Jun 292010

While I’ve not been playing a whole lot lately, the holidays usually bring me out of hiding for a little while.  Since I got Flame Warden on Calhi, and I fell in love with the holiday clothing, I’ve been working in a mad rush to level my shadow priest in hopes of getting enough Blossoms to buy the outfit for her.  The aesthetic of a shadowy female Draenei dancing with flaming hands and feet just sounds cool.  Don’t question my motivations!

At any rate, let me tell a story.

I was testing out one of the leveling guide add-ons that aren’t $60 and advertised in banner ads out in Wetlands, when a Hunter dropped in and insta-invited me to party.  I figured he was killing the same murlocks I was melting and wanted to speed the quest along for both of us.  I hit accept.

Silly, naive Skip.

I found myself in party with the hunter and another priest somewhere off in another area and was instantly queued for an instance.  IT’S A TRAP!  But instances are good XP, so I rolled with it.  While we waited, the hunter was being helpful and on most of the same quests as me, so I was lulled into a false feeling of comfort.

who r u

Wha’, huh?  Oh, it was the other priest.  I wasn’t really sure how to answer the random whisper and was locked in heated combat with more gnolls than someone of my limited priestly understanding should ever be, so I let it scroll away.

stop talking in whispers with him. y won’t u talk to me!?!

I should’ve figured this was my exit, but I calmly tried to explain that I was just killing gnolls and wasn’t holding any secret conversations behind his back.  The instance started!  I figured things should calm down now.  Don’t ask me where all this uncharacteristic optimism and faith in humanity came from.  I’m as baffled as you are.  But faith is a fickle mistress and I was quickly proven wrong.  Gnomer came up and the party (some of which were on their 3rd time there in a row) just wanted out.  The priest wanted to do every side-quest in the area and was quite the vocal minority on the matter, threatening to go off on his own on several occasions.

After grating the tank to the point of insanity, he was kicked with such swiftness I barely got to look at the Yes/No dialog box.  He was replaced instantly like the cheap DPS fodder that he was and the instance went on.  Shortly after, I received a whisper complaining how I didn’t stand up for him.

This friendship is over!

Excuse me?  Friendship?  Yeah.

And this forcefully transitions into my intended topic.  Real ID.  See, I’ve been seeing a lot of chatter and complaints about Blizzard’s new in-gamne chat interface, as I’m sure you have too.  To highlight a few concerns:

  • Your real name is displayed. Whether it be worry of stalking or privacy, lots of people are worried about their Internet life crossing with that IRL thing.  Bloggers are worried about piercing their aliases.  People just, in general, love their anonymity and alternate identities.  They keep the Internet in the Internet.  I’m no stranger to this, myself.  One of my early Internet communities was a collection of authors and writers, and amidst that particular community it was generally considered proper to go by your real name.  I deviated and chose not to, and have written under various pseudonyms for as long as I’ve put words to media.
  • Your friends know all of your characters. No matter what server you run to, what alt you play, or what corner of the world you curl up into, your Real ID friends can find you, hockey mask and machete at the ready.  One luxury of WoW was always that you could make a new character and it was a clean slate in every way.  Some make alts just to get away from guildies or other online friends, just to take a breather and play the game.  Sometimes you just need to get away.
  • You can see the friends of your friends. Like any modern social networking site, you can see what people your friends have connected with so that you, in turn, can find mutual friends and add them yourself.  Remember that this is your real name, so it just manages to make itself that much further out there.  In this era of identity theft, we certainly want to covet every tidbit of info we can.
  • You have to give your friend your account login name. In order to become friends, you have to share your battle.net email address.  For quite a while now, this has also been our login, and so whoever gets this is one-half of the way into robbing your account.  Sure, they say you should have an authenticator, though until they actually come shipped with the game or are otherwise offered up as a part of the existing fees, you can’t expect people to shell out yet more money to Blizzard’s monolith of income.

The list continues, but I think I hit the high points.  And as such, I’ve read that many people have chosen not to use the Real ID system.  And to those people, I congratulate you for making an informed and intelligent decision.  Your reasoning may be slightly off-tilt, but you’re hitting the right targets.

For everyone else, I started with the story I did to emphasize a point.  The priest in that story was an extreme example, and probably just some kid looking for attention, but it’s not an isolated incident, even among mature adults.  I feel that the Internet, particularly social networking sites, have skewed our definition of “friend”.  I’ve met people with over 500 friends on their FaceBook/MySpace/Friendapocalyspe/etc.  Are they all really friends?  Friend has plenty of definitions, and someone you’ve met only briefly and made that interaction enjoyable can certainly be a friend.  But I feel that maybe the phenomenon of collecting friends like stamps has further depersonalized the meaning.

I could debate on that for far longer than a paragraph, but its a topic far better suited for dialog than just me waving my finger and saying “back in my day, we had to walk 50 miles, in the snow, up hill, both ways, to get friends, and we were happy!”  The point I guess I wanted to get at was that Real ID is not a “friends list” as we have come to know it.  If using it concerns you, than you are completely in the right for dismissing it.  In fact, those concerns can be made into a bit of a checklist.  Or better yet, a Choose Your Own Adventure book!

  • [Page 1] Does this friend know your real name?  If not, would you be comfortable with them calling you by it?  If so, turn to [Page 32].
    If these are people who you only interact with on a guild or blog level, and you do not want them behind that veil, turn to [Page 102].
  • [Page 32] Would you be comfortable with this friend having your address and cell phone number?  If they showed up uninvited to your door, would you be happy?  If yes, turn to [Page 58].  If these thoughts make you uncomfortable, turn to [Page 102].
  • [Page 58] Would it be alright if this friend talked about you with their other friends, even the ones you don’t know?  Would sometimes meeting their other friends not be too much of a put off?  If all of this is fine, turn to [Page 93], else turn to [Page 102].
  • [Page 93] Would you trust loaning this person things on occasion?  Maybe you would loan or spare them a little money from time to time.  This person would be respectful and thankful of that which your share.  If this is the case, turn to [Page 105].
  • [Page 98] The room quickly fills with water.  Unable to escape your weighted shackles, your last gasp of breath fails you and everything fades to blackness.  You’ve learned all too late the dangers of taking candy from strangers.  Also, you shouldn’t read ahead in Choose Your Own Adventure books, cheater.
  • [Page 102] Perhaps this friend is not a good choice for a Real ID companion.  They may be a perfectly upstanding person and maybe one day your relationship will blossom into befitting this union, but for now, you should stick to being regular WoW-based friends.
  • [Page 105] Congratulations, you have met someone truly worthy of your Real ID friendship.  Cherish this bond for all time and it will give you many happy memories and raids.

Yes, I’m being a tad extreme and silly with it.  I admit that I’m just having a little fun in order to take a go at a far simpler point.  If features in the Real ID system have you on edge, it’s very possible that what it is peddling isn’t particularly aimed at your needs.  It’s certainly possible to have deep and fulfilling relationships with people with which you would never get more personal than letting them hear your real voice over Vent.  My main point is that you shouldn’t feel the need to shoehorn this feature into that life, nor blame the feature for not catering to your needs.  I only know two people playing the game who I’d share IDs with, both people I know face-to-face, and only the one has shown open interest in the idea.  He plays on a completely different server and is moving away in a couple months.  I’m happy that Blizzard has come up with a system to fit that singular need for me.  For the rest, the old system has worked just fine.

I didn’t forget.  Your fortune cookie:

[Page 61] After much debate over the dangers of recursive anomalies, you decide to pick up the Choose Your Own Adventure book from the dusty library shelf and begin reading.  Turn to [Page 1].