Blizzard had this bright idea recently to make it so everyone exposed their real names when posting on forums and talking across world boundaries. People were predictably upset at this.

I think that the perfect time to implement this would be right around September 22nd. That way all the disaffected WoW players will go pick up Final Fantasy 14…

Kidding aside, the real question is both why Blizzard didn’t see this coming, and the other is why people are so upset about this, and what alternatives are there?

I have no idea about the first, but as for the second, Real names have essentially become something like a social security number. They’re something that is an essential tool for someone to get a hold on if they’re going to stalk you, track you down, steal your identity, etc. Having this separate from your online identity is something I find to be essential for many reasons. For someone whose job it is to be well known it’s different. But for most people, not using their real name on sites is an essential tool in keeping their personal life and professional life separate.

Forcing people to reveal their real name when playing a game opens that game up to their employers and potential future employers as something to use when evaluating an employee or a candidate. It can also cause bleed-through. When you post something online under an alias, someone isn’t instantly going to associate it to where you work. If you post with your real name, you have to suddenly be aware of every rule and regulation with your job and blogging, and how it might appear to customers of your employer, etc.

An online identity separate from your real identity is just another way to keep work and play separate and distinct.

Blizzard’s argument is that if people can’t hide behind anonymity, then they won’t be as rude to people. So what can be done instead? The real problem is more if identities are disposable, then you don’t care if you sully this identity. I work hard to try and keep my online identity clean myself. I’m invested in being Kazriko and have had this ID for a great many years. What might be better for them to do is to make it so each person can only have a single identity, and make it hard for them to create a new one. At the very least, make it so that the reputation they gain with their old identity follows them to their new one as well. Once they know that they can’t run and hide behind a new name, maybe they won’t be so eager to be jerks online. This can be done without imperiling their real names or identities online.