Well holy shit – looks like sometimes, when you stand up for what you believe in, it actually WORKS.
Wow. I, for one, am impressed, awed, and proud.
Proud of the work the community did in getting their feelings regarding this change across, proud that so many put their money where their mouths were and canceled as a statement, proud that so many linked and forwarded my story and those of others (thanks for the publicity, too!), but not just that.
I’m also proud that Blizzard has, in this move, underlined and reinforced the support I’ve given them for the past decade of my life in the continued enjoyment and reverence of their games. Thank you for demonstrating that I was right to have believed in you, and thank you for truly doing what you can to support the safety and security of your userbase. Thank you, thank you, thank you.
Just so you all know, I don’t work from home, nor do I have a cushy office job where I pretend to work while instead scanning forums and e-stalking hapless WoW players. This week just so happens to be my vacation (or stay-cation, to be more accurate), and while I fully intended on getting some serious gaming in all week (I have a giant backlog of xbox 360 games, not to mention some great new games from Steam’s crazy summer sale), ActiBlizzard’s release of the RealID plans kind of, well, threw that for a loop. On the upside, I got a cool flash in the pan out of it; let’s see how many of you stick around next week (SPOILER ALERT: I’ll still post, but probably not every day). Don’t worry, I won’t take it personally if you don’t – it’s the internet!
So first and foremost, a list of a few RealID-related updates:
I’m sure you’re all familiar with John Gabriel’s Greater Internet Fuckwad Theory. If not, it is as follows:
Now I’m sure a lot of you have noticed that many of the supporters of the RealID system (so far every one that I’ve found is white and male, but that could just be coincidence) have been referencing the above Greater Internet Fuckwad Theory as proof/reason for their support. “Remove the anonymity, and the troll will go away!” they say. Now, Tim Buckley over at Ctrl+Alt+Del is of the mind that if you take away the anonymity, not a goddamned thing changes, and I agree. People who are gonna troll are gonna troll no matter what.
More to my amusement, however, Tycho posts his take on the RealID/Real Names issue:
So please – stop posting the Fuckwad Theory as your basis. Accountability is important, yes, but a single username for a RealID would accomplish the same thing.
SpiderFarmer makes one of many fantastic posts from a female gamer’s standpoint, and I commend her for her post. Also deserving of praise for the same topic are all the folks over in the WoW Ladies community who decided to step up and speak their minds – not to mention this incredible master list of information and links. Well done!
A great many popular gaming bloggers continue to leave the game in protest (or at least cancel their subscriptions for the time being), while many helpful forum posters state they will cease to post altogether outside of their blogs. Keeva at Tree Bark Jacket suggests allowing a wow.com-esque self-regulation downranking system, and I gotta say that’d be pretty awesome. The sad thing is, the more and more I read about this, the more I’m convinced that it has nothing at all to do with forum behavior or trolls, as the initial post said, but instead has to do with the aforementioned facebook integration, a desire to secure ActiBlizzard’s Asian market by complying with Korean and Chinese laws, and/or the eventual implementation of targeted advertising in game. That is not a road upon which I’d like to travel, sad to say.
Anyone have any suggestions of upcoming MMOs that look promising? Champions? Warhammer? FFXIV? That Torchlight MMO? Ascended is open to suggestions, should this change go live. I know many will still play (and I support their decision to do so – I just want them to be happy), but a large amount of my guild has already canceled their subscriptions, and one of the most important things for us all, in the end, is that we play together. We still have members on our forums that quit playing years ago, and I have no intention nor desire to see the community of my guild collapse because of RealID. Any and all suggestions, however, are most appreciated. We just want to kill internet dragons.
Finally, I’d also like to add that I am extremely excited about this possibly becoming the new Hitler Downfall meme:
Video editors – FALL IN AND ROLL OUT!
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.
As every other gaming blog is reporting, yesterday Blizzard dropped a bomb on us, unveiling their new plans for the future of the RealID feature. Of the several changes planning to be implemented, the most… disturbing is the following:
Whoa, whoa, back up a second – so if we want to post on the public forums, be it to talk, recruit, learn, help, or ask for technical assistance, we need to do so using our real first and last names? Yes, that’s what they’re saying, exactly. The idea is that with that level of accountability, people will troll less. They’re right, of course, but only if by “troll” you mean “post”.
There have already tens of thousands of posts in the single thread (over 1100 pages at the time of this writing) explaining how the many, many reasons this is a terrible idea, from the ease of stalking and creepy pedobears, to the ethical violation of forced exposure (it’s not optional when the forums are necessary to resolve technical issues), to the very real fact that real names will be tied to a gaming site and googleable by potential employers, and more – check the thread.
My posting here isn’t to reiterate everything that’s been said before, but rather to tell a cautionary (and hopefully exemplary) tale of the very real dangers of this change. Buckle up, it’s quite a ride.
Early on in that thread, a toon by the name of Sikketh (from Thunderlord) posted the following:
I may be a decent human being, but it’s nigh-impossible for me to resist a dare like that. I set to work.
With just his first and last name and his wow toon’s name, I was able to find his twitter, facebook, home address, home phone number, work address, work phone number and parent’s names. The whole process took about 20 minutes. I immediately called the house, but no one was home. I sat on the idea of calling his work for a bit, and eventually decided to do so (he did ask for it).
The following is an ACTUAL PARAPHRASE of the phone conversation when I called his work (names and addresses have of course been removed):
Me: Hello, could I please speak with So-And-So?
CW: Um, sure, hold on.
Me: Thank you.
(a new person, female, answers)
Manager: Hello, this is Kimberly SomeLastName, can I help you?
Me: Yes, I was wondering if I could please speak with So-And-So?
Manager: ::pause:: Sure. Please hold.
Me: Thank you.
::hold music, five minute wait::
Me: Hello, is this So-And-So?
Me: First and foremost, I want to apologize for calling you at work, and I also apologize if this doesn’t make sense, but are you Sikketh, from Thunderlord?
MV: ::pause:: Yes.
Me: So yeah, that took me about 20 minutes and it was pretty easy.
MV: Wow. Ok.
Me: Also, just for shits and giggles, is your address ?
Me: Phone number 555-555-5555?
Me: I know your parents’ names are Name1 and Name2, I know your room is painted blue and I know you have a cute dog. I know where you were on the 4th of July and I know when you got back. Don’t worry, I’m not a crazy, I’m not going to do anything with it, and I’m not going to post your address or anything anywhere. I just wanted you to know that what I did was very easy and very free, from just your name and toon’s name. You have a good day, and thanks for being a good sport about it.
MV: Hey, I did basically ask for it – thank you. I was wrong about RealID.
My post on the public thread is as follows, in response to his above post:
He took the whole thing really well, and has since edited his name out of his original post (as well as put in a “Edit: I was found!”) and we’ve talked some on facebook. I explained in detail to him how I went about it so that he can do what he can to close up those gaps (he’s since locked his twitter and facebook pages better, though finding his address and phone number didn’t require either, just his name). He’s even since applied to my guild and his application is under review.
I mentioned that this wasn’t the first time I’ve done this. He asked if I could find anyone, and I was like “most people have an online presence these days – if you do, I can find you.” He asked me to find his boss, the aforementioned Kimberly SomeLastName (protip: SomeLastName is still a fake name) – I found her and her husband’s home address and phone number in about a minute.
The point of this tale, however, is not to demonstrate a fun and heartwarming tale about a well-meaning prankster who teaches someone else a lesson and possibly gains a friend out of it. No, the point of this tale is that it is shockingly easy to find people through the internet from very little information, and not everyone is nice. Let us not so quickly forget the sick and tragic case of Julien Barreaux, a counterstrike player who’s character was killed via knife fight and who became so enraged that he spent the next six months stalking down his opponent (known only as “Mikhael”), who turned out to live in a town only a few miles away. He then found him and stabbed him in the chest, missing his heart by an inch. The victim survived and the assailant is now behind bars, but c’mon, people. I found someone several states away from me in less than 20 minutes from their name. You really think it’s a good idea to force that into the open?
This change is a terrible one, and I hope the overwhelmingly negative reaction from Blizzard’s player base will cause a change. I am all for accountability – tie our RealID to a single, unchangable forum avatar/username. This eliminates level 1 alt posting and forces sustained accountability for all forum posts, while at the same time protecting our privacy.