For myself, it is one major, glaring issue:
I don't trust EVERYONE.
This is different from saying "I don't trust anyone." If I don't trust anyone, then I don't trust my husband, or my mother, or my friends, or my cat who I do talk to about random things as if she can understand everything I say. No, not trusting everyone means that I can trust some people, but I don't trust every single person that might happen across my blog or forum post via links or web searches. There are some seriously insane people out there who go on murderous rampages--or stalkings or harassment--over perceived wrongs online. And it is disturbingly easy to find out information once you have a name... seriously, google yourself. It's good to know where your name pops up and how easy it is to find info about you (BTW, thank you Averna for linking over to that post, it is priceless).
The vast majority of people are ones I wouldn't care about having them know who I am. Those few that would do evil things with the information frighten me into a little ball of paranoia.
I do use RealID for chatting with a few close friends, but this is very different.
Security in Anonymity
I can understand the argument that removing anonymity will result in accountability for one's actions and speech, and in doing so, result in fewer jerks saying things just to get a rise out of people (there will still be some who troll anyway, of course). Hiding behind a level 1 alt won't work anymore: everyone will have to say what they feel with their name tagged to it. Sure, that's all well and good until they are stalked down for voicing their opinion. Even if the vast majority of people are good at heart (or at least abiding by some morals or self-preservation against jail time), that small percentage of the population that are driven to evil acts are enough to cause trouble, sacrificing their future to cause harm to others... and when they know a real name, and can hunt down work and home addresses, it can spill over from what would be online harassment into physical harassment or violence.
That is the benefit of anonymity. The web is a huge communications network, spanning the globe and overcoming time with its ability to store entries until they're deleted, each piece a footprint left behind by the person who posted it, fossilizing if forgotten, until someone stumbles upon it again while digging through your website or web searches. The immense number of people it reaches is far greater than a local newspaper or school flier. WoW itself is only a portion of that enormity, but it is still a large number of people around the globe. We've already seen cases where something as simple as stating one's like for bacon resulted in a threat against the opinionator's family.
Not all "trolls" will go to this extent. It's a relatively tiny amount of the population that will do these horrific acts, and a relatively tiny amount who are victims. There ARE victims, though. Is it worth playing those odds when you have your opinion voiced to the world?
What do you tell the police? "Hey, there's some crazy guy on the internet that's threatening my family." Pretty much, that is all you can do. The internet is still new enough that policy for policing it is still being hashed out, and threats (or even bullying) on the internet have resulted in a huge demand for what are limited resources for policing (nevermind the international boundaries it so easily crosses!). Once things spill over into the physical world, it's much easier to police, but too often it seems to be too late. Beyond the physical, though, even the mental/social jabs can be devastating for some people. I watched a news report not long ago about a girl who committed suicide over bullying on the internet, and I know hers was not a unique case.
In addition to the more worrisome security issues, there are the more prevalent work-related backlashes. For some bizarre reason, media and society have labeled gaming as a negative thing (I expounded on this topic earlier), stemming from the few cheetoh-encrusted stereotypes living in their mother's basement contributing "nothing" to society, or those few cases where a demented kid went gun-crazy at school and also happened to like playing games Grand Theft Auto or Counter Strike (or even if there wasn't evidence that the maniac played games like that, people will still blame the games). Gaming, as a hobby, is often looked down upon or sneered at by employers to the same extent as having photos of drunken antics publicly viewable. It's not viewed as "professional" or "conventional."
I'm lucky that I work for people who are more likely to bring a Wii into the office than hold gaming against a person, but I know not every office is like that.
As much as it pains me to say, there are simply some professions and employers who will hold it against a potential employee when hiring to find their name posting to a game forum, or against a current employee when it comes to promotions, or even just firing them outright. Even if it's illegal for them to bias against such a hobby, they may still do it "for the company's image," etc. Productivity is called into question, while other hobbies that can be just as (if not more) time-consuming or exhaustive are ignored or applauded. Right or wrong, it does happen. Several other bloggers have already commented on their concern over this particular topic.
In some cases, the player may actually be famous (or infamous) outside of the game. Their ability to become a part of the crowd may be exactly what draws them to the game. Once that is taken away from them, can they really continue to play?
What of Blizzard's Decision?
There is no easy answer to the issue. Trolls will run rampant where there is anonymity, but anonymity also provides a security for the innocent. Are Blizzard's steps towards removing anonymity a right choice? Is this a test run in a large setting, to see what needs to be done to provide protection in a world-wide scale where differing views on religion, race, gender, lifestyle, economic standing, and even diet (the game itself makes a crack at PETA) have sparked physical violence? If it works out, will we see steps taken towards removing anonymity in other games and forums across the internet?
...will someone's hacked account start spewing trollish onto the forums?
...will recruitment more easily pry into a person's real life to judge their worthiness?
...will the game no longer be an escape from reality, at least where the forums and Real_ID are concerned? Will it stop there?
...will similar be enabled when pugging, to stop the cesspit of cruelty that so many groups often become?
...will most people stop posting to the forums completely, even if they have constructive things to offer, out of fear of loosing their secure anonymity? (Lissanna, IceDragon?)
...will fewer people say "girls don't play WoW" after seeing all the feminine names popping up on the forums from those bold enough to do so? Or will many females be more likely to avoid posting simply to hide their gender from the wider community?
Whatever does happen, this is certainly a bold step, given the size of the game's client base and forum useage. If it were JUST to kill the trolls, they could have instated a policy that makes users post under the name of the character they have the highest time-played on that entire account (for that particular game, if a game-specific forum)... just one, single, static character name. But they didn't choose that route.
It makes me wonder why they decided to do this.
I hope that RealID names are removed from being accessible by addon scripts. I hope there may be a check beyond parental controls that opts for anonymity, flagging you with your top character name rather than your real name. I hope that Blizzard isn't being tempted to these actions by the over-zealous owner of Facebook who seems to believe for some reason that everyone should throw their identity out to the whole world, privacy and security be damned.
I hope it doesn't go further without extreme restrictions being placed upon the security, with the default being an "opt-out" rather than an opt-in.
The forums have been one of the most useful places to go for technical support, but players are less likely to post their problems if their name is attached publicly to it. While it is optional, this change will result in a widespread loss of good guides and the variety of tech-support possibilities.
Recruitment can find new avenues, at least, and very likely will settle onto one of the more popular fansites as the "go-to" for recruitment posting: if an interface like the old World-of-Raids recruitment system is redeveloped, it would probably be extremely popular.
In the meantime, I suggest reconsidering your passwords to your account's email address (16+ characters with numbers, symbols, and caps/lower all included), and getting an authenticator if for some bizarre reason you still haven't purchased one. If your security is going to be questioned, at least put some of these walls up.
A few links to some other good posts on this topic that I haven't already linked:
- Variant Avatar, mentioning several different aspects of how this impacts the community
- Too Many Annas, which also suggests some ways you can let Blizzard know you don't approve (just in case they do decide to change their minds)
- Murloc Parliament, on how it's further limiting the players who will post on the forums (with an amusing representation of a troller before and after)