It seems that one company is putting the old adage: “there’s no such thing as bad publicity” to the test. On July 6th Blizzard Entertainment announced an upcoming change to their official Starcraft and World of Warcraft forums. The announcement stated that upon the release of Starcraft II, and Word of Warcraft: Cataclysm all posts in the new forum system will display the poster’s first and last name, as opposed to their character’s name.
The explanation given for these changes basically says they are doing this to shame the trolls out of the forums. However, many players seem to find this a less then satisfactory answer. In less then 24 hours since the announcement of the upcoming change, there have been over twenty-three thousand posts on their official forum discussing it. The vast majority of these posts are very negative.
It seems many people are concerned about the ramifications of having their full names out on the internet every time they post an opinion. This is a fairly understandable sentiment, as one of the core rules in almost every online forum is: “Do not share your personal information with strangers”, I think one’s full name counts as personal information. While everyone can argue the likelihood of increased harassment or identity theft occurring on these new boards, the fact is the majority of posters seem to be against the change.
I find this announcement interesting, mostly because I am a tad skeptical about the company’s intentions. Forum trolls are common, and Blizzard, with its several million players has a lot of them. However, it seems that there are better ways to deal with Trolls, harsher moderation, limiting people to post under one single user name, are just two of the suggestions being thrown out in the forums now. Also I have to wonder how they expect this change will limit trolling. Just because we know a troll’s name does not mean we can change his behavior. The only way we could do that is if there were the threat of reprisal… and that right there is why I’m a bit disconcerted by this explanation. The idea seems to be that the removal of anonymity will make the trolls vulnerable, but isn’t this an implicit sanction for harassing people outside of the game? What I mean to say is, how is knowing a trolls full name any better then just limiting them to one name and letting him generate a bad reputation with no alts to hid behind?
In the end this whole thing seems bizarre. It’s almost like a delayed April fools day gag, as opposed to a real policy change. It has drawn a huge number of people to protest it on their forums, and frankly I have never seen WoW fans so united…it’s unsettling to say the least.
For all these reasons I have to label this the first ever Worst Video Game Decision Ever.
P.S. For all of you getting tired of me talking about video games tune in later this week for our take on Avatar the Last Airbender.