Now approaching two years of Real ID -- did it work?

Anne Stickney
A. Stickney|05.29.12

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Now approaching two years of Real ID -- did it work?
It's been just about two years since the Real ID feature was introduced to World of Warcraft. This feature unintentionally created some of the hottest debates when it was introduced, largely because it meant the friends you chatted with on Real ID would be able to see your first and last name. The topic became even more heated when it was announced that player's real names would be automatically shown on Blizzard's forums, something that went over like a lead balloon.

I mentioned from the beginning, on a quiet post on my old blog (Warning: language) that while I thought the feature was interesting enough, it wasn't interesting enough for me to use it. So where do I stand, two years later? I have exactly five people on my Real ID, and they're all coworkers with one exception, a friend I wanted to help out on a cross-server raid. I still don't care for Real ID, but it does come in handy every now and again. I'm still not going to use it widely.

So two years after all the roaring, screeching, and general madness ... how did Real ID go over? Was it a success?

Kurn over at Kurn's Corner had an interesting post regarding her decision to turn off Real ID. In the post, she chatted about her reasoning behind disabling the feature, listing the few people that she put on it in the first place, and pointing out that each person on her Real ID list had alternate ways that they could reach her, regardless of whether or not she was using Real ID. It was an excellent post, but I think what stuck with me the most was Kurn's reflections on whether or not Real ID was really all that helpful to have.

Kurn pointed out that nearly every person she added to Real ID had a way to contact her before Real ID even existed. And she also talked about how she spent time thinking about whether or not the feature would make her gaming experience richer or poorer. That's what really grabbed me -- what, exactly, does Real ID do for people? What purpose does it serve? Can we consider the feature a rousing success?

For my guild, I'd call it a success for the most part. Most of my guildmates have shared their Real ID on the forums, as a just-in-case point of contact. My guild leader though, is the one who seems to have made tremendous use of the feature. Because our server is so sparsely populated, we often look off-server for new recruits, and we have a lot of people apply to our guild from other servers. Before Real ID, that meant that potential applicants had to roll an alt on our server just to talk to an officer. Now, my guild leader uses Real ID to easily get a hold of applicants, so the applicants can avoid the hassle of rolling an alt and trying to hop on when the officers are on. It's worked, and it's worked fantastically.

For myself however ... well. I have a handful of people on my Real ID, mostly coworkers that were added for varying reasons. I'm a fairly private person, and frankly, if I'm online raiding or farming, I don't really want to be interrupted with tells every two minutes unless it's something important. I also AFK fairly frequently when I'm just farming, because I'm usually farming while I'm doing something like laundry or baking that pulls me away every now and again. Real ID has absolutely no purpose to me beyond the very, very rare moments that I chat with a coworker or friend.

To be perfectly honest, the biggest problem I have with Real ID, and even with the Battletag system is the one that Kurn so aptly pointed out in her post. Like Kurn, I've used instant messaging programs of one kind or another ever since the early days of IRC. And every single one of these programs, from AIM to Yahoo to Facebook has had the one thing that Real ID lacks: A feature to log on as invisible to people on your friends list. Like Kurn, I am utterly baffled that this was not put in from the outset, and two years later, I'm still baffled as to why it's never been implemented.

Sometimes, I don't want to talk to friends. Sometimes, I want to chill on an alt in the middle of nowhere and quietly think about stories I'm working on and to-do lists of remodeling projects and internet dragons. With Real ID as it stands, I cannot do so unless I disable the feature. And if I disable the feature and re-enable it, I have to go through the hassle of re-adding all of my friends again. Where, exactly, is the sense in that?

All in all, I guess the only conclusion that I can come to is that Real ID is exactly as useful as one lets it be. It's how one utilizes it that determines the importance. For things like cross-realm raiding or recruiting, it's incredibly useful. For things like puttering away quietly on an alt ... not so much. I would like to know, though, if those of you out there reading use Real ID. Who's on your list? Do you hand out your Real ID to anyone, or certain friends or family? Has it been a useful tool for you, or just something you ignore entirely?

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