Real ID Hails A Blizzard of Real Trouble?

We are 19 days away from one of the biggest PC gaming launches in PC games history – Starcraft II : Wings of Liberty.  The recent peaks and valleys associated with Blizzard and it’s Real ID implementation may seem to challenge of delay that glorious release.  So, if you’ve been living under a rock, or not following PC gaming news, let me get right to the point.

Real ID, Calling Gamers Out.

Like Orcs raising their swords and torches for the horde, gamers have united against the implementation of Real ID, proposed by Blizzard.  But, what is it?  In case you’ve been under a rock, or away from any gaming forums, blogs, or news sites, here’s the scoop.  Real ID is a system that will associate your first and last name with every forum post, as well as your Battle.Net 2.0 tag.  Now it’s easy to understand the hesitation, but why try something like this in the first place?  Now, even not being a World of Warcraft player myself, it would be hard for me to ignore the impact and the innovation WoW has brought to social gaming.  Likewise, another Blizzard title, Starcraft, was an earlier game that unified pasty, malnourished gamers under one banner.  Starcraft allowed players to spawn endless copies of it’s multiplayer feature onto an unlimited number of machines.  So, for $50, you and all of your college buddies could LAN the night away at Starcraft, and invite an unlimited number more competitors into the foray.  Fast forward to the present, and WoW has become more of a social atmosphere, where joining back up with guild mates is almost more important than the grinding of levels in the game.  To say that friendships, romances and marriages have all begun and solidified under the Horde or Alliance banners would not be giving enough credit to the social impact WoW has had on gamers(ironically, by keeping them locked away on their PCs, but that’s for another article).  I know what you are saying – “Chris, you started talking about Real ID, now you are highlighting the social aspects of Blizzard games.  What gives?”.

Real Need For Real ID?

So, we know what Real ID is, but why is it necessary?  Or is it even necessary?  As I’ve stated, the social communities around Blizzard games can easily rival that of any other PC game out there-past or present.  With a community boasting such numbers, certainly, not all of it’s members are of the innocent persuasion right?  There are lots of shady things going on in WoW space, not to mention the always present attempts to cheat the system, and the lovely griefers-both in game and on the forums.  The hope of a system, like Real ID, is to remove the player from the solace and cover of their WoW account name or Battle.Net 2.0 gamer tag, and add identity in, to make them think before they post.  Plain and simple, would you be as callous and careless with your words, both in the forums and on Ventrillo, if you knew that your name was sitting right there for everyone to read?  For everyone to type in to Facebook or MySpace?  Hopefully, some of the griefers would be turned away when Blizzard shone it’s light of identity on their dark anonymity!

Real Trouble Lurks

Well, what if that shield was used as a weapon against you?  Let’s say you jump online and post in Blizzard’s forums with a new sense of power and safety, resting in the knowledge that the internet trolls are safely tucked under their bridges, quaking in their boots with their real names flashing, like a neon sign above them.  Well, what about those griefers and ne’er do wells that we mentioned before?  Couldn’t someone jump onto the forums or play a game or two on Battle.Net, just to advance their own phishing scheme?  I mean, if I won’t post obnoxious posts because I worry someone will find me on Facebook, what’s to stop someone from simply looking me up for their own nefarious reasons?  That, is exactly what happened to Blizzard’s own Community Manager, who’s name I will not be posting here.  The topic of Real ID ignited such a flame war, on the WoW forums, that a Blizzard Community Manager did more than just rise to defend the system, he posted his own name as a sign of brave support.  His post was eagerly replied to with pictures of his home, gathered from Google Street.  He was told the names of his wife and children—all in the same thread.  Within minutes, intimate details of that Community Manager’s life plagued the forums like Zerglings rushing in for the kill.

Aftermath

Well, the internet seems to have won this battle.  Even if Blizzard hasn’t been shaken by this, I’m sure the Community Manager was.  Also, within the minutes of the fast fingers at work on Google, the retaliation served to illustrate exactly why so many gamers were rising up against the use of the Real ID system.  In this case, the person targeted knew he had been found out online, but how easy will it be to notice until you get that next credit card bill or Paypal statement, when your details have been picked through like a buzzard pulls carrion from rotting bones?  It’s a scary example of what can happen, and now that Battle.Net requires an online login, even for single player, just how vulnerable are we?  Initially, this seemed to be a questionable line in the sand, but now I’d say Blizzard is going to have to have iron clad perfection on it’s side, if they plan on continuing with the Real ID implementation.  With Starcraft II only 19 days away, that doesn’t leave a lot of room for Blizzard to regroup and retaliate.

UPDATE : 7/11/10 – Yes, I know that the Real ID system will not be implemented in the Blizzard forums, but it will be implemented in WoW, Starcraft II and, presumably, Diablo III.  I’m still curious to see if this impacts anyone’s purchasing decisions, so let us know with your vote in our poll!

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