I will not wear Blizzard’s burqa

Regarding Blizzard’s decision to force it’s 8 million users to use their real names in a public forum to get tech support or join in any discussions, Blizzard CEO Bobby Kotick said in an interview that there would be  no pushback from users, because nobody expected privacy these days anyway. (At the time I write, there are more than 1500 pages of “pushback”)

One of the things incredibly obvious with this decision, is that there were no women at that table.  Gender is the primary piece of meta data that can be easily gleaned from a real name.

I have been a female gamer since the days of bbs.  I know from harassment, trust me. This decision forces the female player base of WoW to do one of two things:

  1. Not participate, and be effectively silenced or
  2. Be harassed in text, and now possibly in real life.

With more than 1 in 12 women reporting that they’ve been stalked in real life, and more than 64% of women in a recent study reporting that they’ve been cyberstalked, “outing” the player base is an incredibly irresponsible decision.

I’ve written for a couple of gaming publications.  Mostly unpaid, small niche sites because I liked the people in the community and liked the people running the site/mag/whatever.  One or two of those sites decided that their writers were not allowed to remain anonymous, and could only publish using their real name…at which point, I stopped writing for them.

It’s not that I don’t publish under my real name; I do.  But I don’t publish under my real name in an arena where I’m likely to get stalkers…again; or get my old stalkers back.

Having my WoW account associated with my real name serves no purpose *to me*; it only serves a purpose for Activision/Blizzard.  I, the Paying Customer, derive no benefit from this policy.  In fact, I am effectively silenced, and do not have the full benefits of the game.  In response to similar points; an official post on the EU forums states:

We have been planning this change for a very long time. During this time, we have thought ahead about the scope and impact of this change and predicted that many people would no longer wish to post in the forums after this change goes live. We are fine with that….

Should the decision stand, even though I don’t often participate on the forums, this female gamer will be taking her consumer dollars to a company that realizes putting women at risk isn’t a profit center.

I will not pay to wear Blizzard’s burqa. I will not be silenced.

32 Comments

  • [...] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Justin Whitaker. Justin Whitaker said: RT @DuckiDeva: My feminist perspective on Blizzard's RealID fiasco; I will not wear Blizzard’s burqa: http://bit.ly/ds34Kx #wow #realid [...]

  • scarfyrre wrote:

    If I was on Twitter, I’d retweet for you :)

    I’ve been gaming for fourteen years, and except for a few weird people, the experience has been rather safe. I was stalked by an ex-boyfriend, but that ended when he got a new girlfriend. I do the usual “girl” things when in public like not walk where it’s dark or between cars in a parking lot, carried pepper spray, kept car keys in “attack” position, told friends where I was and who I was with…all the normal female things men rarely have to think about. I belong to Facebook, but I don’t friend everyone and actually know all my friends on my list. Privacy settings checked weekly.

    Google my name and it’s pretty easy to figure out who I am. I made the AP wire with something I did for a geek convention I go to every year, so the top ten results are me. If I post on the forum with a tech issue, which usually has to be done because it is impossible to get someone on the phone, and now my safety as well as my family’s is in danger because I have a wonky driver for my video card?

    No. Just…no.

    And for anyone to say this is the worst case scenario, you’re fine, the stalker would have to be totally crazy, just don’t post on the forums and you’ll be safe so quit QQing you big whiner, I have this to say: Do you have a female you love in your life? Post her name and see how comfy that makes you feel.

    • SpiderFarmer wrote:

      Absolutely. And one of the comments I keep hearing is “well, you don’t have to be part of the community”. As though the problem is solved if we just go quietly away and don’t bother the men while they’re talking.

      But I’m with the posters who have said that they cannot/will not support by passive payment, this move on Blizzard’s part to “out” their player base. If they don’t walk back from the decision, I’m canceling my account. Plenty of other games on the intertron. ;)

  • Still Anonymous wrote:

    As a female gamer, my account has already been cancelled. I simply cannot send my money to a company that doesn’t value my privacy or protect my information.

  • Just wanted you to know that I linked your article from mine, and I really appreciate another female perspective on this. I’m really outraged about this issue and I am doing my best to make sure everyone I know actually understands what all this means to women and minorities, let alone the rest of the WoW player base!

  • Minors, ladies, transgendered people, folks with a name that suggests anything other than a WASP, anyone with a sensitive job, and all those people who have been stalked or harassed online or are vulnerable to the same:

    Quiet please. It’s not like you’re who the advertisers want to target anyway!

    Love, Blizzard

  • SpiderFarmer wrote:

    @Jiyambi

    Thanks! I think the more female gamer voices we can muster, the more future game companies will realize that we are a significant percent of the marketplace, and we deserve to be treated as equal members of the community. I fear that blizzard/activision is a lost cause, however. Bob is never going to back down on what he sees as a goldmine of user data that is his to exploit.

  • SpiderFarmer wrote:

    @Julia

    Oh, us silly women…we should just be quiet while the men talk. *rolls eyes*. What boggles the mind is how a decision like this could be made while thinking the community was just going to suck it up and continue to pay to be exploited. Ridiculous.

  • SpiderFarmer wrote:

    @Still Anonymous

    Agreed. I feel the same way. I feel like that continuing to pay for an account is passively and implicitly supporting this decision…and that I will not do.

  • Thank you for this. It’s horrifying to see ActiBlizz and all their yes-men willingly disregard all our legitimate safety concerns. The fact that the officers in my own guild are shrugging off this very real threat to online security leads me to the decision that myself and my spouse will soon be canceling WoW.

    I’ve been stalked and harassed online before. Likewise, I’m still trying to find employment and unfortunately, being a gamer still carries a stigma. If HR can Google me and now see my real name on Blizzard’s forums, they can legally be biased against me and not hire me (Or fire me — thank you “at-will” state).

    “Just don’t post — LOL!” isn’t a genuine option, especially when their own e-mails/GM Tickets/phones calls knee-jerk response IS “Go ask on the forums”.

    • SpiderFarmer wrote:

      I know! How absurd is “Well, then just don’t post” as a solution, especially with the known API security issues. And as someone who has dealt with stalkers for decades of being a female tech and gamer…holy mother of god, I’m not sure I’d still be alive if people had been able to tie my online name to my real name.

      This decision is one of the reasons why I regularly rail about why MBAs are singularly unprepared to make real business decisions. This is the sort of decision that looks fantastic on paper, because no real world considerations were accepted into the profit / loss projection.

  • Astoria of rexxar wrote:

    I think what bothers me most is that they just keep saying that the forums are not “part of the game” that they are just a nice side thing. A guild master needs to be able to recruit for their guild. If I were looking for a guild and wanted to advertise for my self, I would be putting my real name, and the fact that I’m a female out there for everyone to see. I think this is very irresponsible of blizzard. Do they have no female workers? Have they never experienced the harassment and discrimination a female in this game feels on a daily basis Already? It is obvious to me they don’t give a darn about the female players because if they did they would reconsider this. I will be canceling my account, and not giving another dime to Blizzard once this goes live

  • Through a string of coincidences unrelated to RealID I will be letting my WoW sub lapse early next month, but to let it lapse I need to cancel the recurring sub so I don’t get billed for August.

    When I cancel I intend to state my concerns are with RealID being both an unnecessary invasion of privacy, and that it poses a very real risk of physical danger to all WoW users, regardless of whether or not they Opt-In.

  • SpiderFarmer wrote:

    @Astoria of rexxar

    Well, not only that, but they advertise the forums as part of the game, both on their site and on the box. To say “well, you’re a girl, so you can’t use the forums unless you want crazy stalkers standing outside your door with a jar of vicks vapor rub in one hand and a machete in the other” is ridiculous.

  • SpiderFarmer wrote:

    @Capn John

    Especially since the API bug will broadcast RealID info, even if you *haven’t* opted in. So, pretty much, everyone’s data has already been potentially compromised; a direct violation of their eula and the privacy ratings.

  • SpiderFarmer wrote:

    A note to say that I know threading has somehow gone all wonky. I’m trying to figure it out. Sorry about that.

  • As a female gamer I somewhat agree but don’t particularly feel threatened
    I have been vocal as far as being against real ID.
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=p7MvltiMZVw

  • honestly are they trying to push out their entire female population? i just don’t understand this. Between you and http://seewhatyoudidthere.com/2010/07/08/realid-pt2-ethics-voting-with-your-dollar/ i am canceling my account today. I’ve been there almost since the start but I can’t condone this behavior. It’s hard enough dealing with the loonies in game, now they get to know my name too? um, no. Already dealt with one crazy irl, do NOT want anymore.

    • SpiderFarmer wrote:

      I know. It’s the most illogical business decision I’ve ever seen. It makes me wish I knew more about privacy laws in the U.S., because the pre-enabling Real ID in game seems like it should be a violation of something more than just ethics and good sense.

  • I really enjoyed reading your article. I’ve played WoW since April of 2008. I’ve stepped away for about a month. I had a lot going on in the real world, and I wanted to play other games too.

    Additionally, I wasn’t too happy with some of the choices Blizzard has been making. First Battlenet wasn’t mandatory. For myself, it was since I’m a Mac user and I and many other Mac users couldn’t log on until we filled out a Battlenet ID. For the record, I already had a Battlenet account since I play Diablo. I knew right then that Battlenet would become mandatory, and eventually it was. Sure, they tried to sweeten the deal by passing out pets.

    Authenticators were introduced too, first they weren’t mandatory, and eventually those will be too. Now we have Real ID, I didn’t like it from the start since I knew it would eventually become a requirement. I think, Blizzard is testing the waters by making it mandatory for forums only, but I believe it’s only a matter of time before it’s mandatory in-game too. I thought that was the path they would take the moment I heard about Real ID.

    My name is unique, only one other has this name and she is died about ten years ago.
    For those who want to see how many of them there are you can check out this interesting link http://howmanyofme.com/
    I write for both online and print publications. I have a lot of info attached to my name. I can be found fairly easily. Even though Blizzard stated that this change affects only postings in the future, I deleted my posts on the forums. I didn’t’ have much info, mainly stuff posted in the tech forums.

    Since I’ve become increasingly dissatisfied with Blizzards service, I cancelled my subscription last evening. I don’t need to wait around to see what it will do about it. What shocks me is that Blizz/Activision even went there. Adults aren’t the only one posting on the forums; minors do too.

    I do think they (Blizzard/Activision) are taking their users for granted. I honestly believe they think that although a lot might complain many will simply put up with the abuse, and keep paying the money. Sorry Blizz, I’m not doing that. The best way I can show my dissatisfaction is to stop giving you my money. I did, and left the reasons why I cancelled my subscription.

    • SpiderFarmer wrote:

      Blizzard lost all the accounts here too. Did you know that an API flaw lets your RealID be seen in game, even if you HAVE NOT enabled it, if someone has a certain addon.

      Don’t believe me? In game, at a command prompt, run this:

      /run for i=1,100 do if BNIsSelf(i)then BNSendWhisper(i,”RealID whisper from yourself..”);break end end

      That’s right! RealID has been thoughtfully pre-enabled for you. And if you don’t think that the botters and the scammers are, even as we speak, writing code that will exploit the hell out of this…

      So, if you still have time on your account and you can modify stuff; go enable Parental Controls and set your age to 9 or 10.

      And if you *have* a bnet account, you can not change your name. I called today and asked how to do it, since the fields were greyed out, and the phone support person said that the only way to change the name was to send them…get this…my birth certificate and my driver’s license. Seriously? Hell to the no.

      The only way to not have your real name show up IN GAME is to enable parental controls on your account, and pick an age under 13. You still won’t be able to use the forums, but at least the API isn’t broadcasting your billing name and email address.

      As to the forums; GMs will send you to the tech support forum, as does phone support. So…if the only way I can can get support if I need it, is to publish my legal, credit card name…then that’s a company that has decided it doesn’t need my money.

      I don’t, as a rule, participate in the forums; but requiring RealID to use them, and pre-enabling RealID in game is enough to show me that Activision is fully in control of this ship, and it’s time to quit. Nothing that Bobby Kotick touches ever stays good. The man is the king midas of evil.

  • Morendo wrote:

    This is all about Blizzard preparing for Facebook integration:

    http://investor.activision.com/releasedetail.cfm?releaseid=466721

  • John Doe wrote:

    I’m not agreeing with the RealID system, but as far as a women posting on the tech support forum, how is that in any way going to lead to male harassment? What I mean is, how does a conversation evolve from “my game is broken, please help” (posted by Jane Doe) into some random dude seeing that name, and immediately making the decision to stalk that person. I certainly see a problem with females getting harassed on the other boards which is why I still support everyones view points on this. The thing I have a hard time believing is the assumption that a stalker is going to see a random female name and randomly pick that person to harass. There still needs to be some degree of incentive, which I can’t fathom being provided over a tech forum/question. Wouldn’t it be easier for a theoretical stalker to just skim through facebook pictures rather than picking a random name off a tech support forum?

  • [...] SpiderFarmer makes one of many fantastic posts from a female gamer’s standpoint, and I commend her for her post. Also deserving of praise for the same topic are all the folks over in the WoW Ladies community who decided to step up and speak their minds – not to mention this incredible master list of information and links. Well done! [...]

  • Very Jane Doe wrote:

    I’m so with you on this. I’ve been gaming since, well lets just say when I started gaming Frogger was cutting edge. I’m fine with sharing my name with some of my closest friends, but that does not mean imply consent to share my name with their friends. Or to put it bluntly, you pick up a guy at a bar and give him your number you have an expectation that your number doesn’t automatically (without him or you doing anything else) get given to all his buddies as well. Currently this is the case with no opt-out.

    As to ‘why would someone harass a woman with a tech problem?’ well, there are a lot of very socially isolated young men playing these type of games and many of them are very lacking in appropriate social behavior. The majority of men aren’t like that. But then you don’t lock your door because 99% of the people in your city are nice and won’t rob and murder you. You lock it to keep out that 1% that’s unhinged and irrational enough to do so in the event that you draw the unlucky straw of being the one they decide to go after. There’s no telling what can send a disturbed mind into the realm of thinking ‘that’s the one I want even if she’s called the cops on me, contacted a GM, name changed, changed realms, changed her email address and moved to another city’. Just answering someone a question like where they can find a quest mob rather than tell them “use f**ing wowhead u f**” can be enough to make some people think you like them, like really like them. Like desperately want to hear about their secret sexual fantasy like them. And that wasn’t a made up example, it wasn’t me, but man, this is why I pick gender neutral names if possible and make most of my chars male.

    As I said, I’ve gamed a lot. I’ve gotten some harassment, nothing nearly as major as it could have been as I am extremely careful about handing out my RL info. I’m careful about that as I am the only person with my exact name, there was one other who died a few years ago. Among my guild and trusted friends I’m fine with being female. Among random strangers if people try to get out of me info I go with gay middle-aged construction worker. It works out to less issues, even with the rampant homophobia in most gaming circles. The vast majority of male gamers don’t want constant attention, consoling and closer relations with a middle aged gay guy – and the insults aren’t quite as bad and do not persist over nearly as long time.

  • Just a draenei paladin wrote:

    Hi, just wanted to say I agree 100% with you. Only a few years ago, I was new to WoW and made friends with ‘some guy’. I offhandedly mentioned my then-boyfriend, thereby outing my gender, and ‘some guy’ became ‘creepy stalker’. He sent me whispers every time I logged on and wanted to know what I had been doing whenever I wasn’t online. I tried to politely tell him to leave me alone but that only made him turn aggressive. Eventually I had to delete my character just to get away from him.

    All of this before Real ID. God only knows what will happen when my real name is attached to all my posts – and that’s assuming that Real ID in-game isn’t later forced on everyone as well. I won’t be able to just delete a character or change realm if I’m being stalked. What is Blizzard thinking?

    • SpiderFarmer wrote:

      Well…I’m beginning to think they whole thing was a smoke screen. They throw this idea out there that they know is legally a nightmare if they implement; wait for the fan base to work themselves up a bit, then “step back” and offer something way less egregious, but still a big step towards commercializing the user base.

      I’m guessing that Activision was mostly thinking about rolling around in the giant trunkload of money they got from Facebook. ;)

  • This is a horriffic decision. Not only females will be affected by this-
    Every gamer who’se ever gotten into a flamewar? Your real name is now public.
    If someone carries a grudge for that facemelting you gave them in battlegrounds half a year ago? Now they can find you.
    People DO carry grudges. Don’t think for a second that the bad guys haven’t heard this announcement and gone over their hate list. There are people who enjoy this sort of harrassment.

    I have a mostly unrelated story about someone who prank called a factory in Missouri, Laggit and Platt. They prank called them weekly. For about 6 years.
    Call traces showed numbers in France, Egypt, Canada, Kentucky, New York, Italy, Etc.
    Why was he doing this every week? Because he liked it, apperently.
    What tipped off this person to that precise factory? They never advertized internationally, or created any big public events. Apperently it was just picking up the phone book and picking one.

    Now, Why would a woman start being stalked if all they do is ask and answer questions in the tech forum?
    Because they can.
    That’s all the reason needed, and being outted as female just upped your odds of being selected.

    Personally, I’m paranoid. I’ve been expecting this all my life. All my profile information is fake, with fake “Real” names thrown in just to buy me time if hackers DO try to find me.

    The forum trolls? Propably do the same. So do the hackers. So, for that matter, do the stalkers.

    This change does nothing but force real info out of the loyal, trusting playerbase while granting anonymity to the hackers, stalkers and trolls.

    Blizzard might as well start handing out guns.

    • SpiderFarmer wrote:

      Preach on, sister! I’m with you. We’ve canceled all of our Blizzard accounts. Activision; I should have known that they couldn’t keep their hands off such a valuable property, and that they would have to cover it with the shit activision is known for carrying in buckets everywhere they go.

  • Hidesundermybed.. wrote:

    Having read all this, my own concerns becomes even more valid I think. I have never been comfortable with letting people online know who I am, even those I think of as close friends and have known for years.
    One friend from another game wanted to try WoW, and I said I could have him invited to a friendship deal so it would grant some advantages in game if he liked it.
    I wasnt aware at the time that these friendship offers also sends your billing name, without haveing mentioned that fact anywhere in the process.
    I was honestly quite surprised when said friend suddenly called me by my real name in game, telling me I had a pretty name. I found the whole thing so creepy I didnt speak with him for nearly 2 months after that, and its made our friendship a bit strained after it happened.
    I just want to say to Blizz, thank you for nearly ruining a year long friendship by screwing me in this way.The only saving graze in this was that we live on the opposite ends of the world, and the odds of having a RL meeting are small.

    I pay Blizz every month to play WoW, and in return they do everything they can to screw me. No more, I quit.

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