The Average Gamer

When Journalism Meets Naivety: CrunchGear Edition

As you’ve probably heard, Blizzard’s forums have made the decision to display users’ real names instead of character names in forums, with (IMO) the piss-poor reasoning that it will improve quality of conversation. Cue 78+ pages of outrage.

Just to cut the obvious trollery off before it starts, my name is Debbie Timmins. I love video games and I make no secret of my identity on this blog, though I do write under a pseudonym. [Edit Jan 2010: I have since started writing under my real name]

Over at CrunchGear, Nicholas Deleon has been refusing to look outside the world of forum trolling and gaming, with an incredibly specious argument:

It’s clear that Blizzard doesn’t give a toss if your feelings are hurt in this whole situation, and nor should they. If requiring people to use their real name helps cut down on the amount of utter nonsense that goes on in those forums—the forums are completely unreadable on Tuesdays when the servers are down for maintenance—then so be it.

That’s the point, after all: to chase the riffraff off the forums. Blizzard’s trying to facilitate constructive game discussion on there. If your only contribution to said discussion is to call this or that person a name, or to QQ about something in a manner that you wouldn’t want your boss to see, well, take a hike. Blizzard doesn’t want you on there.

Don’t like Blizzard’s new anti-anonymous commenting policy? Tough luck.

Trolls will not stop being trolls just because they have to use their real names. Ever been in a pub or party argument with a complete tosser? Ever seen people getting into flame wars on a mailing list? Of course you have! Revealing true identities doesn’t magically bestow people skills. Let’s face it, insensitivity is the real cause of flame wars and trolling.

I’ve seen a lot of tosh to the effect of, “Posting under my real name will jeopardize my professional situation.” This seems to be rooted in a kind of social and/or professional embarrassment about your love of the game(s). A sort of “what will my boss think if he or she sees me posting at 3:00am complaining about drop rates?” Why does your boss give a darn what you do on your own time—provided it doesn’t impair your ability to produce widgets while on the clock? Is it really so detrimental to your social standing to be seen asking where to find a certain mob, or reporting a bug in the new five-man dungeon?

When privacy meets hypocrisy: Blizzard Real ID edition

Yes, you idiot. Yes, it is that detrimental. When a potential employer is googling names off a pile of hundreds of CVs, is he going to click through and read my proven successful point-by-point tactic for taking down that rare elite? Of course he’s fucking not. He’s going to see my name, see the phrase “World of Warcraft” and decide that I’m a fat spotty loser with no social skills who probably lives in my parents’ basement.
Screenshot of fat spotty South Park kids in their basement playing World of Warcraft

Nintendo may have brought the Wii mainstream but the very concept of videogames is still anathema to a hell of a lot of people. I know lots of people who LOVE Rock Band, SingStar and Wii games but it’s just like the argument over science fiction. They’re not videogames. They’re different! When I meet new people outside gaming circles, I still see eyes glaze over if I mention the phrases “video games”, “Xbox” or “PlayStation”. I’ve seen similar, though warier, looks when I mention that I used to captain my university rifle club. Strangely enough, I no longer bring up either of those hobbies until I know people fairly well. Prejudice is a fact of life.

When it comes to recruitment and promotion, it’s a very competitive market these days. Unemployment rates still aren’t great and job ads are inundated with hundreds of applications. I know for a fact that when you have 2 hours to read through a hundred CVs, the smallest flaw will get you on the discard pile; typos, poorly constructed sentences, crappy CV layout, working for the wrong company at the wrong time based on the screener’s personal history and of course, a weird hobby. I’ve done it myself – outstanding experience and skills could get you back on the “maybe” pile for a second round of interviews but there are probably 15 other people who didn’t have your weird hobby and I’m going to interview them first.

Good for Nicholas that he works in the tech sector where videogames are accepted and what you do on your own time is your own business. I, on the other hand, have built a career in one of the most politically charged and conservative organisations in the world – the UK National Health Service. With 11 million+ subscribers, I suspect that most other World of Warcraft players also don’t have the luxury of working for cutting edge technology websites. Here’s a hint; you do not rise to senior positions in the NHS, or most other companies based on your ability to “produce widgets while on the clock” and anyone who thinks that you do is incredibly naïve.

This move by Blizzard will drive the people who care about their reputations away from the official forums. How will that improve the quality of conversation?

See other opinions here: RealID Linkspam
Stabbed Up: WoW: ReadID
The Ancient Gaming Noob: Blizzard Real ID vs. My Privacy
Eurogamer: Blizzard forums to require real names
Center for Democracy and Technology: Blizzard Looks To Chill Forum Speech with Real ID

Edit via Stylish Corpse: Blizzard have come to their senses! Check out their post retracting plans to publish Real ID on WoW. Nicholas Deleon, however, is still a twit.