RealID (pt2); Ethics; Voting With Your Dollar.
First and foremost, it appears that my readership has jumped, so to speak – hello everyone! Turns out when you stalk someone in a non-creepy way to prove a point, people listen. Who knew?
So the real question now is, of course – how the hell do I follow that up? I’m not going to lie – I definitely wanted some publicity for what I did (who wouldn’t?), but I didn’t expect anything like this. A few hundred readers made me happy. Now that you guys are in the tens of thousands (and still climbing!), I feel like I better have a good follow-up trick, eh? Well, let’s see what I have up my sleeve.
Let me preface this by saying that I love this game. In fact, I loved every Blizzard game I ever played. Before WoW, I played Diablo II for four years, and loved every second of it. Some of my favorite people that I know today I met on the diabloii forums, debating the most efficient leveling/gearing path for hammerdins (gogo Enigma runeword!). Several of them are actually the people who convinced me to pick up WoW.
At the time, I was opposed to pay-to-play games. “I already bought the game once,” I’d argue, “why would I keep paying for it?” Obviously, at that time I had no real understanding of the cost nor scope involved in the running or maintenance of an MMO. A few of those friends offered to give me prepaid WoW cards, just to see if I’d like it. Their reasoning was that I had just purchased Half-Life 2, beaten it in a week, and felt entirely justified in my $60 purchase. With the same cost to me, I could have several months of play time and see how I like it. I agreed and bought the game the day it came out. I was hooked immediately.
Over the years, I’ve been in a few guilds, led two of them, and have been fortunate enough to have spent the last four years or so with the same amazing group of people. I’ve gone from a member, to a class leader, to the guild leader, and I consider them an extension of my family. Some members I’ve never met in real life, but would be at my wedding were I to get married. Some members are now some of my best friends irl, and I met them because they applied to my guild and happened to live in the next town over. Over the years I’ve met a large amount of them in real life and regularly talk with most of them on the phone (even the ones who don’t play anymore). There have been times when I’ve pushed through brutal burnout just for them; times when I was so tired of the game, but I logged in to continue making the game fun, safe and enjoyable for them.
Our charter is simple, yet powerful. Our goal is to have fun in a safe, comfortable environment. We raid casually, but not poorly. We raid twice a week, which means that when we have a bad night, it’s not a night – it’s a week. We have to push that much harder. Still, at the end, we’re friends playing a game together, and as such we strongly enforce a simple rule – respect each other, always. There is no excessive cursing, harassing, or griefing; we’re all in this together. Sure, it’s a game, but I take my role in it seriously, and the GM’s job is to make sure the game is fun, enjoyable, and safe for everyone else.
Now back to RealID.
I’ve always been a strong proponent of voting with your dollar. Financially supporting a company is not only a means of acquiring goods and services, but also of showing support for the products and behaviors of said company. I believe in the market, and just as firmly believe that consumers should use their money to demonstrate what companies and products they support (when possible).
I’ve spent the last two days glued to my computer, reading post after post, pingback after pingback. I’ve read the first several hundred pages of the initial forum thread, I’ve read fantastic posts (some good ones here, here, and a great list here) and some good debates, but in the end, it comes down to one thing – complacency and support.
If this change goes live and I am a paying customer when it does, I am implicitly supporting the entire system. That means I am implicitly supporting a system that I 100% believe will (not could, we know that already – will) cause harm to someone. My post yesterday proved the ease of it. Yes, if you want to find someone, you probably can and will, but having a company decide to be the ones to display names in a competitive environment crosses the line. This change is ill-conceived, poorly thought out, and as far as I’m concerned, unethical and immoral. This change will push the moderation responsibility outside of the game world/forums and into the real world. I cannot think of a more irresponsible course of action for a company to take with the safety and privacy of their client base.
Some have said I’m all talk (a funny statement from people who’ve only known of my existence for less than 24 hours, but ok), so here’s some action.
It is with heavy heart that I have canceled my World of Warcraft subscriptions. They will run their course into the end of the month, at which point one of two things will happen.
- 1.) Blizzard will have by then changed their planned implementation of real names on the forums due to overwhelmingly negative response. As a result, I will reactivate my subscription and all will be well in the world.
- 2.) Blizzard will not have changed their planned implementation of real names on the forums, and my subscription, as well as my continued support of any Activision Blizzard product, will remain absent.
Why am I doing this now, instead of later? Why so early on, some ask? I’ll tell you. Sure, I could wait a month and if it’s still planned on going live, unsub then. My account is still paid up until the end of the month anyway, so there’s no real difference there. But the timing is the key. By canceling now, I’ve sent a message that I am unhappy with what they are doing now. If I wait a couple weeks until they issue an official response to the backlash, I’ve already lost my chance at being a voice that helped influence their decision; I’d be quietly and passively reacting to their decision. I don’t want to leave this game, I just feel like I have to do so. I have no intention of walking away without first doing what I can to try to change the reason that I feel I must go.
This is not an easy decision, nor does it feel good. I sincerely hope that Blizzard changes their policy/implementation on this. I’ve been a fan of everything they’ve done since I was a kid. I’ve not only been looking forward to Cataclysm, but also Diablo III. My guild has been my extended family for years, and I cherish their presence in my life. I cannot, however, idly support what will be a decision that ends up assisting (if not directly causing) the assault, rape, or stalking of someone, and I cannot and will not support it with my dollar.
To my guild – I’m so, so sorry. You are family to me, and if this is permanent, I will do all I can to smoothly transition leadership to a new leader as well as finish our preparations for Cataclysm. I cannot, however, financially support a company that so blatantly disregards the safety and security of their client base. To do so would be in violation of everything good you love about me. I’m sorry, I’m sorry, I’m sorry.
Please, Activision Blizzard – rethink your plans for RealID. I want to give you money; I want to play your games. Please make me feel comfortable doing so.
EDIT: I just wanted to add – the fix here isn’t hard. I’m not against RealID; I’m against forcing the outing and display of real names. The fix is a simple one – instead of it showing real names, show a single username per RealID. That gives the accountability you say you want without violating the privacy of your clients, not to mention it avoids putting them into unnecessary danger. Do that, and I’ll gladly renew my accounts. Keep real names in, and I will never be buying another Activision product again.