Jason's Blog

A stochastic thought repository

Gaming and Identity Online

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Once upon a time, I played World of Warcraft. Along with more than 11 million other people, I rode the boat between Ratchet to Booty Bay, fought demon hordes loyal to the likes of Illidan and [Kil’jaeden][], and defied the legions of the Lich King as a proud, forsaken healing priest. Only shortly before I got married did I finally lay down my staff and leave the game.

I bring this up not because I miss the game, (not at all, honey!!) but because Activision-Blizzard, the company behind World of Warcraft, has decided that on their forums, posts will show the real first and last names of the owner of the account.

This may be a consequence of a law passed in South Korea banning anonymous posting on popular websites. It may be easier on the companies’ infrastructure to implement a uniform system like this, especially since their game Starcraft is so popular there.

Anyone having experienced the WoW community first-hand knows that the communal maturity level in the game is juvenile at best. On the forums, at least, this will go a long way toward fixing the problem popularly known as the Greater Internet F#@kwad Theory.

A portion of the community, however, is understandably upset over their loss of anonymity. Most people, myself included, don’t advertise the fact that they are MMO players due to people’s misconceptions about gamers, especially those in MMOs. It doesn’t help that the media has found examples of some people doing really stupid stuff that end up ruining their lives. If this is what the world thinks of when they find out you play WoW, who would want to be associated with that?

It upsets me, as well as many fellow gamers, to be compared with these people simply on the basis of a shared hobby. I’m sure there have been plenty of awful people who collected coins or cards, but no one assumes you are one simply because you have those hobbies. As with any community of large size, there will be those with social problems, idiots, addicts, and whatever else you care to name.

Despite these reservations, I support Blizzard doing this. I am hopeful that with this transparency the community will clean itself up, and that consequently some of this stigma will go away. For those looking to avoid this link between a private hobby and their public face: don’t post on the forums. It’s not like Blizzard is posting a list of everyone with accounts in the open.