With the latest patch 3.3.5, Blizzard introduced what could have been one of the best gamer friendly features that they have released so far. Namely, a way for in-game friends to keep in touch with others across realms and different games. But I won’t be using it. Here’s why…
I currently don’t play World of Warcraft.
Okay, a little facetious, I know. I’m quietly enjoying myself in Everquest 2, dungeon crawling and even doing a little raiding with my guild, The Halasian Empire. When Starcraft 2 comes out I’m not sure I’ll be buying it straight away anyway. However, even then I’ve gone on record as saying that I’ll be creating a separate Battle Net account for SC2.
But… I do intend to have a go at Cataclysm at some point. I expect that to release around November, so the Christmas break (not that running my own business affords break time, even over the holidays) might give me some time to whip up a Worgen. But even then I won’t be using Real ID, and these are the reasons.
- I don’t have any real life friends playing WoW. Blizzard themselves do not recommend Real IDing anyone who is not known to you in real life, from the Real ID FAQ. Real ID is a system designed to be used with people you know and trust in real life — friends, co-workers and family — though it’s ultimately up to you to determine who you wish to interact with in this fashion.
- I want to maintain my privacy, or at least the illusion of privacy. I simply want to be known as Stropp, or Bargearse, or Phlebas or any one of the number of monikers I’ve chosen for myself over the years. (I’d probably choose the Stropp alias seeing as it has been the one I’ve given the most effort to ‘branding’ due to this blog.) While I have no illusions of the fact that anyone could probably find my real name out very quickly, I’d prefer to keep some boundaries between my gaming and ‘real’ lives even if a Google of my name shows no information about me, except for a couple of programming forum posts from years back and the fact that I share my name with a couple of actors and the inventor of a Formula One racing car engine.
- I also like, from time to time, to have some alone time. I want to be able to flip a switch on Real ID and become invisible to the rest of the gaming world. If I decide to devote several hours to a Horde character on a different server without being available to my guild for whatever, I want to be able to do that. That doesn’t seem to be something that Blizzard wants me to be able to do, even though other IM services offer that facility. In real life I can let my phone go to the answering machine if I’m eating dinner or watching a movie, and the caller doesn’t know if I’m home or not, so no offence. Let me do the same with Real ID Blizzard, let me choose to which characters and games that Real ID will apply.
Real ID, as I said at the start of this post, is a really promising feature to add to Blizzard’s stable of games. The whole social networking thing is going to be a big part of the future, not just of games, but communication and even business and government. However it has to be managed properly in order to win trust. It seems to me that someone at Blizzard, or perhaps above them in the Activision management chain, had the idea that some kind of social networking feature would be good and demanded it be implemented without giving thought as to the ramifications. Unfortunately, that gives us this half-arsed implementation of Real ID.
So come Cataclysm, or perhaps before if I get the urge to play World of Warcraft, if you see me in game and ask me to do the Real ID thing with you, please don’t be offended at a polite no. At least, until Blizzard addresses my concerns. Then I’ll reconsider my stance.
(BTW, during my research I noticed that there is an incredibly unpopular US government law called the Real ID Act. Why did Blizzard choose to name their social networking system after something that has generated such bad feelings? Like I said half-arsed, and badly thought out.)