Continuing from here and in light of Blizzard’s decision to tie real names to forums posts…
It is frightfully easy to find information on people. You can only control so much of the data. Sure, you limit your Facebook and what you put out there, but the government, the phone company and so many other places have public records that you are not invisible (unless your name is so horrendously common that you can’t throw a rock without hitting someone with the same name). Go to Spokeo or Zabasearch, put in your name and see how long it takes to find you.
But… we are talking about an MMO. A fantasy world where you get to be someone else. Of course, we’re also talking about World of Warcraft, which has gone to great lengths to tell us their game is about levels and loot, and the world it happens in is just window dressing. Want proof? Just look at the sheer number of real world jokes crammed into the game. WoW is a playground, not a virtual world. And still, people go there and play characters that aren’t them. Women play men, men play women, the meek play strong, the social get alone time, shut ins make friends, all possible without the “limitations” of their real lives.
Sure, we all want to reduce the number of asshats that make the forums a cesspool, but much like the other features of Real ID, this could be achieved without your real name. The real problem with the WoW forums is that you post as one of your characters, which you select, so you get people who create a level 1 character on a server they don’t really play on as their posting persona, and they troll. It’s the Greater Internet Fuckwad Theory. Instead of real names, make them pick a forum name, which they can’t change, and when they post provide a link to a list of all their characters. Or make the forums smart and under the forum name put the name of their highest level & longest played character. If you have a 3 year old level 10 and a 3 month old level 80, the level 80 is posted, if you have two level 80s, the oldest one is used. Posting in a class forum? The name of your highest level of that class is posted, or if you don’t have one it will say “I don’t have any characters of this class”. Or, you know, hire more moderators.
There are many many solutions that would work equally as well for removing trolls. But… there is a greater thing at work here. See, Blizzard has all your information anyway (most likely). Your name, your address and billing info, email, and so on. They can’t do anything with it though because it is privileged information, it’s private. However, once Real ID makes certain items public, it becomes sellable data. Facebook, much to the ire of it’s CEO, lets you keep a number of items private. However, one thing they absolutely do not allow you to hide are your “likes”. The reason is that what you like is the most marketable item about you. At the heart of this whole Real ID situation is a partnership between Blizzard and Facebook. In the end, Real ID isn’t about cleaning up the forums or even making it easier to communicate with your friends and find them in game. Real ID is about money.
I quit playing World of Warcraft a while ago because I was bored with it and wasn’t finding what I wanted (strong community) within the game anymore. I was actually looking forward to Starcraft II. I participate fairly heavily in a number of smaller, tight knit communities. I don’t need another bland “everyone is connected to everyone” social network, so I’m going to opt out in the only way Blizzard allows – not to play at all.