Recently Blizzard announced plans to require all users posting on their World of Warcraft and Starcraft forums to post using their real names, replacing the previous method of posting as one of the characters on the account.
This announcement was met with immediate outrage and sparked one of the biggest uprisings in the history of online gaming.
Faced with a staggering amount of backlash Blizzard rescinded their announcement and there was peace once again on the interwebs. Or was there...
I will offer my analysis of why Real ID was met with such animosity, and why this won't be the last we hear about it.
Part of Blizzard's plan with Real ID was to eradicate trolls on their forums. The flaw with this logic is that you assume a troll will only be a troll when he is anonymous (as illustrated in a recent Ctrl+Alt+Del comic, "A troll by any other name...")
Blizzard's thought process was, remove their anonymity and you remove their desire to enrage other users, for fear of reprisal. In reality, trolls don't thrive on anonymity, they thrive on enticing reactions out of people. Making users post with their real life names essentially just makes things easier for the trolls.
This was evidenced when a Blizzard employee posted his real name, practically challenging the forum community to do something with just his name. Trolls proceeded to find his Facebook, Twitter, personal information, and information about his family within minutes. Prank phone calls, pizza deliveries, and harassing messages ensued.The incident was brushed aside by the Blizzard Employee, but in reality it was a michrochasm for the flaw of Real ID... It did nothing to stop trolls, it just moved the trolling from the forums to the real world.
Blizzard must have anticipated the reaction from the forums would be mainly from the margins, but surely they could not have anticipated the level of backlash from regular players. Mothers, lawyers, gamers, and everyone who knows anything about privacy were immediately up in arms over the announcement.
Minorities with unique names were scared they would be targeted for their race. Women were fearful they would be harassed for being female. People working for reputable companies were afraid they would be outed as a gamer, which has many negative connotations attached to it in society.
And everyone else (myself included) was scared about the slippery slope we were about to start descending...
Real ID, announced by the largest MMO company in the world, would (and most likely still will) inevitably influence other forums and companies to follow suit. Stripping away anonymity from the internet piece by piece. Imagine everything you have ever done, every page you ever browsed being attached to your name... a frightening concept, but not completely out of the realm of possibility, and Real ID could have been the catalyst for it all.
Real ID- The Redux:
Another major factor in Blizzard's announcement for Real ID was their recent partnership with Facebook. They have made it no secret they plan to make their games into a social network experience. There is BIG money to be made in the social network market, and a vast potential for new customers. This is exactly why Blizzard won't let their plans for Real ID die.
At the moment the company has balked under staggering pressure from the community, but it is only a matter of time before Blizzard pushes forward with its plans to merge Facebook and its games. Picture a random heroic where you can right click on that horrible tank and see his facebook link under his name. That future is speculation on my part, but it is one of the many directions possible for Real ID.
So, in the end, it comes down to money. There is simply too much money on the table for Real ID to disappear. So don't be surprised when that guy you ganked, or that pug hunter friend requests you on facebook...