The problem with Real ID

The problem with Real ID is not necessarily that it violates people’s privacy by linking their real name to people their Real ID friends know, although that sucks.

The problem with Real ID is that it has created a significantly awkward social situation.

Real ID has been out for all of a day and a half. How many people have you actually accepted or become Real ID friends with? How many have requested it of you? How many people have you requested it from?

Before I had even patched my client, I had requests (via other methods of communication) from my buddies Euphie, Shadowcry, Osephala and Carmentes.

I love them to death, but I am not Real ID friends with them and I won’t be unless this “feature” gets a lot more refined.

How does this make my buddies feel? Well, I can’t imagine it made them feel GOOD. These are people I’ve raided with — for practically four years, in the case of Shadow — and people I really like and respect. And they’re all excited about swapping IDs and then they find out that their former GM and/or healing lead isn’t going to friend them?

Frankly, I’d be pissed if I were any of them, and I appreciate the understanding they’ve shown after I explained my reasons to them. I’d STILL be pissed. ;)

I can understand Blizzard. They want to keep us playing, so what they’re trying to do is move us to communicate within their framework. They think it’s super easy to use and convenient. They know that people play a variety of Blizzard games and want us to be able to talk to each other across those platforms.

This is not bad. This is actually pretty cool. I’m all for convenience and easy communication and honestly, I enjoy the idea of chatting with my brother on Proudmoore while I raid on Skywall. It was actually a fun thing to do while I was in ICC 25 last night.

What is bad is that people aren’t thinking about the consequences. I’m seeing people in my new guild throw around their email addresses in a flurry. I love my new guild, but I don’t know them terribly well and I DEFINITELY don’t want most of them to know my “real life” name and identity at this point. Shit, they’ve found this blog and I was totally unprepared for that. :P Not only that, but do I really want my new guild to be able to find me on Proudmoore or something? Not particularly. If I’m on Proudmoore instead of Skywall, it’s because I’m doing something ON PROUDMOORE. I have five 80s there. I have things to do! :)

And yet, there’s this social pressure — not necessarily with my own guild, but I’ve had hints of it there — to friend everyone you’re friends with in WoW.

Apart from the fact that this completely redefines “friend”, it puts anyone unwilling to jump on that bandwagon in a very awkward situation.

How do you tell people you truly like and whose presence you enjoy in your raid that you don’t want them to know about your alts? How do you tell these same people that you don’t want to share your real name with them? Or your real email address with them? Or the names of YOUR friends?

There are three answers.

1) You tell them straight-out that you don’t want to be Real ID friends with them. This is hard to hear and I swear it’s harder to say. But it sucks for both individuals.

2) You tell them that you’re reserving Real ID friend use to a very small group of people; likely people you actually HAVE met IRL, whose real names you already know and use and that’s it. This is what I’ve chosen to do because it’s TOO COOL to be able to chat with people on other servers while I raid.

3) You don’t tell them how you feel and, instead, get peer-pressured into using Real ID when you’re actually a little hesitant or uncomfortable.

Why has this happened? This has happened because geeks have a problem with social niceties.

Don’t get me wrong; I’m very geeky. I really think that I am that rare kind of person who can understand where geeks are coming from and translate their behaviour to non-geeks and vice-versa. I understand both the geeks and the non-geeks.

The geeks see it like this, I’m thinking:

“Man, I wish I could talk to Majmaj while he’s playing SCII and I’m wiping in heroic ICC25.”

Which leads to: “Hey, if I built a system that was common to both and I used email addresses as the actual destination/recipient identifier but used the name linked to the account as the name representing the email address, that could be done! Oh my God, how cool would that be?!”

And then, being geeks, they CAN create that system. So they do. Voila, hello, Real ID. How’re you doing?

Being geeks, however, they have completely ignored the social niceties required in a situation like this.

The social niceties required are as follows, in my not-remotely-humble opinion:

– a character privacy scale: let the person see all your characters (as it presently is) or certain characters only, where you would get a list of all your toons and select the ones they could see.

– a RL privacy scale: let the person see your full real name (as it presently is) or just your first name.

– a Real ID friends privacy scale: let the person see all your Real ID friends’ names (as it presently is) or select which friends you want them to be able to see through you.

– a self-Real ID friends privacy scale: allow yourself to be visible (as it is now) or hidden to Real ID  friends of YOUR Real ID friends.

– a self-privacy setting: allow yourself to be visible to all your friends when online (as it is now) or just visible to those on the same server as the specific character you’re on. (The way the old friends setting used to work.)

The privacy creep is on, people. I’m not trying to be an alarmist, but when people I don’t know can see that I’m a Real ID friend of someone else, that’s not really cool by me. Doesn’t matter if they can’t link me to my toons or servers within the interface itself; I don’t want to share my name with a lot of people.

In all, I think Real ID, as it’s currently implemented, is a FANTASTIC groundwork for inter-server/inter-game communication. Long overdue, if you ask me. This all works okay, but that’s all.

The geeks have neglected to take into account how people will want to use this and how awkward it might be if people choose not to. They haven’t considered how this will force some people to redefine what “friend” means. Worse, they haven’t considered how this will force some people to EXPLAIN what their definition of “friend” is to some people who don’t make the cut.

I’m sure that the flurry of posts and comments about Real ID will subside soon enough and that within a month or so, no one will really care if you friend them that way or not.

But on launch? Boy, does this have the potential to be ugly.

9 comments

  1. Codi says:

    I’m not using it at all, even with my SO and RL friends. :P That way when people ask, I can say “no” with no guilt at all. But then again, I give away my email address and Facebook page to, like, anyone who asks. XD I just want to be able to hide on an alt now and again, you know?

  2. xmolder says:

    Currently, I’ve had two requests. One from a friend (who I’ve met in real life, I went to school with him for years) I’m leveling with, and one from the guildmate who got me my ticket to BlizzCon. I declined the first, but accepted the second. The only reason why I did, really, is because we’ll be meeting up at the Con, and this way we can chat about it regardless of who I’m leveling on. I have no trouble telling people that I just want to be left alone, need to level apart from the guild for a bit, things like that. And the people I’d add to my friends list understand that. I’m very certain about that, otherwise I probably wouldn’t be friends with them.

    As for other people seeing your full name? Doesn’t really bother me. Yeah, I can see the security risks, but the thing is, I’ve been dealing with this for YEARS. I got this on MySpace, I got it on that MySpace knockoff that I was on during its beta, and I STILL get it on Facebook. But I can just ignore the request (or outright say “no”) and it ends right there. They still have my name, but that’s ALL.

    Unless I’m missing a very important part of the system. Which is possible.

    I understand the concern that everyone is throwing out there, and I think that it’s excellent that they are (I’m absolutely in support of refining the system further). But I can’t add my name to the list.

    tl;dr Yet another “I’m ambivalent, and thus don’t contribute to the conversation” comment.

  3. thansal says:

    I’m not sure where I’m going with it.

    The key that I DON’T like is the entire friends of friends thing, and that is why I’m not going to be using it for now.

    The people I would use it with are people that I knew before I played with them, however I don’t assume that they will all keep it that way, and I don’t want that connection.

    Ultimately we have a chat channel we use in game for those people we want to talk to cross guild. I would like to be RealID friends with some of my other friends that play on other servers, but I don’t want to be pestered by their friends or ‘friends’.

  4. Chirri says:

    I’m using it for 4 friends. One is my SO, one is a friend I’ve been playing MMOs with since I introduced her to EverQuest back in college 10 years ago, one is a friend I met through the aforementioned college friend, and one is a friend I made a few years ago but no longer plays on my server.

    My reasons for RealIDing with these particular people is that 1) they’re people (other than my SO) that I already talk to in chat channels, 2) they’re people who already know my real name (via FB), 3) they’re people who aren’t in my guild, so guild drama is… a non-issue, 4) they’re people I’ve known for quite some time, and we’re comfortable with our non-invasive relationships – I don’t abuse my friendship with them begging for help, and they return that favor… we’re chat buddies in WoW and that’s basically it.

    I suppose reason 4 is the biggest reason for deciding to do RealID with these people. I have no intention of adding anyone further – I raid with about 45 other people on a regular basis, in two guilds, but I’ve never fostered the sorts of relationships in MMOs that would put me in a position to feel particularly guilty over deciding to/not to RealID friend people. Three of my RealID friends I’ve known for at least 7 years, two of them I know IRL.

    I think having jumped the first hurdle that is “Facebook” is what’s made this whole thing less of a concern for me. I’m less picky about who Friends me on FB, and more picky about who RealID’s me in WoW. That said, everyone who is able to see me in WoW as a friend of a friend can already see me as such on FB.

    THAT said – I agree. There needs to be the ability to dis-allow the friend of a friend from seeing my real name, whether it’s on a level that I personally choose, or defaulting to a first, last, initials or character basis. Still, these are early days yet for RealID, and I expect user controls to increase.

    Also, this seems like a good learning experience for quite a lot of people about the level of privacy the internet affords them, and the level of privacy they’re giving up without realizing it. It’s unfortunate that so many are unaware of the risks they pose to themselves (I include myself in that statement), but we need to learn some time. Hopefully without serious consequences (unfortunate consequences perhaps, but hopefully not *serious* ones).

  5. Apple says:

    One of the things you’re worried about – friends of friends seeing your name – is something I’m not even remotely concerned about, actually. I initially decided only one person was getting my RealID, and expanded that to three when I a) remembered that I have an RL friend who I got into WoW not long ago who isn’t on ANY of my servers and who I’d love to chat with in-game, and b) got asked if I’d realID friend an old (as in 8-year-friendship old) friend who got me into the game to begin with.

    The last one is the only one who’ll be having RealID friends I don’t know. That COULD lead to uncomfortable and weird, except that the name attached to literally EVERYTHING I do online is… not the same name as is on my account. The name on my account is, yes, my legal name, but the name attached to my online presence when it’s not simply an alias is the name I go by, which is entirely different. Granted, I’m one of two girls amongst 8 or 9 guys on his RealID friends list, but it still provides me with a slight sense of not being so creeped out.

    Personally, I’d like all of those options you listed implemented, in addition to being able to use a “nickname” instead of your account name (helpful for people who go by their middle names or don’t feel comfortable letting people see their real name, or so forth). Only then would I be comfortable expanding my RealID friends list.

  6. Pike says:

    I don’t anticipate any of my guildies/on-server friends wanting to use the service. None of them have expressed any interest thus far. Primarily because, hey, we can just chat to each other in /guild or our chat channel or whatever.

    So I’m using it for Twitter friends, who are all off-server. And it. Is. *awesome*. Loving it so far. (Though to be fair I haven’t had much of a chance to test it yet.)

    As for the other people seeing your real name thing: I am not too concerned. I guess for the first time in my entire life, I am actually glad that I have one of the most common first & last name combos in the United States. (One time I google’d myself out of curiosity, to see if I could find myself. 100 pages into Google search and there wasn’t a Me in sight.)

    I understand the concern others have with that issue, though. My boyfriend, for example, whose name is relatively uncommon.

    As for me, not a big deal. I do wish I could use a nickname, though. Even my real life friends call me “Pike”, not my silly real name…

  7. […] reason this isn’t going to appeal to everyone is pretty nicely summed up by Kurn’s Thoughts on Real ID. You may also be in a situation similar to Tartdarling’s where your friends are […]

  8. Ndiayne says:

    I currently have 4 rID friends. There are 2-3 others I would consider adding at this point in rID development.

    Anyone else will just have to keep poking me via AIM or Twitter, or send me a message via Skype and hope I am logged in.

  9. Osephala says:

    I totally understand Kurn! Like, omg, it’s totally okay. Hopefully Blizzard will fix the “let’s see my friend’s friends” thing and it will be all good. :P

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