‘Cataclysm’ Living Up To It’s Name

July 7th, 2010 by Dave

First of all, let me start off by saying that despite all the smack talk, I really do emphasize with Blizzard/Activision. Really, I do. Becasue they have a monster on their hands right now; a monster in the form of their player base. Go onto the Blizzard forums and you’ll see a wasteland of troling, flame wars, and juvenille hostility, along with a precious few actual bits of usable information. Go to Goldshire (or other starting zone) in WoW during peak hours and you’ll see more flesh, offers for bizzare sex, and guys pretending to be girls than an average Friday night in Bangkok’s red light district. And no, I’m sadly not exaggerating (much) with that last sentence.

Yes, there is a cancer eating away at Blizzard’s games. But it’s a cancer of their own making by refusing to do nothing when the problem was still small. And now, Blizzard/Activision has decided the time has come for drastic measures; measures that might just kill the patient.

On Tuesday, the following thread went up on the StarCraft II forums, confirming the fears of many gamers. With the launch of SC2, RealID will be *required* in order to post on the oficial Blizzard forums. RealID will be required for WoW forum posts with the launch of Cataclysm. Forums for legacy games like Diablo and Warcraft 3 will get a consolidated forum where RealID is requirted to post in the near future. The official party line from Blizard is this measure is being taken in order to cut down on spammers, troll, flames, and other anti-social behavior while bonding the gaming community tighter togather socially.

And the community is bonding tighter, alright.

A brief scan of the forum threads shows that the players are pretty much dead set against this, even to the point of canceling pre-orders of SC2 and cancelling their accounts altogether. Blizzard is getting some defense from a few hard-core fans, but really, that’s like sombody drinking a double latte outside an Apple Store defending Apple on all the iPhone4 issues. The bottom line that is so frightening is that for the first time, a game company wants to strip away the annominity of it’s players. Blizzard is requiring all users to post on the forum using their real names, including the technical forums. You know, the forums where you post to report things like your account getting hacked. So, not only are you posting that your account has been compromised for a few billion of your closest friends and neighbors that have an internet connection to see, but your real name will be attributed to the post.

Quite frankly, there’s nothing that I can say that isn’t already eloquently covered by the detailed post at the bottom of the first page of the thread by Patientzero. Every single security question that has been raised is summerized there, including some that I hadn’t thought of or heard of before. How about the fact that this move is stripping away annominity to reveal gender and minor status. Because there’s no-one on the internet that would stalk or harrass a woman or a child; that’s just inconcievable. How about the fact that this move is also stripping away the annominity of Blizard’s own employees? I raised questions of safety last month in regards to the Counter Strike attack in France, and that’s just stemming from the off chance of encountering some psycho in a PvP match. How many of these kinds of individuals that could be emotionally unstable and a very real threat do Blizzard GM’s deal with and ban on a daily basis? Now, you’re going to force your GM’s and forum mods to reveal their real names to the people they have to discipline? I suspect that applications to work at Blizzard are going to be in sharp decline and there’s going to be a lot of job openings once Cataclysm hits.

One further thought to consider in all this: what about all the celebrities that play or claim to play WoW? I don’t really buy into the hype about JCVD or Ozzy playing WoW, but there are many celebrities that are public about playing WoW, such as Seth Greene, Mila Kulnis, and Adriane Curry. Even discounting the Hollywood crowd, how about someone with less overall fame but still possessing a devoted fan base, such as bloggers and web cartoonists. Do you think Scott Kurtz of PvP is really going to appreciate having his real name out there on WoW for fans to incessantly bother him with in-game tells? An ignore list only goes so far and only holds so many names.

Some people might counter that the RealID implimentation is only for posting on the forums, which is an ‘optional’ part of the game. Aside from my problem with having to put my real name on a technical forum post in order to recieve assistance in the event of a security breach, I agree. I’m not a forum presence in any game that I play, so this isn’t going to affect me unless I need to post because my account got hacked. What worries me is that this is the first step toward completely stripping away any veil of annominity in Blizzard’s games. We all know the anology of tossing a frog into a pot of boiling water versus gradually turning up the heat. This is a case where Blizzard is slowly eroding away an important feature of safety and security in the internet age: annominty. What may be only required to post on a forum today may be required to play the game tomorrow.

So, what can be done about this today?

Maybe not much. There’s a petition for players to write to the ESRB to protest this move by Blizzard, but really, that”s like writing to the MPAA to complain about Paramount because of Transformers 2. The best thing is to post logical arguments on the Blizzard forums, couched in terms that Blizzard will understand like potential lawsuits and loss of revenue. We can always hope that some measure of sanity returns to Blizzard and they nix this idea. Barring that, maybe some stockholders can band together to file an injunction from implementing the RealID requirement on the basis that it could have a severe, negative impact on the company’s earnings and devalue the stock. Again, a long shot, but you never know.

Again, becasue this is at the forum post stage, I’m nervous, but it doesn’t affect me much. Whether or not I decide to ultimately stay with WoW is going to depend on how things progress with SC2. It does look like Blizzard is indeed going towards full disclosure of player identity with full integration of RealID, but part of me is hoping that they’ll pull back. Regardless, if there ever does come a day where I have to have my real name publicly available in order to play an online game, I’m leaving the game that same day and erasing the account. And I’m pretty sure I’m in the majority opinion here for once.

UPDATE: Well, it certainly didn’t take long for things to take a turn to the comically tragic. Earlier today, Blizzard mod Bashiok posted his real name on the WoW forums to show folks that it was perfectly safe. Five minutes later, WoW plyers were posting personal information on Bashiok (aka Micha Whipple), including home address, phone number, family memebers, ect… Current rumors are that he’s been so bombarded that he’s turned off his phone and perhap even canceled his Twitter account. However the Twitter thing might be just a rumore since coffeedrunk is reporting he responded via Twitter that everyone was message and phone ‘bombing’ the wrong Micah Whipple.

Becasue yeah, Micah Whipple is such a common name; especially one that lives withing commute distance of Irvine.

So, now this long-time employee of Blizzard is the 59th most populare search on Google as of this update and well on his way to becoming an internet meme. Good jorb, Blizzard. Way to think outside the box here.

Regardless, I think the case has been made on just how bad of an idea this is. So, Micah, Geek Tragedy salutes you for taking one for the team here and falling on the grenade to protect Blizzard. Unfortunately, the grenade turned out to be of the nuclear variaety and not the annoying Night Elf Mohawk kind.

And Micah, if you’re reading this, don’t feel bad. Get in contact with us and we’ll send you a free NPC Comics t-shirt for being an overall nice guy stuck in a rough situation.

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Categories: Gaming

4 Responses to “‘Cataclysm’ Living Up To It’s Name”

  1. Kyle says:

    I remember once reading an old Time Magazine from the mid-60s, where this reporter went out on an Agent Orange spray run with some American pilots. The reporter asked whether the stuff they were spraying was really safe. Instead of answering with words, the pilot he was riding with demonstrated his confidence in its safety by going over to a barrel full of Agent Orange, scooping up a big drop with his finger, and swallowing it right then and there.

    I don’t know what happened to that guy. My guess is that he’s not around to ask.

    Micah Whipple, you are the 21st century version of Agent Orange Guy.

  2. Daisy says:

    He put his family in jeapordy, it was a dumb move on his part. However, I think this just proves to Blizz how bad things have become. It proves to Blizzard that much needs to be done. While I’m not a fan of REAL ID, I’m glad they are trying to do something about handling the forums. Those forums a fairly useless unless you have a ton of time on your hands.

    There are other methods to handling your hacked accounts than posting a forum thread. Same with bugs. You can call Blizzard directly, or email accounts/ Billing. So again posting your account issues in a forum would be optional, and probably not the best way to solve your issue.

    A minor should not be owning an account. If you allow a minor to own an account and play, post or use a computer without supervision then you should be prosecuted alongside the stalker. Parenting 101, but not all parents should be parents I guess. Women are just as intellegent as men. To assume that a woman would get raped because she posts her name is sexist and ignorant (redundant I know).

    Every forum I’ve been in that someone has claimed to have a mouseover macro. I’ve offered to come to their server, make a character and have them tell me my name. NOBODY will/can do it. Maybe in the future someone will figure out a way, but right now I call bullshit.

  3. Kyle says:

    Update II: Blizzard caves, drops RealID scheme:

    http://forums.worldofwarcraft.com/thread.html?topicId=25968987278&sid=1

  4. Dave says:

    Ha! First, I say Jeff Zucker needs to get the axe at NBC, now he’s gone. Then I say Blizz needs to abandon the forced RealID, and they do it. All bow down before my amazing power to state the blindingly obvious!

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