The RealID Thing
I want to take a moment to commend the people at Blizzard for listening to the community. Displaying a person’s real name on the official forums was a poorly constructed idea and a source of a lot of confusion, anger, and mistrust. I am glad they decided to recall this feature before it was enabled. The CEO showed a lot of grace with the announcement that Blizzard does listen to community feedback and does value thoughtful input from its customers. While I had not vocalized any of my concerns about the matter, I do agree with many that my real name is mine to display or hide, and I do not wish for a company to decide for me when it is appropriate to toss my name out on the internet. I am relieved to hear that real names will not be required on the official forums, even if that is a place I never visit. I understand that a lot of people were concerned about this proposed change, and I hope they feel at least a little comforted by the recall.
That said, I also want to address the idea of a “Facebook in WoW”, as it seems this is the direction Blizzard has taken. I enjoy Facebook. I spend too much time there fiddling with games and pestering my friends. I have found it to be a good way to keep in touch with high school buddies that moved away after graduation years ago, and for keeping up with family and my favorite bands and what have you. I use Facebook as a medium to communicate, and it is well suited to this.
I do not use WoW in the same manner. I use it as a game, because that’s what it is. I log in to WoW to play, not necessarily to chat. Of course I talk to people. I talk to real life friends who play and I chat with my guild, but I’m never to be found engaging in anything in Trade chat, or conversing at length in general chat, or sitting idly about Dalaran whispering people. If I really want to talk to someone, I use Facebook or Yahoo! instant messaging or text them. If I want to hang out with a friend, I don’t log in to WoW to hit them up. This is not to say that my gaming and social lives don’t overlap. There is actually a lot of cross-play between them, as many of my friends also play WoW and many in my guild are real life friends to some degree.
The RealID system is kind of neat, in a small way. Being able to chat with friends cross-game and cross-server is a cool feature, and one I bet gets a lot of use despite being unpopular with the vocal community. But I don’t have friends that play Diablo or Starcraft. And I have alts on other servers specifically for playing without having to chat or be bothered by friends or guild mates. I love them dearly, but sometimes I want to tune out the world and just play. For me, the RealID chat feature in WoW is superfluous. I have chosen not to use it.
Are we heading towards a social networking MMO? It seems that way. Is this the end of WoW? Settle down, doom-sayers. It is not. Everything is the end of WoW, if you believe what people are saying. And every time someone bellowed that a certain feature would ruin the game, WoW persevered. It’s still thriving. It’s still a massively popular game. The RealID feature will not cause it to crash and burn.
But my hopes are still that RealID does not become a prominent feature of WoW. It has the potential to become a monster, where more effort is put into new RealID features than into WoW its self until RealID becomes the game and WoW is just the chat room. As long as you can choose not to use RealID, I think it will be fine. But the second certain features of the game are only accessible through RealID, or what have you, I think a lot of people will be put out. A lot of people are not playing WoW in order to chat with people. A lot of people, myself included, would rather chat with people through outside methods than in the game its self. I would really like to keep the two separate.