Wow, it looks like the Cataclysm came early. It seems that Blizzard’s player base has been torn asunder, with fissures and vents forming everywhere. Some have simply left the game, while others are unsure of their future with our favorite MMO, while even others feel that the new RealID feature may be a good thing. Anyway, here is my two copper on the whole RealID concept, and it’s plusses and minuses.
I myself am a bit split. I have taken advantage of the feature already in-game. It is really nice to be able to see when Friends are on, even if they’re hiding. I’ve even been able to connect with some of my friends from Australia from my Halo 2 days.
I believe that it works just fine for the in-game version. As long as you only provide your email to those whom you trust. As for your actual name being displayed, that can be an issue for some, but not that big of a deal for me, especially since I don’t actually go by my first name, and attempt to keep my name off the web as much as possible. However, that is me, and I work in the IT field, and know how to keep my information private, and have the common sense to not provide more information than what is needed. Other folks on the other hand… especially those who are from the “Facebook age” don’t think that way.
One of my favorite quotes for this whole ordeal came from That Ghoul Ava (@that_ghoul_ava):
Yo Dawg - We put a facebook in your warcraft, so you can faceroll while you farmville.
All kidding aside, the new RealID system does put off that vibe. It almost feels like I should be sending useless heart and hug gifts to my friends, or maybe have them fill out a survey and post it on my wall. I myself do not use Facebook that much. Mostly for close friends and family. I did at one time play Mafia Wars on there, but have since let it gather dust (and billions of “dollars”), and may just go back now and then.
Part of the problem, is that a lot of people will not realize what they are presenting to the world. Especially when they link their RealID with their Facebook account. Here’s a point that I don’t think has been made yet, is the fact that since your RealID displays your name, it can trace far more than just your Battle.net account.
I know that initial point has been made, but think of this. Someone messages you through RealID, maybe it’s a friend of yours, who may have been hacked. That person then sees your name, if they were hacked, then they also know that friends email address, and since friends can see other friends email addresses, they also see your email address. Adding yet another target to their account hacking spree.
With the current mindset, most folks will use the same password for several accounts, simply because it’s easy, and they don’t have to remember a ton of passwords. A lot of us may not think that way, because we are a bit more tech savvy, but that’s not always the case for your everyday Joe. Well, back to the point, if that hacker was lucky, they would have found one of these folks, who most likely didn’t use an Authenticator because it was just too much of a hassle. Since they now have access to their WoW account, they can do just about anything, including unneeded character transfers/faction transfers/race changes/etc, just out of spite, or malice. Since this person likely uses the same password for a lot of stuff, the hacker could then go to Facebook and log in there, causing all kinds of havoc.
This is where it leaves the realm of “oh no, my Battle.net account was hacked,” and into the more real issue of personal security, and personal reputations. Not everybody plays WoW, but there are millions who are on Facebook, and RealID could very well be a way for account hacking to spread further into the internet.
This really is something that I think Blizzard dropped the ball on. They have been pushing to pull more casual players into the game, casual in both how they play, and when they play. However, with some casual players, comes the general public, and a lack of information security knowledge. What I mean by this, is that most gamers have some form of knowledge about the computers and systems they are using; this allows them to have a little more insight on how to protect their identity. On the other hand, there are a lot of folks who are in WoW now that basically know how to turn on their computer and start the game, that’s about it; that and get onto Facebook, etc.
Now with the announcement that your name will also be displayed on the forums, which are indexed by Google, there can be even more trouble, and more chances at hurt feelings, stalked players, job rejections, etc. A lot of negative things can come of this if it is not handled correctly. In a perfect world, displaying your name on a forum such as that would likely create a bit more camaraderie, even a bit more conversation; however this is not a perfect world. It is a world full of trolls and GIFTers. A world where anonymity generates power, and that power can be used in any shape or form. A power that can be used to hurt others while bolstering one’s ego.
I dunno, maybe I’m just rambling now, but I think there was something that was missed when they researched this concept. What ever happened to having an alias/callsign that could be used to reach you, that being your unique identifier. It would remove the problem of passing personal email addresses around, as well as displaying real names. Even if they did use the email addresses, why not have that alias/callsign used in place of your name, or in turn allow you to display your name if you wanted, therefore putting the security in your hands, rather than forcing it on everyone who has a Battle.net account.
There are a lot of folks complaining about the fact that most employers now do searches on your name to get extra info on you, sometimes becoming a factor in their decision on whether to hire you. it has been said that when an employer discovers that you are a WoW player, or any MMO player, that it can negatively affect your chances. This in turn could end up coming back on Blizzard, not only losing subscriptions, but possibly even class-action suits.
In the long run, be sure to protect yourself until this all blows over. Be sure to separate your personal life from your WoW life. This includes using different passwords, using strong passwords. It also includes using an Authenticator if you are able to, and be sure to only Friend folks that you trust using the RealID system. Watch what you say on the Official Forums, since if the decision is made to make this retroactive, it could affect you outside of the game. Basically, use your head. Don’t overreact yet, as I’m sure Blizzard is taking in these comments, no matter what folks may say. This is a huge undertaking, and the one thread on the forum about the RealID system coming to the forums is already over 1000 pages. That’s a lot of opinion to sort through.
I have patience and believe that Blizzard will end up doing the right thing. As long as we can keep Mr. Greg Canessa (project director of Battle.net) from spreading his ideas any further, we may be ok.