Internet Identity

Many of you have probably heard of Blizzard’s new Real ID system for Battle.net. For those who haven’t, it’s just another step towards replicating Steam. They’ve instituted a system where one can put in the Battle.net account email of another and have them as a universal “friend”, regardless of faction, server, or even game when SCII comes out. Since Battle.net extends to every facet of Blizzard’s games, it will also is required to post on the forums.

While this is a good idea, there’s one thing that has me up at arms about it. The Real ID system requires you to use your real name as your Real ID name, or ever more horrid, as your forum name.

UGH.

Many people who want their forums relatively troll-free have considered using such a system, and apparently to some effect. However, there’s a thousand and one reasons why this is a bad idea.

After all, this is WoW that we’re talking about. It’s not like anything productive goes on in the forums, it’s all bickering over a video game. We’re not breaking new ground here, so who cares about the trolls? Everyone’s a troll. If there’s one thing that is beat into every new forum user, it is proper procedure for identifying and ignoring a troll. We have a process, Blizzard. You don’t need to interfere.

I’ve always used pseudonyms in everything except one Facebook account for people that I know personally very well, and one business email under my real name.

There are many reasons for using screen names, here’s a few.

  1. Security. Identity theft is everywhere on the internet. Yes, you could probably trace my IP somehow to find out the city I’m in, and possibly find out my name, but I definitely don’t need to make it easy. It might be simple paranoia, but I’m okay with that. After all, “it’s not paranoia if they’re out to get you”.
  2. Static identity. I’m a big believer in the idea of constant identity on the internet. I use “Catalyst” in all of my social media, from the Escapist to Steam to WoW to my email. Thus, Catalyst is my name, a name that has all kinds of associations with it. If I were to talk to certain people on the internet and introduce myself as Cat, then they would instantly know that I write AC, think of any interesting posts that I had made, that time we raided in WoW, whatever. In short, your screen name is yourself. I hesitate to draw a distinction between Cat and my “real name”, because I question if there really is one. A name is simply a designation that is given meaning by the actions and personality of the holder, not some transcendent power that defines a person. I really have two “real names”, “Catalyst” and “(omitted)”. Which name is my “real name” depends on which name the person knows me by.
  3. Fun: Let’s face it, screen names are fun. Some are really creative, some are inane, some are childishly dirty. However, they still made someone laugh.
  4. Personality: What name you choose to keep shows a lot about your personality. If your name is “SaltyBallz” then you probably are a twelve year old boy and swear loudly into headsets with your high-pitched, girlish voice. If it’s something fantastical, you probably read a lot of books and know a disproportional amount about a fantasy series of your choosing. Mine says that I’m a massive nerd. Correct!
  5. It’s creepy. That’s half of my problem with Bliz’s new system. I don’t want every single person to know my name, it’s weird. I’m not one of those serial “frienders” who don’t give a shit, I’m very private, and I’d like to keep it that way. Plus, as CA’s Talthos pointed out on Twitter, there are legal ramifications for posting the names of underage kids on a public forum.
  6. Google Search: Future employers and/or romantic interests can search on my name to find out every instance of it showing up. For people like me who have names that are incredibly rare, every single time you write anything under your name the person knows that it’s you. Frankly, I don’t want employers knowing that I spend a lot of time on WoW. I’m not ashamed of it, not at all, but it would definitely color their opinion against me. Hell, I don’t want them reading Archive Crawl, free thought is the bane of industry.

Frankly, the entire thing is a horrid experience. Every other game developer in existence uses screen names, and Bliz decides to go against the tide, right down a waterfall. Most of all, I want to repeat a point: this is a forum that we’re talking about. Only the dense and slow log onto a forum and not expect to find it filled with flame wars and trolls. That’s part of the culture. Now… I’m almost ready to pronounce the forums officially dead.

Although, I must thank Bliz for one thing… I’ve been thinking of doing this rant for a while, and they gave me context! Kthxbai

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