StarCraft II's new community site prior to the game's release, all posts on the new forums would be accompanied by the real first and last name on the Battle.net account of the player. The new World of Warcraft forums launching with the upcoming Cataclysm expansion would share this new functionality.

According to Blizzard, using real names will help foster a more meaningful gaming community where long-lasting friendships can be formed. It sounds like a pleasant enough idea.

One Blizzard player who contacted me via email said the new policy had him and his friends feeling akin to "a Jew in Poland circa 1939-1940".

After a bit of email back and forth he did admit that the statement was alarmist, but his concerns echoed those of many a Blizzard player contributing to the original forum thread, as well as the companion thread on the World of Warcraft forums, now more than 1000 pages long.

He's worried about stalking; that the fringe elements that play World of Warcraft will get a hold of his name or those of his friends and use the information to track them down and do them harm.

Some of the responses are silly.

I'm in witness protection for testifying in a trial that sent a man to death, and his family swore to send me to my death too, so I will be deleting every single post I've ever made in FEAR for MY VERY LIFE.

Right. The first rule of Witness Protection Club is you do not talk about Witness Protection Club.

Still many play on the fear that giving out your real name will make you a target.

Forcing people to reveal their real names just opens you guys up to a gigantic liability when people start getting stalked, harassed, pedofiled, etc etc etc because YOU forced this change on us. What about all the under 13 players? They're not going to be able to post at all or are you guys now giving out the names of kids? I cannot believe this got a pass from your legal department.

It bears noting that a child under 13 cannot create a Battle.net account without a parent or guardian, and that account will be in the parent's name. Parental controls will be in place to allow adults to keep their children from posting on the forums. If I had a child, I wouldn't let him within 100 metres of an internet forum in the first place.

But this isn't just about the children. It's also about being female.

Another thing that bothers me about this is that I don't always want people to know I'm female when I post on threads. I don't want to be judged because I'm female and I bet I could guarantee Facebook requests if I posted and people saw my real name. My name is unique and it wouldn't be hard to find me.

Many female players voice similar concerns. They talk of the dangers of being a woman on the internet, the chance of becoming the target of a crazed stalker, and the fact that from a young age, women are conditioned to guard their personal information in regards to the internet.

Some even voice concerns that their employer or customers will find out they are gamers and shun them. Kotaku reader Blarg Me emailed me to tell me about one such case.

I've already heard MASSIVE retaliation, including a friend of mine who is a longtime player who's close to becoming a doctor, who is now going to quit because of this. Why? Well, all it takes is someone in a hospital looking his info up on the internet to find out he's a WoW player, and with a lot of people still viewing gaming as immature, etc.. well, yeah. And I mean, he's played since day 1 and has dozens of characters at max level.

Many forum posters echo this sentiment, often giving out far too much information in the process.

I'm 29, a former Marine, currently finishing college and self-employed as a gem and jewelry seller. In the adult world playing WoW or any other online game carries a certain negative stigma, so my family and most of my friends don't know that I play.

The complaints go on and on. Some people simply prefer to keep their information private. Others enjoy maintaining an online persona separate from real life.

For all the negative reactions, there are many who stand behind Blizzard's decision, excited about the possibility of a forum experience free from anonymity.

Why are people so paranoid? Just because you will know my name doesn't mean you will be able to know where I live, work etc. Unless you work for the government, I doubt anyone will know any more than your name. Yes people could look you up on Facebook/MySpace, but you shouldn't have your address or phone number on there anyways. Set those social networking sites to private and you have nothing to worry about. I think a lot of people are worried because people will be able to see every post you have written (Oh no! I can't hide anymore.) Post constructively or don't post at all.

The word "paranoid" is getting a lot of use from both sides of the argument.

Hopefully my post history is obliterated with the forum changeover, too. I'm kind of paranoid.

Worried fans should rest easy. Blizzard has stated that the new forums will be just that - brand new. The changes will not (and cannot, due to previous versions of the forum rules) be retroactive.

Despite the varied reactions and differing arguments, the fan reaction can be boiled down to this: Those against the move won't be posting any more once the changes go into effect, and those for it won't be sad to see them go.

So how do I feel about the change? I'm probably not the right person to ask.

My name is all over the internet as it is, and once you separate me from the former Mayor of Omaha, Nebraska and that one photographer, tracking me down isn't that hard. Typing my main character name (Rande) and server (Ysera) into a search engine will bring you to Kotaku within three or so entries, so my internet anonymity is already shot.

Does your first and last name really hold so much power?


Comments

    Mine does, that's why I've gone to every effort to keep it off the net. There were two entries that came up through a google search, but thankfully they've both finally fallen off the edge of google. I probably wouldn't mind if it was just something like John Smith, but like that female player that got quoted, mine is pretty unique.

    That said, I've never and will never play WoW so thankfully this won't affect me at all :P But still, I sympathise.

    People need to have a can of cement and harden the fudge up.

    If you don't want your real name displayed it's simple: Don't post on the Blizzard forums and don't use RealID!

    Even if they do have your real name, what are they going to do? Look up your name in the white pages and ring every single bloody person?
    If your that paranoid, get off the net.

    Derps

    I post with my full name, but I'd understand why people would not want to.
    Change, people, it's the 21st century, and stuff.

    This change isn't preventing you from playing the game at all, it's a change to the forums. If you don't like having you real name appear on these forums, it's pretty simple, use another forum!

    They can. If I google my name all results point directly to me. I am not being funny, I just did it to be sure and yes it is the case.
    Why should strangers on the internet need my name?

    Blizzard say this is to create a more tightknit comunity, but in reality it will simply splinter the community. If games start showing real names people will stop playing and find a different game, the forums doing this, will simply have players post on external forums instead, or (as I plan to try and do) Change their Battle.Net account name to something fabricated. That's right, more anonymity.
    I don't play WOW, but do have SCII SE on pre-order, so if I can't change my account name, I will just delete it and create a new one.

    (And yes I am quite aware that this is likely to be against their ToS, but I honestly don't care, so see no reason to give strangers my actual name within a forum.)

    These forums aren't anonymous you use the same unique handle every post, for online gaming purposes this is more than enough to create a "meaningful gaming community where long-lasting friendships can be formed", As WwO-ers (I do know some) do know some others real names and may even meet up with them, this doesn't mean they want to broadcast their real name to any-one and every-one.

    I share my name with a rather famous script writer. Maybe he'll be getting asked how often he plays SC2 or WoW if I post in the new forums. Then they'll have to track me down and ask me how wonderful it is to share my name with someone famous. I'll end up famous for 30 seconds then it'll die down again.

    I won't post on the forums anymore because of this. However I aknowledge that the forums are a hot mess and this is a really proactive step by Blizzard. I think it is a good idea, and yeah anyone uncomfortable with their personal details getting out there, or even just revealing their real name when partaking in their fantasy past time, should just leave the forum.

    It wouldn't bother me a great deal, but I sympathise with the people worried about stalkers.
    I've had enough friends bothered by such people to know that they're not something to take lightly.

    It's only going to effect the forum trolls now. They cant post anonymously anymore! Heaven forbid.

    If they are worried about facebook invites, then why don't they ignore everyone that put a request in, it's not that difficult. It would probably just impact their farmville time.

      one of my ex's who used to play WoW quit because a bunch of the players in the guild found out her real name and decided they all wanted to add her on facebook she didnt accept and they abused the shit out of her till she quit a couple of weeks later

      there was no problem they knew she was a girl from vent but once they knew her name they turned on her pretty quickly

    It would stop trolling and flame wars, hiding behind an alias makes people feel more invincible that they can say and do what ever they want without consequences. Where as real names it feels abit more personal and that you would act and behave like you would in person. Elsejust don't troll, flame people, post negative/abusive comments then it should be fine and with FB stalking, I think theres options for those to block out or hide your page from public search.

    It's a simple matter of: If you don't want the attention, don't post.

    I don't really care if people know who I am. I've got nothing to hide, and no reason to.

    If you've got a Facebook account then you're already vulnerable to the issues your paranoid delusions have you worried about with RealID.

    People who are worried about stalkers really need to get over themselves. And people who have already been stalked; that was before RealID, so obviously Blizzard aren't doing anything new.

      if i still played id be less worried about stalkers and more the crazy people who decide that because ive defeated them in a duel or whateva they must come and hurt me

      happend in CS:S and other cases of it and thats when most people have a alias imo its causing alot of trouble for not much gain(if instead they tied the accounts to an overname based on your battlenet account would probably work better

      oh and for those who think theyll be no trolls with a gamecard from memory you wouldnt be using your real name on account of credit card so you could set it as Richie Rich and you could troll all you want

      surely you make it that to post on the forums you need a battlenet account with an active wow account beyond the trial and if you start trolling heaps you get ban hammered

    I don't use the WoW forums a lot because they are a zoo. I probably will use them a bit more now BUT I will be very careful about what I say. I couldn't give a rats if people know I play the game, but I definitely want to make sure about what I say there in future. I admit that sometimes I can be troll-bait and that some of my impassioned and occasionally hot-headed replies get the better of me. I just don't want them to come back to bite me in the future.

    A bit of self editing won't hurt. ;)

    This reminds me of just before the South Australian Election where Atkinson introduced legislation making it illegal to post anonymous posts on online forums.

    There was an outcry about the move and how it meant the police/government could monitor dissent to the political elite. Incidently, didn't Kotaku side with those against the idea?

    Then there is the case from Korea (off memory, or was it the US?) where some guy tracked down another player who had killed their online character and stabbed them.

    Sometimes, there is such as a thing as "Too much information"

    The forum, the only place full names would be displayed , is seperate from Blizzard's games.
    While players have the option of displaying their avatars olongside their name, it is just that, an option.
    For those with concerns about being hunted down, realise the forum is a worldwide application and, if you have an internationally unique name, then kudos to you/shame on your parents and consider not posting on the forums or finding another way to contribute.
    And that relies on you being definitively identified as the same person.

    My name is kind of rare/unusual (though shared with a hollywood special effects crewman), but as I also play in a band it also has a mild net presence. I do like to keep my gaming and my public life separate, but as I never actually post on the forums I guess it's not a big deal for me :)

    Yeah if its only on the forums, its not that big of a deal. So long as its not tied in with your battle.net account (and bank details). I'd be extremely worried about phising, as getting your full name is the first step to someone stealing your account.

    Definately won't be using it

    I have the same name as a Male TV hair stylist (also Aussie).

    Good luck looking that up O_o

    I don't use my real name anywhere on forums or any other public internet places. Even if I did though, I guess it wouldn't matter because I don't have things like facebook and as far as I know, my name isn't attached to my home address anywhere the general public can get their hands on.

    I can understand where all these people are coming from. I honestly don't think it's going to foster any meaningful community. Maybe stop some trolls from posting...maybe.

    Make them all post their real photos too XD

    I understand completely where these people are coming from. How they can be so paranoid. I would be, I know what people can do on the internet. If you were to accidentally piss someone off in-game or say something somebody didn't like, in-game. You bet your ass people will be all over you when they find out your name.
    Oh and Why are people so paranoid? Just because you will know my name doesn’t mean you will be able to know where I live, work etc. Unless you work for the government, I doubt anyone will know any more than your name."

    This person obviously doesn't get out on the internet much, having a name and identifying who it is (via Facebook or Myspace etc) can open up huge doors for any information you, or other people have submitted on the internet.

    I hope there is an option whether or not you can post your name, I for one am not. Put a foot wrong anywhere in the wrong place at the wrong time with the wrong people, amazing things can happen.

    I don't like it, mainly because it's not optional. Blizzard is forcing the change on their player base, and they better not expect anything but problems as people leave the forums and complain.

    I honestly don't give a poo if people find out my real name, but forcing it on people is just kind of poopiekins.

    On the internet it should always be up to the user how much information about them is given out.

    Funny this topic came up, as recently i searched myself in google (come on you've done it) and found a couple of posts i made in kotaku that although i don't mind being seen by users of the webpage i didn't want to be showing as the first link in google. So i fired an email to alluremedia as i assumed it would be a techincal matter getting my name remved, no response -sigh-

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