In an effort to clean up its online forum usage, Blizzard Entertainment will require that those who wish to post on its gaming forums will have to do so using their real names. This could change the entire character of the forums. But what will the users think of it?
Blizzard is behind such blockbuster releases as the Starcraft, World of Warcraft, and the Diablo series. The change to real name usage on the forums instead of online personalities will begin on July 27 of this year with the release of Starcraft II. The forum for Starcraft II will be the first to implement the change, with forums for future releases set to follow the same path. As one would expect, the change has left many loyal Blizzard followers upset, with many vowing to boycott the forums.
The main reason behind Blizzard's move to eliminate anonymity is to reduce online abuse. With fictional names, some people tend to be more bold online than they would be in person on a face-to-face basis. Many will hurl insults or threats at others, without fearing any dire consequences other than a possible ban on posting. By requiring real names, many posters would likely tone things down, as their shield of an online moniker would be gone, thus leaving them exposed. Another possible reason could be the future integration of Facebook with Blizzard games, since Facebook encourages real names with their profiles as well.
There are various reasons as to why some of the forum users are against the change. First, many fear that by having their real names exposed, people may look them up. With so many tools at one's disposal with online searches, background checks, and more, a simple name could lead to a user's address and much more personal information.
For many, gaming is more than just diversion. Some take the hobby personally and are fanatical about it. Say, for instance, someone does something in-game that really rubs a person the wrong way. If they find the offender on a forum and see their real name, they might do something as drastic as find their home, make harassing phone calls, or do something even worse.
Blizzard has stated that users will not be required to post their gaming names alongside their real names, so that correlation may be avoided in some cases. In others, however, it might not be and could lead to serious trouble.
Another opinion voiced in opposition to the shift from online monikers to real names is that it takes away one huge element from gaming and the online experience, and that element is fantasy. Many people love gaming because it is an escape. They can create a persona to live vicariously through. They can escape the real world and all the problems or issues they may be facing. By requiring real names in forums, they might feel a disconnect from their virtual character, and this negates one of the main reasons they may have played the game in the first place.
The shift by Blizzard will undoubtedly cause the company to lose some fans. It remains to be seen how it will affect the company, as its titles are very successful. World of Warcraft, for example, has over 11 million subscribers that pay monthly fees for its online usage. When the real name requirement does go live, it will probably be just a matter of time before some major incident occurs as a result of having a player's actual name exposed. Hopefully, nobody will get hurt in the process.
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