What Facebook and World of Warcraft Have in Common

By  |  Wednesday, July 7, 2010 at 5:30 pm

Starting later this month, World of Warcraft developer Blizzard will require its Internet forum members to post under their real life names, using an ID system that is otherwise voluntary for players. The goal is to fight flame wars and banish trolls, using the logic that people wouldn’t be so incendiary if everything they wrote on Internet message boards left a searchable trail.

Within Blizzard’s forums, this is a pretty big deal, even for perfectly civil people. The most reasonable concern I’ve heard is that requiring real names would also force peaceful forumgoers to shed their identities as private massive multiplayer gamers, or at least merge those identities with real life. To paraphrase one forum poster, his World of Warcraft habit could be immediately discovered by any romantic interest or potential employer.

Reading that argument, my mind jumped to Facebook’s privacy approach. For entirely different reasons from Blizzard, Facebook has pushed to make its users’ information more public, notably by defaulting status updates to be shared with the world.

The cynical view is that Facebook seeks more money by opening up user data, but chief executive Mark Zuckerberg also has an atypical worldview, which he shared with David Kirkpatrick in “The Facebook Effect.” To wit:

“The days of you having a different image for your work friends or co-workers and for the other people you know are probably coming to an end pretty quickly … Having two identities for yourself is an example of a lack of integrity.”

Now, I don’t think Blizzard’s new policy has any broader goal than to stop people from spamming and trolling message boards, but it’s hard not to see a bit of Zuckerberg in Blizzard’s actions. Here’s a game developer saying your real life identify and the one you assume as part of World of Warcraft’s Internet community are actually the same. No more hiding one persona from the other. Facebook, it seems, is guided by the same principle.

Whether we’re talking World of Warcraft or Facebook, the merits of this argument will be debated for years to come.

 
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5 Comments For This Post

  1. Reya Says:

    What Facebook and Blizzard do /not/ have in common is that Facebook offers all of it’s services, not just a few, with fully customizable privacy options.

    I wouldn’t mind combining my gaming life with my daily life if it weren’t for some simple facts.

    My gaming life is a break from that daily life, and while I value the friends I have made through Blizzard’s game, I would not invite them into my home nor give them my phone number. They have no need of more information than I choose to provide them with, and for Blizzard to tell me that my ‘choice’ is /not/ to seek technical or community assistance for a service I pay for (and considering their plans for a new expansion, that technical advice could become a very popular item) versus revealing my real name and all that it can be googled for? That is no choice, Technologizer. I will no longer use those services if my privacy is opened to ‘anonymous viewers’.

    I am an upstanding citizen. I am a straight-forward, (usually) honest person. There is nothing I have to hide that I will not take accountability for. But in my time of getting to know the WoW community, there are a great number of people that I /would/ hide myself from, the mentally unstable among a few other categories.

    Not using the forums is not a problem for me. I am well practiced in searching for my answer before posting a 100th thread on the topic. If I see a thread requesting help that I am able to offer, I can easily resist that urge. But if Blizzard can throw my name on their forums, how long will it be before it pops up in game, where I am not in control of who my character’s actions may anger, and what resources they can obtain in order to reciprocate it?

  2. L1A Says:

    meh i don't know why are people all up in arms about new blizz forums. probably 5% even visit and 1% post on them. if anything it'll save blizzard money on bandwidth

  3. Cardinalcyn Says:

    I am one of the Forum Posters. Look up CARDINALCYN on the Suggestions forum. Not everything I write is pretty, or designed for use out of context. Much of it is clear, simply stated, and sincere.

    The article above appears at first read to approach the topic from a " dont we all use real names anyways?' mentality…. which is NOT the case within the virtual world of the internet in general , nor in MMO's in particular.

    As such, I must give this article some demerits for clouding the issue. It is always my hope that outsiders to the game research their topic. Otherwise they risk the Blind Man & the Elephant approach; whereby whatever one aspect of the game they fix upon 'becomes' the game for them ~ most often missing the very nature of the object grasped.

    More's the pity, too.

  4. Tech Says:

    That's ridiculous. No one wants to use their real name on the internet.

  5. anonie Says:

    I do not think its the concern of people having their wow habit found out. It is the real concern about having personal info on line which can be used by any one, the greatest threat would be identity thieves.

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