Psychochild's Blog

A developer's musings on game development and writing.

11 July, 2010

RealID, social networks, and introverts
Filed under: — Psychochild @ 12:36 AM
(This post has been viewed 15988 times.)

So far I have not posted about the whole RealID issue. It's one of those things that by the time I had something insightful to say about it, it had already been said in the outpouring of commentary about the issue. I was active in leaving comments on different sites, so it's not like I didn't have an opinion.

But, I think it's interesting to take another look at the issue from another point of view. RealID is all about this whole social networking thing. How does this intersect with gaming culture, a subset of geek culture? And how does this relate to introverts which traditionally make up a significant part of those cultures?

A summary of the RealID discussion

For those of you living in a cave, you can go read a good list of the RealID posts. If you want to know my take on things, you can read Randy Farmer's insight based upon his numerous years of experience with identity and community. For a in-the-trenches view from a professional community manager, you can see Sanya Weather's take on what the problems were. These good people posted so I didn't have to. :)

In short, Blizzard said they wanted to force people to expose their real names in order to improve the tone of the official WoW forums. Yet, as others have pointed out, there were simpler and easier ways to clean up the forums rather than requiring every poster to give up his or her privacy. But, A USAToday article reported earlier this year that Blizzard and Facebook have entered into a partnership; this means that Blizzard is probably going to be earning extra money by having people sign up with their "real names" and integrating with Facebook. As always, follow the money to see the real motivations.

Considering introverts

Let's take a look at introverts. I've written about introverts and conferences before. The main thing to remember about introverts is that they get re-energized by quiet contemplation, whereas extroverts get a buzz from interacting with people. Introverts get drained when dealing with people directly, and extroverts get restless if they're left alone for too long. For this reason, introverts tend to have a small group of really good friends, whereas extroverts usually maintain contact with a much larger group of people that can change over time. It's important to remember that Introverts aren't (necessarily) shy or misanthropists, they just need some time away from others to recharge. In general, extroverts (who make up roughly 75% of the population) are better at charging forward and getting things done, whereas introverts (who make up the other 25%) are better at concentrating and contemplating. Ideally, the two are intended to work together: extroverts eager to get things done, while the introverts give the consideration to hopefully prevent rash action.

If you're interested in learning more, The Introvert Advantage is a great reference. As I've mentioned before, I'm an introvert and I learned a lot about myself after reading it. The book goes into a lot of scientific explanation for the differences.

Gaming (and geek) culture

Traditionally, gaming and geek culture have had a high concentration of introverts. Gaming culture can be considered a subset of geek culture, which is defined by intense concentration on a specific topic, usually involving technology. My personal theory for why gaming has has so many introverts is that a lot of games, particularly the old school Nintendo Hard type of games, required the type of concentration and dedication that comes easier to introverts and tends to define geek culture.

Of course, as gaming has grown and included the mainstream, there have been more extroverts involved. The shift from old-school styles like involved RPGs to more action-orientated games like FPSes and RTSes has heralded this change. The good news is that games have now gotten wider acceptance as the audience has grown. (Of course, some of us experienced games have had to start looking far and wide to find the old-school types of games we used to enjoy have fallen out of favor.)

The early days of networking

In the olden days of the internet, geeks ruled. Communities were small and tightly defined. The classic example was old style Usenet groups where you'd have a few dozen people posting and interacting back in the old days. People got to know each other pretty well and you could often learn to recognize a poster by their writing style or pet topics. You could get into vigorous debates, and while harsh words might seemingly be used, in the end things would likely go back to a steady state because everyone had to deal with everyone else in the community. After a massive flame war, it wasn't uncommon for people to kiss and make up (sometimes away from the public channel).

I think the thing that made Usenet work so well was that the majority of the posters were the typical introverted geek. Even though we feel drained talking to people, being online gives us the ability to withdraw from a conversation for a bit and get refreshed if things get overwhelming. Most of us took the time to really consider our words, especially since it was a text medium that required a lot of reading and writing. A lot of the rules of "netiquette" were about maintaining civility and thoughtfulness. Yes, sometimes people got a bit hot under the collar, but people would resolve differences.

However, as we later saw in gaming, the increase in mainstream acceptance meant that more people were introduced to the systems until, finally, the communities grew beyond their original scope. In the case of Usenet, this lead to a lot of people leaving because the community they had joined was no longer there. (See Randy Farmer's post above for a bit more information about this.)

As the extroverts took over, we started seeing a new form of community.

The rise of social networks

A funny thing happened to our communities: they became social. Okay, really, they were still social to begin with, but marketers needed a buzzword and "social media" was the winner, it seems. The old online communities were fine for introverts: we had our small circle of people we knew and we were fine with it because we didn't need to interact with a lot of people. For extroverts, however, this simply wouldn't do; it seems logical that social networks grew out of the extroverted desire to keep meeting and interacting with people.

Personally, I've not really found the new "social media" to be all that useful. I have a Facebook profile mostly so I could play games when they were all the rage in the beginning. (You can friend me on Facebook if you want, but it may be a month before I see the request, and I might not accept the request unless I'm pretty sure I know who you are.) I use LinkedIn to keep track of the myriad of business contacts I've made in the past. But, when it comes to truly keeping track of my friends I can do that easily enough. As I said above, an introvert usually counts a lot less people as really being "friends" out of the circle of contacts he or she knows, so it's not hard for me to keep track of them.

But, for extroverts who continually have to juggle a wide list of contacts and constantly need to go out and meet new people, social networks are a blessing, I'm sure. Less time trying to remember who this sales person is that emailed you when you can just go to Facebook and see drunken pictures of them to remind yourself of that last company party they were at during that conference. And, to be honest, LinkedIn has been useful for me to keep track of all the people I've met at conferences. But I think that's because when I meet people at conferences and want to keep in touch with them, I'm pretending to be an extrovert. There's a reason why a majority of the most successful salespeople are extroverts.

Of course, social networks have caused their own share of problems. For example, it's annoying when someone messages me over Facebook and gets upset when I didn't notice. I still primarily use email for online communication, so if you want to reach me send me an email. The constant issue of privacy is another big problem, where younger people get bit by the fact that all their interact is now online and easily searchable, not only by your friends but also by future interviewers, future dates, and by marketers. Finally, there's the problem of different parts of one's life bleeding together. As I previously wrote, I keep the "real" me and the "virtual" me fairly separate. (You only really get to see the virtual me on here.)

The real sin of RealID

Now we get to the real meat of the matter. Why did RealID cause such a backlash? After all, people put up fairly personal information for public consumption on Facebook, right?

Well, it goes back to the fact that a lot of the most dedicated gamers are old-school introverted geeky types. While I think that the majority of people playing WoW are probably extroverts, they have reached the mass market and brought a lot of non-traditional people to the game, I think most of the people who are really passionate about the game are introverts. If you care enough to write a blog about the subject and didn't abandon the blog after a few months, you demonstrate at least a tendency toward introverted levels of concentration.

The problem is that introverts really don't like being forced out into the open. Choosing to put information out is one thing, but when told that this is the only option, we'll get fighting mad. Especially if sharing information is the gateway to a text-based communication medium like the forums, which is one of the old-school forms of communication that introverted geeky types enjoyed. In essence, Blizzard told introverts, "Expose yourselves to others or we won't let you participate in something you probably enjoy." When it's put in that context, it makes sense that people would raise a fuss. But, I suspect that Blizzard hadn't considered this, and figured that everyone has already joined a social network and wouldn't mind.

Fixing the forums

This isn't to say that the WoW forums couldn't use some cleaning up. Most of the people arguing against RealID weren't against making things better on the forums, they just didn't want to expose their personal information before participating.

To be fair, maintaining forums is very hard. Even companies with years of experience find this to be a very hard thing. Sadly, the best way to maintain civility in a forum is to establish the ground rules early. Manage user expectations about what is appropriate behavior in forums. Give attention to people who follow the rules, and punish people hard who do not. Even if you do establish proper expectations of behavior, it still takes constant vigilance to make sure that people continue to follow the rules and that the community doesn't start to go down the wrong paths. Really, it takes dedicated forum moderators to keep things civil.

Given that WoW has been around for almost six years at this point, that boat has sailed. Blizzard has to swim against the tide to fix the problems everyone notices in the forums. So, they really do need to make sure they have dedicated and fair forum moderators. But, that's hard and costly, so Blizzard wanted to with the "quick fix" of removing anonymity because anonymous people are more likely to be jerks. (I suspect that "cleaning up the forums" was a reason conjured up to support an otherwise profitable integration with social networks, but let's not dwell that detail.) Unfortunately, this also struck introverts where it hurt. In the end, it's going to take hiring people to keep things in check if Blizzard ever wants to fix their forums.

So, what do you think? Do you seem to fit the definition of an introvert? Does revealing personal information set your teeth on edge? Do you think Blizzard was just chasing the almighty dollar?

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36 Comments »

  1. I'm definitely an introvert along the lines of your description but I'm also one of the few who didn't mind the whole RealID thing at all. (Read my blog if you really want to know why ;)) I suppose that makes me the exception to your rule.

    What I don't quite get is how this whole thing would be financially advantageous for Blizzactivision. They already have our names and they can easily still add Facebook integration that uses your Facebook name (which may or may not be real) on their official forums. Sure, Facebook, Google & Co could use the names for better targeted advertising, but they can do so without having to pay Blizzard a dime. Google is already scanning all the forum pages - taking the real names from there and correlating them with the database they already have on you might be lucrative, but not for Blizzard. I've seen the "this is just a money-making move" claim before, but I've never seen an explanation of how this would be lucrative. Care to elaborate? :)

    Comment by scrusi — 11 July, 2010 @ 2:36 AM

  2. I'm an introvert too, and being someone who came to online games only after leading a 'second life', mine is a persona which grew up using aliases. I only started using my 'first life' details a few years ago, when I realised that keeping so much of my life close to my chest was doing me no favours at all. Where's the sense in building entire online worlds and engaging in MMOs if I restrict myself in talking about it?

    World of Warcraft is included in that, as I took to writing game guides and leading a small guild. I felt that I wanted to publicise this, and so I spread my username quite openly. But here's a difference between doing that and having myself 'outed', as it were. So what did I do? Resigned myself to never visiting the forum again. Simple.

    It wasn't a hard decision to make, considering that I was on a fine tether anyway; I only ever visited that pit of trolls on guild business, and never for my personal amusement. But if I was going to be forced to use a birth name alongside that, I reserved my right to stay well clear. I rather wish other people could have seen that instead of flying off the handle, when I believe the majority probably didn't visit the forum anyway.

    As for those decrying the optional in-game RealID services.. that rant's precisely what kept me from blogging about it myself. :)

    Comment by Sinnyo — 11 July, 2010 @ 3:11 AM

  3. Hmm, scrusi, I don't buy your arguments at all, but only one of them really bothers me, the "If you are hiding your gaming interests you have a problem" one.

    Ahh yes, the good old "I've got nothing to hide" fallacy.

    This is a privacy issue. And privacy has nothing to do with hiding what you or others might perceive as wrong.

    It's about feeling secure, protected, comfortable. If we lose that (collectively), we erase one of the most fundamental building blocks of a healthy society. Feeling safe is required to reach out and interact with others positively; people don't treat each other badly because they feel good about themselves, they do because subjugating others gives them the sense of safety (through superiority) they were missing.

    By speaking about privacy in terms of hiding something, you're not only missing the point, you're damaging privacy. Your choice of words suggests that being privacy conscious is wrong, and nothing could be further from the truth.

    Comment by unwesen — 11 July, 2010 @ 3:26 AM

  4. "Do you seem to fit the definition of an introvert? Does revealing personal information set your teeth on edge? Do you think Blizzard was just chasing the almighty dollar?"

    Yep. Definitely. You said it yourself: it's either money or a dame, and in this case I doubt it's a dame. ;)

    Another sub-discussion sort of emerged yesterday with some of the folks I was talking to about the RealID thing. I definitely have a distinct internet persona but it's really only one. The actual Ysharros handle was created in the mid-90s and I've used it almost exclusively since then. To me, Ysharros is as much me as RealID me, even if -- as you ably describe in your opening remarks -- it's only *part* of me. I don't have a different name for every forum I visit or every site I post on; not that I think it's dishonest to do so, but when I started out people more or less used one handle, generally *not* their real name, and that was enough to identify them to the rest of the crowd they hung with online. Ironically, back in the early days (for me, anyway - late 80s) the feeling was you shouldn't put yourself entirely out there; you never knew what crazies you might encounter. I wonder when common sense became social media?

    (It amazes me that you had to include a definition of Netiquette. Now I feel old. :D)

    I think of it like a lens. Move it this way over my character and you'll get Ysh, who has specific interests and ways of expressing herself. Move it that way and you'll get Iz, who is a certain person her old/real friends know in a particular way. Move it again and you'll get Isabelle -- etc etc. They're all me, just differently focused.

    Am going to have to pick up that introverts book. I've known for a long time that I fit the profile (thanks, Dr. Jung) but it'd be interesting to see a more modern discussion of it.

    Comment by Ysharros — 11 July, 2010 @ 5:00 AM

  5. Definitely an introvert here, although I have studied long and hard to pass as an extrovert. Because me professional personae involves games and online communities, I tend to use 'CorvusE' as my online handle wherever I go, so the idea of Blizz forcing me to use my real name doesn't upset me personally so much.

    However, the important issue I see is one revolving around harassment. Every gaming community I've been in has a small number of predatory personalities. These, quite often, are the same people who whip forums into frenzies with their anonymous ass-hattery. And forcing everyone to expose their real names does two things--it encourages 'real world' retaliation for online behavior and gives online behavior a convenient bridge to become 'real world' behavior.

    Now the actual occurrences of real world retaliation or real world harassment that result from Blizz forcing everyone into the open might have been negligible, but even one woman having to deal with some creep approaching her in public because he thinks her avatar is hot is too many, as far as I'm concerned. And yes, I've actually heard people claim that the target of their obsession somehow has a hotter avatar than everyone else who uses the same character model.

    Comment by CorvusE — 11 July, 2010 @ 5:42 AM

  6. Really, I too would like to know where the idea that "Blizzard did this for money" comes from. Not that it's unexpected, seeing as it's a company, I'd just like to see the pieces of evidence that say it was for money.

    Because really, I think what is going on with most people is that they cannot believe Blizzard's stated reasons for this change, primarily to clean up the forums, because they cannot understand how it could be a good idea, and thus they default to "it must be for money."

    As someone who can see how Blizzard might have thought it was a good idea, this line of reasoning doesn't really convince me, and I have yet to be convinced by anyone on the matter, since most people seem to take it for granted.

    Comment by Ming — 11 July, 2010 @ 6:19 AM

  7. Speaking to the money aspect of things, I came across a very unfounded rumor that said the facebook integration (and expanded plans for RealID) actually came handed down from Activision.

    Considering all of the non-traditional-gaming-culture antics that Bobby Kotick and the execs have participated in the past few years, the avowed desire to make Activision into more of a "greeting card business," and the recent independent games summits/conferences touting the "success" of Farmville (number of users being confused with actual revenue), this rumor does not surprise me in the least.

    Comment by Meta — 11 July, 2010 @ 9:25 AM

  8. Well, Blizzard signs an agreement with Facebook. Sometime later they push this real name forum Real ID deal. Of -all- the possible ways to clean up the forums they choose the worst possible one in terms of privacy and the best possible one in terms of selling targeted advertising, which is what Facebook does?

    It's as if in a very small town someone buys the first gun, then a few weeks later someone else ends up shot. Of all the possible types of murder, it just so happens to be the one involving a firearm. Have we placed the suspect at the spot of the crime, at the time of the crime and have we discovered a motive? No. Will the people in the town care? No.

    Of course it's perfectly possible someone else might have been involved, and just used the suspect's gun to murder someone for personal gain, and the prime suspect is actually guilty of nothing but owning a firearm. But I guess we'd have to ask Kotick about this angle.

    Comment by Julian — 11 July, 2010 @ 10:03 AM

  9. I think Blizzard would have had less of an outcry of injustice if they gave the option to associate a realId with a gaming one. If Blizz had gone ahead and partnered with Facebook completely and offered a chance to link your FB with a WoW account there would have not been such a stink.

    Sure some would not have done the link(like me), but I can see a pretty good majority making the connection. Now what would be interesting to see is the percentage of people who allowed the link and whether it lines up with the statistics for introverts vs extroverts.

    I have been waiting for someone like bioware to incorporate the Myers-Briggs type indicators into a games conversation system and plot.

    It would be interesting to have a player go through the test in the form of gameplay then pit them against situations that are of another personality type. I would also be interested in seeing if personality types change in game vs IRl.

    Comment by Haversack — 11 July, 2010 @ 10:24 AM

  10. scrusi wrote:
    I suppose that makes me the exception to your rule.

    As with most things, people are still individuals even if you can put them into broad groups like "introvert" and "extrovert". I've also chosen to expose a lot of my personal information for various reasons that I discuss in my post. I think the issue is forcing people to do it when they don't otherwise want to.

    Sinnyo wrote:
    ...when I believe the majority probably didn’t visit the forum anyway.

    The estimates I've heard is that 10% of people visit a forum, and a smaller fraction of that are the active posters. So, yes, a very small number of people actually post on a forum.

    But, one of the issues here is closing of options. I mostly avoided the WoW forums even while I was playing, but I did post a few times about game-related problems. The official forums are also one of the best ways to get noticed by the developers of the game. Forcing people to give up personal information for even the ability to post on the forums was an excessive cost for people who might want to post sometime.

    Ysharros wrote:
    ...when I started out people more or less used one handle, generally *not* their real name, and that was enough to identify them to the rest of the crowd they hung with online.

    It's funny because one of the reasons I used a pseudonym was because my given name was so common. Search for "Brian Green" and you're unlikely to find me. Search for "Psychochild" and you'll find a lot more information about me.

    (It amazes me that you had to include a definition of Netiquette. Now I feel old. :D)

    You and me, both. ;)

    CorvusE wrote:
    Definitely an introvert here, although I have studied long and hard to pass as an extrovert.

    Yep. It can be done, but you'll never get that "buzz" from dealing with people as real extroverts do. What's really interesting in my case is that it was actually participating in online communities that let me learn how to extrovert well, to the point that some people don't believe I'm an introvert. Even at LOGIN this year someone expressed the opinion that I couldn't possibly be an introvert because I was so friendly and approachable.

    I tend to use ‘CorvusE’ as my online handle wherever I go, so the idea of Blizz forcing me to use my real name doesn’t upset me personally so much.

    Yeah, but you're like me in that you use your online personal for professional reasons, too. We're both very much the exception to the majority of introverts out there. Most of them prefer to keep to themselves.

    However, the important issue I see is one revolving around harassment.

    I think this is definitely an issue, and an important one. Not just women, but any other sort of person who is "different", like homosexuals, transsexuals, or even people of different skin colors. There doesn't have to be a lot of bigotry and hatred out there for people to feel threatened.

    The funny part here is that one reason the WoW forums are such a cesspool is because of the rampant hatred and rudeness.

    Ming wrote:
    Really, I too would like to know where the idea that “Blizzard did this for money” comes from.

    Everything a public company does is for money. Blizzard makes games for the money. It just happens that they are allowed the time to make top-notch games in order to make more money.

    Want to know how this will make money? Go read the USAToday article I linked in my post. They basically say they expect the Facebook integration (via RealID) to bring in more gamers. Even if no money is directly changing hands, I suspect Blizzard sees an opportunity to get their game in front of more people just as games like FarmVille, etc. have gained a ton of users just by the virtue of being on Facebook.

    As I said above, forum posters are a small minority of the playerbase, but they tend to be the most active players. Getting those people to agree to RealID, and hopefully associate their WoW account with their Facebook account would give Blizzard a lot of exposure (and give Facebook more data to mine about gaming habits, the most profitable thing for Facebook right now).

    Do I have documents proving that this is 100% motivated by money? No, but the trail is pretty obvious if you're experienced with business and have been paying attention to the game industry, as Julian and Meta point out above. Watch Activision's financial statements in a future quarter for more conclusive information.

    Comment by Psychochild — 11 July, 2010 @ 10:32 AM

  11. You say "... someone expressed the opinion that I couldn’t possibly be an introvert because I was so friendly and approachable" but I'm not sure that's fair to the definition.

    I'm extremely friendly and approachable (I think), most of the time anyway. I chat a lot in games, I'll "approach" people virtually or IRL if they seem to need help, and I even have a giant "Ask me for driving directions!" neon sign hanging over my head, or so it sometimes seems. But after a while, depending on how socialled-out I may be, I have to back off and retreat to my own space or I burn out and become incredibly crabby, or just stop responding.

    I think this need you mention, to go off and recharge *alone* (or in a very very small group, 2-3 people I know extremely well), is the more accurate description of introversion. It's not that we don't like people, it's that our capacity to interact with them depends on being able to get away at intervals. To me it also means being more content with my own company than extroverts -- what they call "solitary" or "loner" and what I call "self-sufficient" -- but no person is an island, and generally introverts are no exception. We just have smaller social batteries.

    For me it's especially evident in MMOs. Interacting with 2-6 people isn't a problem. Make that 10-30+ people and I overload very quickly, sometimes in minutes. Too much input! Too many people to pay attention to! (And I pay close attention, or try to, else why bother interacting with folks?) Couple that with my tendency to visually overload and that's why I'm not a raider or even a huge fan of dungeons. A crapton of chatter + a crapton of pewpew effects = crabby Ysh in about 30 minnutes. :D

    Comment by Ysharros — 11 July, 2010 @ 11:41 AM

  12. At the end of the day, almost everything we do is sadly motivated by money so no doubt it's playing a large role in Blizzard's plans and future. There also recently seems to be a huge movement towards social media as being the biggest thing to hit the Internet ever and every company wants to try and strike deals with Facebook and Twitter etc in an attempt to cash in on it all. For Blizzard, working with Facebook could be very lucrative because suddenly they're directly tapping into a whole database full of potential customer information. We forget that the more info about ourselves we pump into Facebook, the more it's making some marketing exec jizz himself.

    Comment by We Fly Spitfires — 11 July, 2010 @ 12:44 PM

  13. The Best Of The Rest: Real ID Forum Fiasco Edition

    [...] Brian thinks Blizzard want a quick fix for their forum problems. [...]

    Pingback by We Fly Spitfires - MMORPG Blog — 11 July, 2010 @ 2:03 PM

  14. On the subject of introversion and extroversion, I like to put it this way: Introverts tend to find it stressful to be in situations that require them to interact at a personal level with numerous strangers, and need some "alone time" to recover their energy. But it's also the case that the typical extrovert finds it equally stressful to be alone, and needs "interaction time" with other people to feel right again.

    What makes introversion/extroversion hard is that life demands interaction with others, making extroverted behavior the cultural norm in most places and times. The result is that extroverts, swimming with the current, are usually less stressed and more able to be themselves, while introverts rightly perceive their natural style to be less valued and respected. And from there we get the "us vs. them" pathologies in relationships, in the workplace, and even in online games.

    (Speaking of personality typing and gaming, Haversack, I'm also very interested in that subject, and have written one or two things about it.)

    Having said this, however, my take on the Real Name concept (and the reaction to it) is a little different. Although there might be some aspects of introversion/extroversion involved, I think it's more a combination of two groups.

    As I see it, the reaction starts with a hard core of a few people who are both technology-aware and leftist-libertarian politically, who think the Electronic Frontier Foundation is absolutely right on every issue, and who are reasonably articulate. These folks go online and, with some facts and logic, express their strong concerns about personal privacy.

    And then the next group kicks in, which is the much larger set of people online who think it's fun to pile on, who rely on emotion and flaming and snarkage instead of facts and logic in order to feel like a member of what looks like a large group of people who get to verbally abuse some person or position. I'll bet that everyone here reading my comments knows exactly what I'm talking about; we've all seen this kind of behavior in gaming forums.

    In an online environment like that, it's simply not possible for an alternative viewpoint to be heard. Instead of being able to consider the possibility that people might be a little more courteous to each other if they're less anonymous (a position backed up by research such as Robert Axelrod's on the "evolution of cooperation"), we get people who think this makes a great excuse to dig up and post personal information about Bobby Kotick. Instead of an honorable exchange of ideas on what could have been a useful experiment, the discussion is sabotaged by thugs spreading fear through intimidation tactics.

    Frankly, it's disappointing that those who disapproved on privacy grounds of Blizzard's aborted Real Names policy haven't stood up and clearly rejected the tactics used by some on their side of the argument. You happened to be on the same side this time... but what about next time when the bullies decide it would be fun to go after you and your beliefs?

    Comment by Bart Stewart — 11 July, 2010 @ 2:06 PM

  15. Ysharros wrote:
    ...but I’m not sure that’s fair to the definition.

    It's not a good definition. But, it's someone's perception of what a introvert should be. They were thinking more about someone being shy, not about being introverted, I think.

    For me it’s especially evident in MMOs.

    Agreed. I find that if I can hide in the back and just tag along, I'm fine. If I have to lead or coordinate, that's when I start getting worn out. It can still be fun, but it's definitely less relaxing for me.

    Bart Stewart wrote:
    ...I think it’s more a combination of two groups.

    I think this is often the case, but given the large outcry on this particular issue I think it's a bit deeper than your explanation. I think this was more than just a bandwagon, it seemed to strike deeper than that.

    Frankly, it’s disappointing that those who disapproved on privacy grounds of Blizzard’s aborted Real Names policy haven’t stood up and clearly rejected the tactics used by some on their side of the argument.

    It's probably the same reason people don't necessarily go down to the penitentiary and scold every convicted felon. If Mr. Kotick or any other person who had their public information collected felt threatened, then there are legal channels available to them.

    However, this is probably a potent demonstration of how much information about each person is floating around out there. It's not like someone hired a private eye to tail Activision employees or their families. In fact, most of those sites seemed to have collected the information some of the people in question freely provided on their Facebook profiles. Although you disprove of the tactics, it aptly demonstrates that privacy is something that requires vigilance in our society today. Big companies aren't going to help you.

    So, do I wish reasoned debate and insightful discussion ruled the day and was able to affect decisions? Certainly, but I realize that sometimes it takes more than polite words to make a point. Should people have tried more polite words before digging up information on Activision's employees? Yes. Am I going to go scold people for stepping out of line? No, life's too short to slap the hands of everyone who is naughty on the internet. But, note that I wouldn't let them use my site to post that kind of information.

    Comment by Psychochild — 11 July, 2010 @ 2:49 PM

  16. I kind of feel like a bad blogger for lingering in this topic. But it has given so much food for thought, stuff to ponder upon so it's hard to just move on and start small talking about in-game stuff.

    The debate has opened my eyes to where Blizzard is heading with their social network project. And it has also made it clear that there's a thrift among the players - which may or may not be based on age or simply personality type. I found your analysis here about what's troubling a part of the playerbase one of the best I've read on the topic. It really gave food for thought. Thank you!

    What puzzles me a bit is that I'm both introvert and extrovert sort of. I take action pretty quickly and am somewhat hasty, impationt. I wan't to do stuff, not just think about it. In my work I have no problems to step up in front of an audience and hold a speach. As a matter of fact I kind of enjoy it, even though it frightens me at the same time.

    However I'm really crap at getting and maintaining friendships and I hate cocktail parties. I wouldn't dream of twittering stuff. Smalltalk isn't my thing. And I let very very few people come close to me, if any. So I suppose that makes me an introvert as well. Is it allowed to dual spec? Because I think that's what I am.

    Comment by Larísa — 11 July, 2010 @ 3:03 PM

  17. @Brian: Call me stupid, but I still don't get it. I'm not questioning that Facebook integration makes money for Blizzard in some way, I'm questioning that the particular issue of using real names on the forums has anything to do with Facebook integration. Putting your name on the boards would not have made a connection to Facebook and an optional connection to Facebook would still (even now) reveal your (Facebook) name.
    Oh and you are way above making an argument along the lines of "everything a company does is for money, therefore this is for money". While true eventually (even things that cost money are done for PR which is intended to make money in the end), using your argumentation would mean that each and every explanation Blizzard ever gives for an action is a lie because really they are just after the money. They nerfed battlecruisers? Greedy Blizzard just did this for the money!

    @unwesen: I won't discuss my arguments here further in order to not derail this thread of comments back into the old discussion. If you feel like talking about that, drop me a comment over at my place and I'll be glad to elaborate. For now let's just say that my post was responding to arguments other people made across the blogosphere and a major one was "I can't have it known that I'm playing WoW." If you are in such a situation then I feel for you and think you have a problem. (As in "Houston we have a problem." rather than "What's his problem?")

    Comment by scrusi — 11 July, 2010 @ 4:01 PM

  18. Larísa wrote:
    It really gave food for thought. Thank you!

    You're welcome. :)

    What puzzles me a bit is that I’m both introvert and extrovert sort of.

    As I said above, you can categorize people but that doesn't mean that everyone fits neatly into the proper categories. Some people just seem to defy categorization. And others don't fit neatly into either. That's the danger in speaking in broad strokes, because not everyone fits so easily.

    First, I'd suggest maybe finding a free online Myers-Briggs test to take if you're really curious. It measures a lot of different personality aspects, but include introvert vs. extrovert.

    If you don't want to hassle (you're probably and extrovert ;) consider this: after a long session of interacting with people, how do you feel? Drained and feeling worn out, or buzzed and eager to do something (even if you're fatigued)?

    At any rate, I can't recommend the book The Introvert Advantage enough. It really explains things well and uses actual science to explain the issues. I think even extroverts will learn form it, because it can give some insight into how to deal with introverts you interact with.

    Comment by Psychochild — 11 July, 2010 @ 4:11 PM

  19. Gah, missed your post, scrusi.

    scrusi wrote:
    ...I’m questioning that the particular issue of using real names on the forums has anything to do with Facebook integration.

    As other people have pointed out, the Facebook terms of service state that you must use your real name (section 4). Of course, Facebook says this is for "Account Security". So, it's widely believed that if Blizzard is going to integrate with Facebook, then it has to make people use their real names.

    They nerfed battlecruisers? Greedy Blizzard just did this for the money!

    Ulimately, they did. They nerfed battlecruisers to provide a more fair experience to their users. This improves their reputation and makes the customers happy. Happy customers are more likely to recommend the game to friends and buy future Blizzard games.

    Now, we can hope that money isn't the only reason, but once we're dealing with a public company every aspect of the company has to focus on providing value to the stockholders. It's called fiduciary responsibility and the courts take it very seriously. I like to believe that, in the past at least, Blizzard really did care about making great games for their fans. But, ultimately that was a means to an end of making money. It seems Activision cares a lot more about the money and no so much about the making a great experience. Given the issues with Infinity Ward, this should surprise no one.

    If Larísa's post over at the Pink Pigtail Inn has accurate information, most of the employees of Blizzard are upset about this change. This means it came from higher up and dealt with money, not with improving the game for the sake of improving the game. As I said, I suspect the "it'll improve the forums!" was a bit of after-the-fact justification for a directive handed down from on high.

    Comment by Psychochild — 11 July, 2010 @ 9:12 PM

  20. I don't think it was introversion so much as privacy issues leading to real life dangers. If it was just introversion and personal privacy, it wouldn't have seen the widespread support it had. Extroverts don't like not having control like that either, especially on a hostile venue like a forum.

    I also don't know about internet geek culture and introversion. The one thing that surprised me about the mmo blog culture is how many people are in social careers and are married. The movers and shakers in any culture are the extroverts, not the introverts, because they need to be able to form the connections to get things done. You cannot be an introvert and a raid leader, and you can't motivate people to perform server firsts, contribute to a wiki, or raise awareness for issues by being one either.

    A comparison for me is arcade culture, which was very much introverted because the games themselves limited the amount of people able to act together, and less social skills were required. MMO and usenet culture at heart were social though, and extroverts lead it.

    Comment by Dblade — 11 July, 2010 @ 10:16 PM

  21. You cannot be an introvert and a raid leader,
    and you can't motivate people to perform server firsts, contribute to a wiki,
    or raise awareness for issues by being one either.

    I manage quite well.

    What puzzles me a bit is that I’m both introvert and extrovert sort of.

    Me too. I really love socializing. I love a good party, hugely enjoy going out with friends, that sort of thing. But then I've got enough for a month or so and prefer smaller, and above all quieter things. It's the whole recharging thing; it's not like I don't enjoy things extroverts do, it's that they drain me and I really need peace and quiet afterwards.

    @unwesen (...) (As in "Houston we have a problem." rather than "What's his
    problem?")

    No need to discuss further. It was the combination of arguments on your post that made me read your point as "What's his problem?".

    Comment by unwesen — 12 July, 2010 @ 1:28 AM

  22. Dblade wrote:
    The movers and shakers in any culture are the extroverts, not the introverts, because they need to be able to form the connections to get things done.

    No, it actually takes both. It takes the contemplative introverts to analyze, hypothesize, and develop things. Then it takes the extrovert to go out there and get the new thing in front of others. They're intended to work together. An introvert without an extrovert is the quiet geek in the corner who doesn't do anything. An extrovert without an introvert is the slick salesman who is all sales and no substance. One problem is that we tend to notice the work of the extroverts without appreciating the introverts that supported them. Given that the majority of people are extroverts, it makes sense that we understand and value extroverts more as a society. But, this is ultimately harmful.

    You cannot be an introvert and a raid leader

    You are incorrect. As I said above, I've lead groups and raids, most recently in LotRO. It seems unwesen manages just fine, too. Now, I don't go out of my way to lead the raid or group, and I might not be the absolute best person to do so in every situation, but I can do it.

    The fact is that being online gives introverts a lot of power. It allows them to control how much exposure they have to others. If they start to get overwhelmed, they can get away easier than in the physical world. Again, this is how I learned to extrovert. I learned where my limitations are, and I can often gracefully bow out instead of leaving abruptly. But, this is what has lead introverts to come into their own since the internet came into existence.

    Also, introverts can marry, have relationships, and even have kids. I think there's some fundamental misunderstanding about what introverts really are, as I said above. It can be hard for the 75% to understand how the other 25% live. (And, to be fair, it sometimes works the other way, too.)

    Comment by Psychochild — 12 July, 2010 @ 1:46 AM

  23. @Brian: Sure they do it for the money, but the fact that everything they do is for the money makes that a rather bleak argument. The (hypothetical) nerf to battlecruisers is done to improve the game. Sure they want to improve the game to make money but that doesn't make the immediate intention less true. I'm simply postulating that "we want to make the forums a better place" could be a legitimate intention as well, even if they want to make the forums a better place in order to make money. I don't trust Darth Kotik and his gang one iota, but so far I don't see any reason to believe that "Our forums are awful, let's fix that." wasn't the starting point of the whole thing. Clearly their action was ill advised (not even I would call it a clever move, even if I somewhat like it), but I don't see reason to dismiss their explanation just yet.

    Facebook requires the use of your real name, so does battle.net (and not only since RealID). Unless Blizzard aimed for a complete and mandatory integration with Facebook, I still don't get what displaying your real name on the forums has to do with this. And if that was their plan, I am sure that would also have been their angle. ("Blizzard is proud to announce their innovative liaison with Facebook in which all official Blizzard communication is handled directly through Facebook. No longer will you need to visit separate forums but you can fulfill all your gaming needs while on Facebook. The future of gaming communication bla bla bla... Small print: Users will have a two month grace period to merge their battle.net accounts into Facebook after which they will no longer be able to log in without a facebook account.") That would likely have given them some "omygawdfacebook" posts but nothing remotely as terrifying as what happened to them this way.

    Comment by scrusi — 12 July, 2010 @ 2:05 AM

  24. Can one only be either an Introvert or an Extrovert? I can't say I've ever felt myself reliably to be either. After reading this thread I googled Introvert/Extrovert tests and a did few. I got one "Balanced", two "Introverted" and one "Extroverted" which probably says more about how useful the tests are than my actual personality.

    Anyway, I do agree that the RealID fiasco has pointed up how presumptions of online behavior are being shuffled as what were clique activities move into the mainstream. Going to see a lot more of this.

    Comment by Bhagpuss — 12 July, 2010 @ 5:50 AM

  25. I think this is a very insightful post about the *visceral* reaction many people had, including myself. My first reaction to the question "Why not real names?" was a simple "Because it's none of your damn business," and that seemed reason enough. I think *Blizzard* should know who I am, certainly, but you, random person on the internet that might read my written thoughts or be a friend-of-my-friend, should be happy with "Sok." (Before it comes up again: I feel the exact same way about Facebook -- you want my real name so it'll get splattered across the 'net next time you play a shell game with Privacy settings? Ha ha no.)

    Like DBlade, though, I also take the Privacy/Security arguments at face value. I personally have people in my life that I 1) share common interests with and 2) aggressively do not want to reconnect with, and so I prefer speaking under an alias. I'm concerned about employers, I worry that I'll somehow get into a conversation with a stalking loon, etc. (I do condemn anyone getting spammed or threatened, but I do think the demonstrations on how nebulous our 'privacy' really is were useful in making our concerns concrete.) So while I'm definitely an INTP introvert, I don't want people to dismiss the concerns as merely the irrational fears of shut-ins.

    @Bhagpuss: If you use the Myers-Briggs test as the standard, there's a range between each of the four descriptor pairings (Introvert/Extrovert, Sensing/iNtuiting, Thinking/Feeling, Judging/Perceiving). More info here: http://www.myersbriggs.org/my-mbti-personality-type/mbti-basics/ The test pins you down into one category or the other, but you can be pretty close to the midpoint. Last time I took the test I was very strongly Introvert and Perceiving but fairly mushy on the Intuiting and Thinking bits. (I have no idea if the population spread for each measurement is a bell curve or not.) Also, it's also a very long test not available online -- near as I could tell -- so I suspect the tests you found were abridged versions at best.

    Comment by Sok — 12 July, 2010 @ 11:22 AM

  26. "I think the issue is forcing people to do it when they don’t otherwise want to."

    Much of the instinctive reaction boils down to this, topped with a fine sense of betrayal, as Blizzard has previously been somewhat insistent on privacy. (Can you still be banned for sharing account info?) The identity of who is releasing private information makes all the difference. If individuals release their own information, more power to 'em, yippiekiyay. If someone else releases it for them, it's theft, pure and simple.

    In my mind, it's this attitude of arrogance and condescension that bothers me most, because it leads to other problems; their attitude and goals haven't changed, they just recanted one piece of the puzzle that we complained about... "at this time". This war isn't over. Blizzard decided by fiat that they could do whatever they wanted to with our names, ignoring courtesy and probably a few laws. They were perfectly content to steal our information and use it for their ends, enforced by Big Brother statism, all the while telling us it was for our own good. That's a dangerous road to walk, full of bad precedents.

    The ends do not justify the means, whether it's cleaning up the forums (a noble end, achievable by much better means) or the stated intent of creating a "social gaming platform" (a dubious proposition, but probably the most honest part of their recent statements).

    I don't want a platform, I don't want Blizzard deciding non-game things for me, I want simply to buy a good game that they happen to produce. (Note, not "enter into a relationship with Blizzard, complete with recurring payments and social networking". I want to pay for a game, not a service, and I want that to be the end of the transaction.)

    I'm not looking for a relationship with Blizzard or other gamers. I just want good games (that I'm willing to pay for... once) and ownership of my identity and control over my privacy. That some players are perfectly content to fritter away their ownership and privacy does not mean that is the Way Things Should Be for one and all. The logic simply doesn't track upstream like that.

    Oh, and you'll never stop trolls by counting on the community. Shame doesn't work, and counting on the community to react to trolls just leads to countertrolling and further contention. You don't kill trolls by feeding them. You stop trolls by harsh moderation, and that *must* come from the dev side of things. No-nonsense rules, clear consequences and zero tolerance enforcement; that's how you clean up forums. The "social network community" has no teeth. The most you can give them is a Mute button, but that still doesn't stop a troll from posting.

    Comment by Tesh — 12 July, 2010 @ 12:56 PM

  27. I think it is about making money in two ways:

    1) As soon as you post with RealId on the forum, *you* have just released your real name to the public. This means that Blizzard can set a flag on your account that they can resell your gaming habits to the third party integrators, since it will no longer be an invasion of your "privacy" as you have "voluntarily" released it. They can't sell your battlenet information now because it was collected for billing info, and various privacy laws prohibit them from reusing that information. This is a neat way to create consent.

    2) A lot of the backlash wasn't based on the forums alone. A lot of people, it seems, would have been willing to give up the forums. What they were reacting to was what the next stage would be. A successful roll out of RealID on the forum would help change the community standards towards a wider use of RealId. This is why a lot of the pro-RealId arguments of "You could just not use the forums!" fell so flat.

    Finally, and most importantly, it is up to Blizzard to explain why it isn't for money. The whole facebook deal is a smoking gun covered with their finger prints which matches the fired bullet. So motive is of interest, but not really that important for conviction.

    Blizzard really screwed the timing with this one. They should have given it another few months. First, people were still getting over the RealId chat stuff. So they were all worried about RealId escalation. Second, that facebook deal is still too fresh. If they waited longer, it would seem less relevant. Especially if they did some obvious facebook tie-in elsewhere that would appear to be the real meat of that deal. Next, changing the standards of a community risks backlash due to the sense of betrayal.

    What I would have done would be this. I would have released SC2 forums with RealId only. Since these were brand new forums, you don't have betrayal and people buy in knowing what's up. Then, if they prove monumentally successful in creating a pleasant atmosphere of goodness (which they would, as I'd assign extra moderators there, secretly starving the WoW forums), Blizzard could point to them and suggest: "What do you guys think, should we upgrade the WoW forums to this nifty software and add RealId to clean the forum? Look how great its worked!" Create push poll to WoW players, make it binding if 65% or more agree to the change. Re-poll every few months till it goes through. This works a lot better because you get the community to argue against itself, not against Blizzard.

    Or, better yet, build on their strengths! Build a gamertag like social system explicitly based around your game handle. Definitely give the ability for people to voluntarily link to their facebook. (See, the thing facebook should have taught people is that you don't have to steal, or trick, or coerce the private information of consumers. They will stampede to give it to you voluntarily! This is where they got the more insidious RealId chat right - it is all opt in and "voluntary", but you know a crap load of people have enabled it)

    In summary, that is what annoys me. When the evil fails so utterly at being properly Machiavellian. I know you are more powerful than me and can just take whatever you want, but why can't we at least set up a charade which doesn't make this painfully obvious?

    Comment by Brask Mumei — 12 July, 2010 @ 1:22 PM

  28. scrusi wrote:
    Sure they do it for the money, but the fact that everything they do is for the money makes that a rather bleak argument.

    It may be bleak, but that doesn't invalidate the argument. Ignoring things that are distasteful don't make them go away, sadly. Given that Activision not only killed the golden goose, but lit it on fire and tried to molest the ashes speaks volumes of the corporate philosophy of how much profit matters.

    ...so far I don’t see any reason to believe that “Our forums are awful, let’s fix that.” wasn’t the starting point of the whole thing.

    I'd say the timing has been a pretty big indicator. The Facebook deal was announced in January (or at least an article was written about it then). It's taken until now for Blizzard to finally decide that the forums need help and that RealID is the best way to handle it? The forums have been horrible for years, why the sudden push now when RealID was jsut around the corner? Given that two very experienced people who deal with this type of issue on a professional basis say using real names is a terrible way to handle the situation (and potentially law-breaking), I have to wonder if Blizzard really thought this was the best idea. It's also telling that they have not really addressed ways to address the issue of forum quality after saying RealID isn't going to be used. I mean, their two big ideas (that were edited in, mind you) are to have post ratings (which I'm sure Randy could go on a tear about) and better search functionality. Really? Better searching is going to improve the tone of discourse on the forums? Anyway, note that there is no mention of the one sure-fire way that they could improve the forums: having more active moderators.

    Maybe I'm wrong and Activision is all purity and light and Blizzard really, truly believed that using real names was the absolute best way to improve their forums. Let's just say that, to me, there's a preponderance of evidence suggesting otherwise to my experienced eyes. But, perhaps I am too cynical; at least I'm not alone.

    Tesh wrote:
    I don’t want a platform,

    Yeah, but the platform isn't for you (even if they pitch it as having lots of benefits for you). One of the recent trends in business has been the concept of "establishing a relationship" with the customers (which I'm sure is why you used that exact phrase). The thing is, the person who controls the platform is the one who is really in control. Facebook shows this, and it was one of the reasons why Second Life got so much attention. It was also the original intention of Metaplace, as far as I understand it. Control the platform, get others to contribute what you need, then profit.

    Oh, and you’ll never stop trolls by counting on the community.

    I think engaging the community is a very helpful step in keeping the place clean. You can moderate with an iron glove, but that doesn't mean that a community will flourish. You need the community to take root, and giving them a way to express themselves is good. Allow them to help establish community standards can go a long way to helping the community to flourish. The trick is that you can't abdicate responsibility to the community. You still need someone trusted to go in and clean up problems that the community cannot (or will not) take care of itself.

    Brask Mumei wrote:
    When the evil fails so utterly at being properly Machiavellian.

    Goddamn it, stop giving them instructions!

    Comment by Psychochild — 12 July, 2010 @ 3:16 PM

  29. Well, sure, you can and *should* count on users to set the conversational tone and general civility of the place, I'm just noting you can't use them as a police force unless they have the tools to do so. I'm not convinced that giving users admin-level police tools is a good idea, and public shame and scorn aren't enough to really stop trolling. Some of them even feed on it.

    ...and agreed on the platform and the nature of "relationships" with corporations. I've seen the trend, and found it very distasteful and potentially troublesome. I'm evidently not the mainstream consumer... but I do still spend money. Just not enough.

    Comment by Tesh — 13 July, 2010 @ 10:39 AM

  30. Well, I still think that despite the problems it has, slashdot manages quite well with regards to letting the community police itself in the article comments.

    It's taking the idea of rating comments a bit further by inviting particularly active contributors with high rating to rate ratings every so often.

    While slashdot uses slightly opaque terminology for this process, like "karma" and "meta-moderation", a similar system could be explained in simpler terms and might well work for Blizzard's forums as well. Give Blizzard employees the power to always meta-moderate and completely override ratings for dire edge cases, and you should be in a fairly good position.

    Two-level ratings really aren't that hard to understand conceptually, and at that point it's "just" a question of providing an intuitive user interface for the whole thing. A half-decent UX designer should be able to do that.

    Don't get me wrong, I can see the possibility of failure in such a system as well. But it's simple enough, Blizzard wouldn't be seen as too meddling, and there's no reason to start exposing personal information of users.

    Comment by unwesen — 13 July, 2010 @ 10:51 AM

  31. Introversion and Shyness

    [...] Psychochild has come to the bottom of why the RealID forum fiasco was such a big deal here, and it has to do with being an [...]

    Pingback by Love and War in Azeroth — 14 July, 2010 @ 7:38 AM

  32. I'm an introvert. What I find most distressing about Real ID is that it makes it impossible for me to be out of sight while playing any Blizzard game. Showing my name to friends of my friends is a turn-off. The forums integration is just an extension of that over-exposure, which, thankfully, I can opt-out of in-game. I refused my wife's Real ID request, ffs. By making "real names" mandatory, Blizzard was saying in effect that I wasn't welcome before I ever wrote a word.

    Of course Blizzard is chasing the dollar. They're a company; it's what they do. I have a nice disposable income and I enjoy playing games in my free time. I should be their target market but if they do things that make the environment stressful for introverts, I'll take my dollars and withdraw. Is "chasing" an effective strategy for engaging with introverts? I think not.

    Comment by Michael — 15 July, 2010 @ 2:05 PM

  33. Here is another interesting article going into some depth about introverts and the RealID issue: http://www.wowphilosophized.com/2010/07/real-id-and-future-of-wow.html

    Comment by Psychochild — 16 July, 2010 @ 6:18 PM

  34. Thank God I always post before I read your column on a weekly basis. I would never post.. you've covered this incredibly well.

    One of the things you touch on, but don't put into a spotlight, is the VALUE OF TIME. If this were a new game (such as Starcraft II), or a totally optional exercise, the reaction would be more muted. People feel that the "basis of the bargain" has been violated. Gaming, privacy, sharing only with the people you raid with, your friends, your associates on Facebook, all the usual choices. To be 2,3,4 years in and then have "curtain opened", by the way, put your real name here. In my latest post, I equate it to being the only one in costume at a party. You can say all you want, "Hey, it's OK, it's voluntary, don't worry about it.", but once some people are not totally in costume, then it ceases to be a costume party and one (including this one) can feel childish in my costume.

    Comment by Jay Moffitt — 18 July, 2010 @ 3:34 PM

  35. Two kinds of fools

    [...] about something other than the banalities of daily life or the local weather. I'm not sure, since social networks don't do it for me, so I haven't been very "social" when trying out "social games". Ultimately, I'm not sure that [...]

    Pingback by Psychochild's Blog — 27 July, 2010 @ 7:06 PM

  36. Looking forward in 2011

    [...] beyond MMOs isn't exactly heartening. I don't own a "smart phone" and I am not in the target audience for social games, so I the current hot trends are not things I'm deeply involved with. After having a few years of [...]

    Pingback by Psychochild's Blog — 11 January, 2011 @ 2:09 AM

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