7 Jul 2010

RealID – What The Forums?

You’ve probably already heard the big announcement about how RealID is going to be introduced to the forums. As we approach Cataclysm, the official Blizzard-run Warcraft, Starcraft and Diablo forums will be upgraded to use a player’s real name whenever they post. There’s already a huge amount of discussion on the merits of the idea which are well worth reading.

But why implement the change in the first place? What benefits is it trying to bring and what problems is it trying to solve? To quote some design terminology, what are the requirements and use cases here?

The stated goal behind the switch is to reduce the amount of trolling, flaming and general nuisance that occurs on the official forums. There’s a popular idea based on Gabriel’s Theorem that once you remove the veil of anonymity you remove their desire to behave abusively on forums.

I don’t buy this myself for two reasons. In the main, I think that people will be disruptive on forums regardless of their real name being displayed. Why? I’ve seen it happen before. I’ve served time as an admin on Wikipedia, arguably one of the largest sites on the Internet. I’ve seen shocking behaviour from users who registered with their real name, just as I’ve seen it from those using a pseudonym.

There was also a struggle to convince academics, scholars and professionals that using their real name was a good idea. There were several occasions where I saw people get harassed by those they disagreed with. And I’m not talking about a few angry emails here – I’m talking being stalked at work, being forced out of their job and so on.

But this is just my own experience. The second reason I don’t buy the argument is that it’s all based on perceptions – “we think that if x then y”. But where are the hard facts to go along with this? Where are the studies from psychologists, sociologists and behavioural scientists that point to this being valid?

There’s also the slight flaw in the data quality that assumes the name a player registered their Battle.net account with is in fact their real name. There’s no backend verification of the name against a credit card or identity service, meaning that there’s nothing to stop a troll from registering with whatever RealID they like.

So what other use cases are there for this kind of integration? What else can be inferred from this primary change? It all comes down to Facebook and how it has become a hub for social gaming. Firms like Zynga and Popcap have done incredibly well by generating lightweight and straightforward games that allow players to game with or against eachother. And there’s a stupidly large amount of money involved in it. Blizzard has made no secret about their desire for closer integration between Facebook and Battle.net. They also have things in the pipeline to take advantage of this. But first, the datasets must align.

I know RealID on the forums won’t affect me much. It’s relatively straightforward for someone to find out my details anyway. But like any designer, I don’t just take into account my own situation. I try to understand the circumstances and drivers of everyone impacted by a proposed change. It’s this crucial step which seems to have been missed here.

In the end, as consumers we’ll vote with our feet. We’ll either take advantage of the changes or we’ll shun and avoid them. But let’s be clear – this is only the start. My guess is there’s still much more to come.

Like this? Try these other related posts:

Tags: , ,

7 Responses to RealID – What The Forums?

  1. Vrykerion says:

    Some real good points there, Gaz.

    Despite my rampant arguing on “da twitterz” as my friends call it, and I stick my personal belief that I personally don’t care about the change (I’m not gonna weep if they don’t implement it, and I’m not going to stress if they do), but I’m having a hard time figuring out why they’re changing.

    There are legitimate reasons to not do it (and some not so legitimate ones imo being tossed about), but the other side of the debate seems to either be a) we don’t oppose it therefore we are in favor of it or b) Less Trolls. Which as you pointed out (and I am in complete agreement with you) is a unfounded claim that has no apparent basis in reality beyond a funny web comic. Cause I don’t think anyone’s biting the “social community” part of it, heck even my non-WoW playing friends don’t buy that line.

    Also, is it true that your Real ID name doesn’t have to match anything? There was a lot of fuzziness around that when the system was first put out so I wasn’t sure. Cause I’d sure like to change my first name on there to my initials. Being called by my first name is usually reserved for formal occasions and when someone is mad at me.
    Vrykerion recently posted..Of Cabbages and Kings and StatuesMy Profile

  2. Ravine says:

    Oh man. I’ve ranted pretty much all day and night on the subject on the forums, over twitter, and even with my family. (My brother and I had a lengthy discussion about all of this, in which has led me to can my own account, while he sits on the fence since he does the six month payment plans and that doesn’t expire until October)

    No matter who I’ve talked to, we both sit on the agreement that nothing good can come from this. Absolutely nothing. What bothers me is that two weeks ago, Blizzard was saying that RealID was a system designed to use with people you know in real life. And now they turn around and say that they’ll be integrating these features into the public forums? Considering that this was a feature was already met with distaste and disappointment from the general population, pushing said unpopular feature onto your customers with a “post with your real name, or don’t post at all” mentality isn’t a good way to win your customer’s loyalty.

    This is very reminiscent of the battle.net ID’s back in November of last year. When they were first released, it was optional and you didn’t have to use it. And then they introduced a free in-game pet to encourage people to switch over. By mid-November, they changed it so it became mandatory for people to have a battle.net ID, or else you couldn’t play. Do I think this will happen again with RealID? Oh, absolutely. This is not the tin-foil hat speaking. Especially after Nethaera on the US forums announced that Blizzard had a long-term vision with the RealID system.

    I was extremely excited for Cataclysm. But, unless they make some changes to the system, I guess I won’t be able to see the second Cataclysm. As much as I want to, my security and privacy remains more important than a game.

  3. Bordy says:

    I haven’t posted on the official WoW forums in months, and am not greatly concerned by having to use my real name if choose to do so in the future. I have just used several powerful searches and not been able to locate myself (i.e. and personal details) using my real name; it seems the security precautions I take are sufficient.

    What I am slightly more concerned about is the giving people your battle.net login name to make them Real-ID freinds .. or have I misunderstood this? Not that I mistrust my real friends, but I don’t trsut their security and thus my details may no longer be secure, much as I like the idea of the realID thingy in general.

    • Ravine says:

      >>What I am slightly more concerned about is the giving people your battle.net login name to make them Real-ID freinds .. or have I misunderstood this?

      No, you’re absolutely correct. Quoting this directly from the RealID FAQ:

      “How will I become Real ID friends with another player?
      Both players must first mutually agree to become Real ID friends. To send a Real ID friend request to another player, simply enter his or her Battle.net account name (an email address) using the Add Friend function in-game. The other player will see the pending request in their friends list, and if they accept, you will become Real ID friends with each other.”

  4. Pingback: RealID linkspam. | Azeroth. Me.

  5. anonymouse says:

    It seems to me that – now that blizzard has rescinded, and ‘let us win’ the forum-real id fight…

    It was nothing but a smokescreen. They knew there would be outcry about real ID IN GAME… so knowing media tactics, they distracted us with the announcement that they would have it in the forums… and then let us rage over that; but threw us a bone, and let us think we won.

    When in fact, real ID is still in the Game, where most players are. Most players don’t actually bother much with the forums. Add in the latest security holes, …heh, watch as it happens. Eventually this will all be mandatory.

    Welcome to a frightening new orwellian-activizzard world. People need to start REMEMBERIng and stop forgetting so easily, being so ADHD about issues… and stop being so gullible. This not only has ruined games for us consumers, it’s fattened the pockets of the greedy, and allowed them to attack our privacy, freedoms, and REAL LIFE rights more and more. When is this going to stop?

  6. Pingback: RealID linkspam. [ 6D ]