Experienced Points

Experienced Points
Blizzard’s Unreal Real ID

Shamus Young | 9 Jul 2010 21:00
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But let's look at how this system will impact one of our most overlooked minority groups: Famous people. For this let us turn to the universal, infallible and completely scientific metric of fame: Twitter. I have about 900 followers. The lovely Felicia Day has (hang on, let me look it up because the number is always climbing...) 1,745,485 followers as of this writing. (Obvious: I am one of those 1.7 million followers.) So using math (which is what Einstein used to prove general relativity) we can conclude that Ms. Day is 1939.43 times more famous than I am. That's a lot of being famous. (I also tried to figure out how many people have a picture of her set as their desktop wall paper vs. me, but Windows calculator has some sort of bug and gives me an error when dividing by the number of Shamus Wallpapers in the world. Stupid cheap Microsoft products.)

Anyway, my Let's Play series on Lord of the Rings Online ran for six months. By the end, my character had accumulated a modest bit of fame, and I would get a few messages from fans whenever I logged in. It wasn't overwhelming, just an occasional stream of chatter and the odd bit of in-game mail. But that was just one partially-famous character. I had a slate of alternate characters for playing when I wanted privacy. Under the Real ID system, a famous person wouldn't get that opportunity. Their real name would be exposed, and well-intentioned fans would want to say "hi" as fans do. If I had a modest trickle of greetings, Felicia Day would have 1939.43 times as much. That much traffic would render the in-game messaging system useless. You couldn't hold a conversation with friends in that avalanche of noise, and your character's mailbox would always be crammed with random gifts and creepy declarations of adoration just like the kind that people are always not sending me because I'm an old man and everyone knows it.

This would render the entire social aspect of the game useless to famous people. The only way to keep your anonymity would be to never friend anyone, never post to the forums, and never join a guild. (Remember that it only takes one person to out you.)

Now, I don't have anything against Real ID as it's proposed. It reveals less personal information than MySpace and has less Farmville than Facebook. The problem is that it's being rolled out on top of an existing system of anonymity. Blizzard isn't establishing a system where you're expected to be open, they're taking a formally closed system and outing everybody.

What will happen when all of these warring idiots have their masks ripped off? I have no idea, but I wouldn't put my money on "They will magically transform into nice people who would never use their knowledge of your real name in an inappropriate way."

Shamus Young is the guy behind Twenty Sided, DM of the Rings, and Stolen Pixels, Shamus Plays, and Spoiler Warning. All this and he's still 2000 times less famous than Felicia Day. WHAT DO YOU PEOPLE WANT FROM HIM?!?

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