Blizzard Entertainment, who publish games such as World of Warcraft, the soon-to-launch StarCraft II and the upcoming Diablo III, has enraged many players by forcing them to use their full first and last names when posting in the company’s Battle.net forums.
Those who don’t like the change feel it lifts a veil of anonymity that allowed them to express themselves freely. Blizzard says the policy is meant to foster a more positive environment for discussion as well as to help Battle.net evolve with the times, and applies to its employees as well as rank-and-file gamers.
“It’s important to us to create a new and different kind of online gaming environment — one that’s highly social, and which provides an ideal place for gamers to form long-lasting, meaningful relationships,” reads part of the forum announcement.
I don’t play WoW or use Battle.net, but it’s hard to imagine, in the “too much information” society in which we now live, anyone who would knowingly broadcast every detail of their lives feeling truly inhibited in any way by sharing their real names with the members of their chosen online community. Maybe this spirit of openness will spread to other realms, like the comment sections of news websites?
One can only dream.
More from Blizzard:
The official forums have always been a great place to discuss the latest info on our games, offer ideas and suggestions, and share experiences with other players — however, the forums have also earned a reputation as a place where flame wars, trolling, and other unpleasantness run wild. Removing the veil of anonymity typical to online dialogue will contribute to a more positive forum environment, promote constructive conversations, and connect the Blizzard community in ways they haven’t been connected before.
What do you think?
Update: Here’s a link to an Associated Press’ story in which Marc Rotenberg, executive director of the Electronic Privacy Information Center, calls this a “bit of a sad day” in the world of gaming. “Part of the fun of the online gaming would was the sense that you could construct a character different form who you were in the real world,” he told AP.
The new policy goes into effect later this month, when StarCraft II launches.