So this past week, WoW players threw a fit when Blizzard announced that upon release of Starcraft II they would be forcing players to use their real names in the online forums. This news came on the heels of some really innovative things Blizzard has been doing with Battle.net. Similar to Steam‘s model but just for Blizzard games, you’re now able to log into all of your Blizzard games through a single Battle.net account. You will be able to contact people on your friends list through this account, no matter which game or realm they are on, and you can allow real life friends (or whomever you wish) to see your real name and search for you with RealID.
The logic, Blizzard claimed, behind forcing forum users to use their real names is that it would curb trolling and general forum debauchery like that which occurs on a daily basis on the World of Warcraft Forums. WoW players knew that they would be next and much bawling ensued. Some of the arguments were a bit far-fetched like female players crying the blues that they didn’t want to be “discovered” and “stalked.” I think most of them are giving themselves waaay too much credit. In reality, a lot of the complaints were also from fat dudes who have been playing sexy female Night elves and don’t want their cover blown.
Some arguments were legitimate like workplace discrimination and people applying to jobs not wanting future employers to Google them, find out they play WoW and dismiss their application. Unfortunately, there’s a lot of stereotypes surrounding gamers, especially WoW players, so I can understand this stance. Of course there’s also the trolls who will harass you in real life too now with your real name for all to see. The major sentiment was that implementing this system harms the good players and really will do little to deter the trolls. I mean, it’s proven that real names don’t stop a lot of people from making asses of themselves online. Just look at Facebook, real names, photos, personal identifying information and all doesn’t stop people from trolling and generally making uncouth comments.
Blizzard backs down
As people began threatening account cancellation and more sites picked up the story, Blizzard finally abandoned the real name concept. The CEO posted on the forum yesterday:
I’d like to take some time to speak with all of you regarding our desire to make the Blizzard forums a better place for players to discuss our games. We’ve been constantly monitoring the feedback you’ve given us, as well as internally discussing your concerns about the use of real names on our forums. As a result of those discussions, we’ve decided at this time that real names will not be required for posting on official Blizzard forums.
It’s important to note that we still remain committed to improving our forums. Our efforts are driven 100% by the desire to find ways to make our community areas more welcoming for players and encourage more constructive conversations about our games. We will still move forward with new forum features such as the ability to rate posts up or down, post highlighting based on rating, improved search functionality, and more. However, when we launch the new StarCraft II forums that include these new features, you will be posting by your StarCraft II Battle.net character name + character code, not your real name. The upgraded World of Warcraft forums with these new features will launch close to the release of Cataclysm, and also will not require your real name.”
Bravo. However, I’d like to discuss some real ideas for improving Blizzard’s forums.
Steps for fixing the forums
1. First and foremost is better moderation. This may seem “no duh” but right now there is little policing of the forums. Blizzard needs a clear set of forum rules that it will enforce through moderation. No trolling, no spam, no hate speech, etc. When some newbie comes on the forum and asks “How do I train in warlock abilities?” and the first post is “lol noob” that person is punished. I would suggest a system like the one on the Something Awful Forums. When someone breaks the rules, depending on the infraction and how many times they’ve failed to follow the rules, they can be probated, banned or permabanned. Probation lasts anywhere from a few minutes, a few hours, a few days or even a month. Probated users can read the forums but not post until their probation is up. The post in which they violated the rules gets (USER WAS PUT ON PROBATION FOR THIS POST) at the end so everyone can see it. While on probation, their avatar is changed to reflect that as well. This is similar for banning and permabanning except, with a ban, a user cannot post again until they either a. buy their account back or b. buy a new account. Permabanning means they are not allowed back on the forums, they are IP banned and if they do slip by with another account, they will be permabanned again.
2. Allow users to report posts. Once users see moderation actually being enforced, they will stand up to the trolls and bad posters. With a report button, they can report posts they find against the rules and moderators can see reported posts in a queue then choose to take action or not. People who abuse the report button (constantly reporting posts that clearly follow the rules) may be subjected to probation themselves.
3. Connect all characters. When people want to troll or post something nasty on the current WoW forums, they will usually post under the name of one of their low level characters, thus severing the connection between their reputation on their max level toon. Blizzard should make it so that no matter which character name you post under, people can click on your profile and see all the characters your account owns.
I think these three steps will go a lot further in cleaning up the forums than real names ever would. Well Blizzard, what do you think?