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One-Liner: Who's Asking? on Game and Player

One-Liner: Who's Asking?

Michael Ubaldi  //  July 18, 2010

I don't remember when video gaming became scandalous.


lizzard Entertainment was certainly hoist by its own petard. When the developer announced that, in its new capacity as a social network, would mandate subscribers be identified by their legal names on forums for Blizzard's products, a tiny fraction of those 11 million World of Warcraft subscribers assembled and petitioned, while they still could, anonymously. Two thousand pages of remonstrance, ululation, and sundry discourse later, the software giant renounced its plan.

Me: I am ambivalent. Is anonymity — in the course of daily internet use and frequent monetary transactions — an impossible standard? No. Would Blizzard have supplied the matrix for a personal investigation, a first and last name, by anyone with an online computer? Yes. Is the scavenging and cataloging of addresses, places of work, and relationships the province of Blizzard? No. Is it the fault of Blizzard? No. Have social networks from MySpace to Facebook to 1Up and their dozen clones — especially those loose with information — caused an epidemic of stalking, abduction and murder among young men and women? No.

What struck me most about the substance of objections was the presumed impropriety of video gaming. Hundreds of complainants adduced, in the words of one, "a position where playing video games as a hobby could possibly lose a client/customer," or a job, or whatever.

Really? Who are these people? How old are they? Where do they live? What do they do? We aren't talking about gaming on the job, or to the exclusion of responsibilities; just gaming. Unless one repudiates the entirety of industry marketing, these people cannot resemble the men and women who step forward to promote any form of broadly demographic gaming. Or, for that matter, the men and women who really do play games. Is there no recorded introduction of a Wii at a family reunion or work party? Are these activities frowned upon in certain parts of the Western world? Are employers or clients or customers as intolerant of other activities, like, say, drinking to excess on the weekend as they are of using a computer to manipulate an animated character?

Blizzard's public relations folly aggravated emotions, and very strange claims emerged. Have the Big Three and their partners been selling us a bill of goods? Or is it simply the loss of privacy, not the incrimination in gaming, which so many found so worrisome?

Gary Armstrong // July 18, 2010 // 7:06 AM

I found the whole episode rather amusing.

A simpler solution would tie the social media profile to the players account data. Instead of revealing "real world" information, the system should have displayed the character name, server and guild of the poster.

That way, any recriminations for untoward behaviour in the Blizzard social areas would affect the person in game, as it should be. The community could decide to ostracise a bully, a gold buyer, a botter etc, not using a real name, but the in game persona.

This does also highlight the lack of personal attachment to characters in WoW - the need to create alts and multiple characters to fully enjoy the game reduces the players link to the avatar. FFXI had a very interesting unspoken code that carried between each server: You had a name and a reputation, and building that rep meant just as much as your gear sets. If you became abusinve, or played in an unsociable manner, people knew about it, even in forums.

WoW has the unique success point that the name became more than the game itself - it moved beyond the realm of online, and leaked in to every day life for millions of people. I think the two should be seperate existences, and including a real ID system blurs the lines in an increasingly uncomortable way.

Gary Armstrong // July 18, 2010 // 7:12 AM

As for the implications on a persons work life and career, yes, I know several instances where the idea of playng video games, let alone an online MMORPG is frowned upon.

The connotations associated with MMO gaming are still very negative, mostly generational - I have had some odd stares in my workplace when discussing them. People think of it as a furtive, almost deviant occupation.

Michael Ubaldi // July 18, 2010 // 10:24 AM

Now, to focus on the deviant aspect of MMO playing: it may be frowned upon, but is it forbidden? Your superiors didn't get passed the word, then arrived and immediately threw you out.

Not to put you on the spot, Gary — I thought that the negative cultural implications were exaggerated in the thread and elsewhere in commentary. I see non-gamers at once not understanding gaming but not particularly caring, either.

James Day // July 18, 2010 // 10:47 AM

The issue is worth talking about, but I hear the WOW forums is one of the biggest hives of scum and villiany on the internet. I think Blizzard should learn to moderate better rather than leap to such drastic measures.

Joseph Powell // July 18, 2010 // 1:23 PM

I really don't understand what all the hullabaloo was about.

Ed Kirchgessner // July 18, 2010 // 5:05 PM

I've got to agree with Gary on this - a smarter (and probably more effective) move would have been to attach extensive character/guild info to a user's posts. The vast majority of self-respecting guilds out there probably wouldn't care to be linked to somebody with a penchant for running their mouth on the Blizzard forums.

As for gaming's negative perception in the workplace, I think I'm a bit spoiled in this regard. Most of my coworkers are tech savvy, and if anything regard my pastime with ambivalence rather than disdain. Heck - on Friday, the CFO informed me that he just picked up Naughty Bear.

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