Anti-Aliased: What's in a name

Earlier this week, Blizzard really got the MMO gaming community up-in-arms after the announcement of its latest Real ID feature -- your real name attached to all of your forum posts on its official forums. That's right. No more hiding behind a fake persona when you want to go a-trolling.

But, with the transition to a "real name" system comes a whole slew of security issues, privacy issues, and comfort issues. Everyone has an opinion on the system, as well as their own theories on if the official forums are going to crash and burn or if the forums are going to experience a rebirth as people finally watch their tongues when they post.

Blizzard is, essentially, asking, "What's in a name?" And, if Shakespeare is to be believed, there's not much back there. It's not the name that needs changing, it's the personalities behind them. It's less about the name, and more about what, or who, it represents.
A real name will make you really think, right?

Let be begin this little rant by saying that what Blizzard wants to accomplish with this move is admirable. The World of Warcraft forums, and other Blizzard forums, aren't known for being bastions of community kindness. People make secondary characters and accounts to troll the forums, using anonymity as an advantage in their forum warz. Blizzard wants to find a way to help curb the madness, and its choice is to assign your real name to each one of your posts. Remove the veil, and you remove some of the hatred, right?

Well, it's partially right. Sticking your real name on your thoughts will certainly make some people reconsider their actions. Will you really want to call someone a "sparkle fag" if your real name was attached? Probably not. To that degree, Blizzard is correct -- sticking your real name on a post will make you think a bit more before you push that enter key.

But sticking your real name on to your posts creates a whole slew of other problems which many people have been quick to point out. Problems which, in my belief, outweigh the benefits of cautious posting.

Security issues, privacy issues, child privacy issues, gender issues, name change issues, oh my!

I think the sub-head is already an indication of how messy putting your real name on a post gets. While many of these issues have been tackled all over the internet, I'm going to give them a small amount of air time just to get my point across:

  • Your real name is now attached to your posts, which also means your Armory information may be revealed. All of your game information will be on display for anyone who wants to stick your name into Google. Does your boss really need to know that you raid for four hours on Monday, Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday nights? Do you want your leisure time to become a matter of public record?
  • "I know I'd rather have an internet crazy yelling crap at me over some forums rather than coming to my house and leaving "presents" on my doormat."

  • With just your name, a scary amount of information can be dug up on you. The game's first casualty has already been made public -- Community Manager Bashlok. Within minutes, posters found his wife's name, his children, where his children go to school, his house, his projected income, his Facebook, etc. The official response to this has been that posting any of this information will result in a ban. Yes, that's right, a whole ban. The fact that people can easily track you down isn't a huge worry because posting said information will result in a ban from an internet forum. We're all safe now guys! (Not to mention it's not ok for you to post real life information about other people, but it's completely ok for Blizzard to post your real life name.)
  • Some of the players of World of Warcraft are minors. Sure, parents can make sure their children can't post on the forums by clicking an opt-out button in the child's profile. But what about the parents who don't know about that, or don't understand it, or don't want to be bothered? Is it ok to put the full name of a minor onto a forum at any time, especially when it is one of the first things we teach to children regarding internet security?
  • It's sadly a clear-cut fact that women have a tendency to be harassed in some online spaces. Some women have been using the anonymity to enjoy the game without having someone scream "pics nao" or "boobs plz" in their /tell window every five minutes. Real ID kind of cuts through that, exposing women to the unpleasantness they were trying to avoid.
  • It's also a well-known fact that I'm transgendered. The name attached to my account currently is Colin Brennan, not Seraphina Brennan. Other transgendered individuals may be running into the same problem, and so will women who were recently married/divorced or anyone who has changed his or her name since the creation of their account. While we can change our names by jumping through Blizzard's hoops, it's another pain-in-the-ass problem of this system.
  • And need I mention certain guilds/groups, such as the various gay guilds of World of Warcraft, who would suddenly be outed should they post on the forums. You could say, "Well, then they shouldn't post," but what about officers who would like to advertise their guild, but haven't come out in real life? And this, once again, goes beyond gay guilds to pretty much any specialized guild. You may participate in their activities online, but may not wish to have that stuff involved in your everyday life.
  • And your real name may reveal your ethnicity. Trolls will still troll no matter the name you assign to them, and knowing your real name may only add to their verbal arsenal, thanks to ethnic slurs.
So we take all of these negatives, simply to help curb internet trolling. Pardon me, but isn't there a chance that the trolling could become worse by spilling over into the real world? I know I'd rather have an internet crazy yelling crap at me over some forums rather than coming to my house and leaving "presents" on my doormat. While many people would never take it to that level, there are some who would, and those are the people I think we'd all like to avoid.

This article was originally published on Massively.