I think Wilhelm2451 is on to something. He’s been writing about the RealID thing going on with World of Warcraft. In a nutshell, soon you will be required to log in to the WoW official forums with RealID, e.g., your real name.
But now, Wil has found a press release describing how Starcraft II will be tied in with Facebook. Facebook, you see, requires that you use your real name as part of its terms of service. He figures that, while there is as yet no press release for the equivalent for World of Warcraft, it’s only time. I think he’s right.
This seemed to me to be a good opportunity to explain why I am anonymous. One main reason is much the same as his: I don’t really want prospective clients or business associates to know that I game, and that I have as an alter-ego a redheaded, 3 million year old high elf. There are also some things about my personal life that I’m not particularly eager to share with just anybody that happens to run into one of the many faces of Toldain. It would be a distraction, at best, and a security risk at worst.
I’m not a big fan of Facebook either. There are many reasons for this. First, Facebook carries out a level of social engineering that offends me. I’ve had friends send me cute little things, and when I try to respond in kind, Facebook demands my cell phone number, or payment of some other kind. That’s where it ended for me. They are using the Law of Reciprocity to get me to disclose information of value to them, a third party. This is like the telemarketers who talk to you like they are your best friend. They aren’t, and I won’t.
There’s another thing about Facebook: context collapse. I have friended many people from my high school days. You know, 2.5 million years ago. Lots of the stuff I’d like to talk/write about wasn’t interesting to them then, and probably wouldn’t be now. I don’t really want to play the chatty geek to an audience that doesn’t care.
Furthermore, I’m sure that there’s a few of them that consider Dungeons and Dragons demon-worship. Last week, I was at a family reunion in Montana, visiting a cousin that is very dear to me. She is a Mormon, and there are some topics that are just better avoided, though, and she and I do that for the sake of our familial connection. I can’t do that on Facebook.
As I write this, I have become aware that this is the “closet”. It is parallel to the experience of someone who is gay, or transgendered, but probably with a lot less at stake. Nobody has been beaten or killed for playing D&D, as far as I know. So I have to entertain the possibility that maybe I should come out of that closet. After all, geeks rule the world now. On the other hand, nobody really wants to be forced out the closet by other people.
One of the claims for RealID is that it will tone down the trolling and abusive posting in the official forums. I think it will probably tone things down some, anonymity has some effects. Jamie Madigan is eager to measure the effect, and there is likely to be some effect here.
EQ2 solved this by simply deleting posts and banning posters. Thus EQ2flames was born. Interestingly though, you must register and post in EQ2flames as an in-game character, and any accusations or humiliating stories must name names, and must be posted as the character who witnessed them. Swearing is allowed.
Is that anonymity, or not? Toldain is a persistent, transportable identity. I have a reputation that I care about. I have things that I stand for. There are things I won’t post or write about or say as Toldain. Some of it is a constructed persona, but that persona is constructed from me.
I think we need to stop thinking about anonymity as a binary. While there are things that I feel freer to write about as Toldain, there are other things I avoid writing/talking about in that persona. I think of it as a channel, and I try to keep communication on that channel focused.
In any case, the EQ2 forums have long since ceased to be of interest to me. They are far too bland. So, should they try something like this, it will be disappointing, but have little impact on me. Should it develop that my online identity would be forced into the public via Facebook or something else, I would probably quit playing Everquest 2. And no, you can’t have my stuff.