As a gamer, I try to keep knowledgeable about the latest developments in the gaming world. I tend to frequent the Internet quite a bit, so it came as an interesting bit of information that Blizzard, (owner of the massive World of Warcraft and Starcraft franchises) was considering making a mandatory RealID system. This system would do away with the (as of right now) common practice of having one’s online identity masked by a handle or screen-name. Instead, the user’s personal information would be used to identify them– namely, their real names.
The Internet is constantly evolving as more and more people discover what it offers. Some people, such as myself, have long known the ways of the Internet and understand its dangers and virtues. The newer generations are born into an increasingly social Internet, with social-networking platforms such as Facebook and MySpace commonplace. (So common in fact, that many young people are getting “addicted” to being connected all the time via cell phone or otherwise.) As someone who has “been around the block” and been active on the Internet for a while, I disagree with the RealID system. Of course, as you may know by now, I try to keep an open mind– trust me, I would be one of the last people to resist technological progress (as long as it is actual progress.)
There is a certain thrill about being semi-anonymous online. Just as masks transform actors into majestic characters and empower cowards to commit robberies, the online display name system is a powerful asset. In MMOs, the anonymity created through the use of screen names has often times brought about both sexes to pretend to be the opposite sex in order to explore (and sometimes deceive!) the “society” around them. This practice of course can be troublesome if one is seriously looking for a mate online, but it can also be argued that it is difficult to judge the subtle qualities of a person (such as social awkwardness) over the Internet. In a more holistic view, this ability to thoroughly mask one’s identity encourages the exploration of one’s social boundaries in ways that would not be possible in the real world.
Of course, as with most cases where one is given a privilege, someone will come along and abuse their abilities. The main problem that probably inspired the creation of the RealID system was the existence of “trolls.”
Indeed, the downside to the Internet’s growth is the ease at which it can be accessed. Because of this, any redneck, lowlife, or individual considered a part of the trash of society can sign in to the same online communities that serious users frequent. In addition, sometimes online clans participate in destructive of criminal activity. In these cases, a RealID-type system would be useful not only to those who such people would be harassing, but also to the authorities who, as of current, are painfully absent online.
Such a system cannot realistically expect to curb aspects of human nature however. While it seems like a useful concept, it simply will not change the ways of the pretentious, the belligerent, and the too-stupid-to-know-they-are-stupid. In this sense, the premise for the RealID system by Blizzard was flawed. (It can be speculated that this realization led to the removal of the “mandatory” requirement for the system.) I agree with this action, as I do not think the Internet is ready for the this system right now. I say “right now,” because I do believe that it will be an inevitable need for the Internet later on. As the Internet becomes increasingly social, people stay connected to each other for longer periods of time. Eventually, our real-life identities will merge with our online-selves, resulting in the extinction of horrible display names such as AZNfiredragon_2000 or kawaiiNeKo-HimE113.
…But maybe they’ll make a come-back when people will get tired of being their “real selves” online. Human nature has an awful tendency to repeat itself in a cyclical fashion.