An Open Letter to Blizzard

Dear Blizzard;

I’ve been enjoying your game for quite some time now — nearly six years in fact. That’s an awfully long time for a video game to hold my interest, so congratulations on producing a game that is engaging enough to do so. Hooray! But you know, I’m not here to talk about that. I’m here to talk about this silly thing you’ve implemented called Real ID. I’m sure you’ve been getting a lot of feedback on it already, but seriously, stick around. This is worth reading, this right here.

I understand the Real ID system in game, I even tested it on the PTR servers and it was kind of neat. Not for me, but kind of neat regardless — however, while I consider my guildmates my friends, I don’t really feel close enough to them to share all my personal information, and I do enjoy my private time on random alts here and there. Since you’ve neglected to include an “invisible” option on the system, I’ve decided not to use it. It really is quite a nifty tool though, and I’m sure there are plenty of people that enjoy it.

I’ve been posting on your forums for a long time now, (I did mention I’ve been playing the game since the beginning, right? Right.) offering feedback, writing stories, writing RP guides, helping out those that needed items crafted, reporting the odd bug or two that I come across, asking for help on the Customer Service or Technical Support forums if I needed it, and generally having a good time with things. Sure there are trolls, but they are easily ignored for the large part. But yesterday I learned that if I wanted to continue posting on your forums, providing feedback, stories, guides, crafting or getting any kind of support come Cataclysm, I am going to have to post using my real first and last name.

Don’t get me wrong here — my name is public already, as I now write for a high-profile website regarding your game. But there is something intrinsically wrong with requiring people to use their real name when posting on your forums, and I’m going to try to lay this out as clearly as possible, so hang in there with me.

I don’t play your game to engage in social networking. If I want to engage in social networking, I use a social networking site like Facebook, or Twitter.

There is one reason I play your game, and it’s a reason that a lot of players share:

Internet dragons.

I enjoy killing dragons. On the internet. This has nothing to do with my real first and last name. This has nothing to do with social awareness. This has everything to do with those amazing internet dragons you have created.

This internet dragon was really hard to kill and took forty people. FORTY FUCKIN PEOPLE GUYS THIS IS ONE BADASS INTERNET DRAGON LET ME TELL YOU

I SEE HOW YOU ARE TRICKY BLIZZARD WITH YOUR FRIENDLY INTERNET DRAGON STRATEGIES

BUT WE KILLED THIS DRAGON AND SKINNED HIS CORPSE BECAUSE HE INSULTED OUR MOTHERS

THIS DRAGON IS BADASS BECAUSE SHE’S GOT FUCKING EARRINGS ON HER HORNS I MEAN WHO DOES THAT SHIT FOR REAL SHE ROCKS

KILLING INTERNET DRAGONS IS SO EXCITING EVEN THE GROUND WANTS TO DO IT

GOD DAMN WE WILL KILL THAT DRAGON WE WILL KILL IT WITH FIRE UNLESS IT IS FIRE RESISTANT THEN WE WILL KILL IT WITH FROST

Not only do I enjoy killing internet dragons, I like killing internet orcs, too. And humans. And bug things that live in the ground, and demons from another dimension, and undead kings that raise other undead kings and stuff them in swords and aliens that don’t have bodies and live in bandages and goblins and ogres and you know what else I like, I like exploring all over the landscape, scenic mountains and grassy plains and dear god we just went through a portal to another fucking realm and THERE ARE PLANETS IN THE AIR OH MY GOD ARE THOSE ISLANDS IN THE SKY I WANT TO GO TO THE ISLANDS IN THE SKY TELL ME I CAN GO THERE HOLY SHIT I CAN YOU KNOW WHY

BECAUSE NOW I CAN FLY ON MY OWN INTERNET DRAGON HOW COOL IS THIS SHIT

FUCKING HELL I LOVE THIS GAME SO SO SO MUCH MAN ALL I WANT TO DO IS ADDRESS THIS INTERNET DRAGON PROBLEM

…okay. Sorry. Little carried away. But that’s it, you get it? That’s why I play. That’s why my friends play. Because we like to come home from a long day of being John Smith or Jane Doe and get on the computer and MURDER SOME REALLY AWESOME INTERNET DRAGONS.

We don’t want to be John Smith.

We don’t want to be Jane Doe.

We don’t want our friends to just be John Smith, or Jane Doe. That’s not the point. That’s not the point of what you’ve given us. What you have given us is an awesome, amazing, awe-inspiring game where we don’t have to be ourselves. Where we can pretend we are Kronk, gruff and oft-misunderstood orc warrior with an odd penchant for interior design. Where we can pretend we are Gisella, noble paladin of the Light and kidnapper of baby wolvar . Where we can forget about the real world, the real world’s problems and issues, the real world’s pressures and annoyances and just settle back and kill some internet dragons.

We don’t want Facebook. If we want Facebook, we’ll go to Facebook.

We don’t want Twitter. If we want Twitter, we’ll go to Twitter.

We don’t want people knowing our real names or our real lives. That’s not the point. It’s a fantasy. You gave us a fantasy, and now bit by bit you are trying to take that fantasy away and convince us that it is “cool”.

We love the fantasy you gave us. It is beautiful, it is not perfect but you are working hard every day to keep it as perfect as possible, and we love it. That’s why we’re all still playing after all of these years.

You talk about “concentrated coolness,” you talk about how everything should feel “overpowered and epic,” yet bit by bit you are taking this away. You cry that posting on the forums is optional, but for those of us that have been posting for years, giving you feedback, asking for help, providing help — now we can’t. Not if we want to stay in our fantasy. Now if we want to offer feedback to you, we have to be John Smith. Or Jane Doe.

We loved the fantasy, we loved putting our words out there for you to hear, but now we can’t do it unless we want to expose our real first and last names to the world. Sure, it may help your internet troll problem — but in doing so you are silencing the voices of thousands of players who just want to offer the player base help, advice and creativity. Some people may be okay with putting their real names out there for all to see. Some people, however — many of my friends even — aren’t.

You’ve heard from parents expressing concern that their child’s name would be exposed. You’ve heard from women that live in constant wariness of predators that could easily track them down if they had that first and last name. You’ve heard from military personnel that are concerned with the safety of both themselves and their families should their real names be somewhere easily found. You’ve heard from members of the GLBT population who are still in the closet out there in the real world, but free to express themselves under the blanket of anonymous fantasy that you’ve provided.

“It’s optional,” you say. “Optional to post on the forums.”

What you have created is a community. A beautiful community full of amazing people and yes, jerks here and there. These people have grown to know each other under that safe blanket of anonymity, where they can simply be whoever they want to be without having to worry about whether or not their next door neighbor will find out anything unsavory about them. Where they aren’t judged on how they look, how they dress, how they speak, what they drive, what they wear. Where they are just voices sharing thoughts and ideas, and ears hearing thoughts and ideas in return.

And you are taking that community away.

“It’s optional,” you say. “Optional to post on the forums.”

You gave us a playground that over 11.5 million people love to play in. We felt comfortable and safe there. We aren’t feeling so safe anymore. You’re not only killing the voices of trolls, you’re killing the voices of thousands of players who simply don’t feel comfortable sharing their names.

You’re losing feedback. You’re losing the creativity. You’re losing the community that made this game so amazing in the first place. In return, you’re gaining nothing but a sharp increase in technical and customer support calls because people are far more likely to call in with a problem than post their real name someplace so public that anyone could retrieve their information in a matter of minutes.

Do you have the staff to handle that influx? Because that’s what’s going to happen. That, and you’re going to get a lot of people canceling their accounts. Why?

Because they played this game for what it was — a fantasy. And now it’s looking like you want to take that fantasy away.

Without the fantasy, there’s no reason for them to stick around.

Even with a thread that is at this moment 1,755 pages long and growing, you’ve been largely silent on this issue. I’m beginning to wonder if you’re actually going to do something about it.

I’ve already said goodbye to Kronk, and Gisella, and countless others — friends, all of them — who have decided to cancel their accounts. Logging on isn’t fun right now. It’s a litany of “how could they do this” and other similar opinions. I’m tired of seeing “friend not found.” Please at least let us know what you are thinking. What’s going on out there in Blizzard HQ, and whether you are going to do something about this, or continue to ignore the people that have been enjoying your game for so long.

I’d just like to kill the internet dragons, please.

Sincerely,

Shade

Edit: And, two days later we have our answer — they listened to us. NOW WE CAN GET BACK TO THOSE INTERNET DRAGONS HELL YES WHAT DO YOU HAVE TO SAY ABOUT THAT INTERNET DRAGONS

THANK YOU INTERNET DRAGON WE APPRECIATE YOUR CONTRIBUTION AND WILL BE AROUND TO BEAT YOU LIKE A SCALY PINATA LATER

SHIT MAN CHECK OUT THAT AWESOME INTERNET DRAGON IT’S GOT BLUE CRYSTAL SPARK SHIT EMBEDDED IN ITS HIDE HOW AWESOME IS THAT

Aw. Will do, Ysera. Will do.

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