Bye-Bye Trolls? Blizzard Forums To Use Real Names

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Activision Blizzard Inc.’s move to require people to use their real names if they want to post messages in online forums for games is the latest sign that online anonymity is falling out of favor with many companies.

The upcoming change has upset many gamers who prize anonymity and don’t necessarily want their gamer personas associated with their real identities.

Blizzard, the maker of “World of Warcraft,” said Tuesday that the new rule will go into effect later this month. It will apply first to forums about the highly anticipated “StarCraft II,” out July 27; other games are to follow.

Blizzard hopes that making people use their real names will cut down on nasty behavior in the forums and create a more positive environment. Players will have the option — but not a requirement — to display the name of their main game character alongside their real name.

Marc Rotenberg, executive director of the Electronic Privacy Information Center, said Blizzard is the latest company to require real identities. But he added businesses have “a lot of freedom” in doing so.

Facebook, the world’s most popular online social network, asks users to sign up with their real names. The company tries to delete fake profiles it comes across. A growing number of blogs and news sites are also abandoning anonymity. The Buffalo News said last month it will start requiring commenters on its website to give their real names and the towns they live in, just as they would do in a printed letter to the editor.

Online games are among the last truly anonymous frontiers. As such, Rotenberg called Blizzard’s decision a “bit of a sad day” in the world of gaming.

“Part of the fun of the online gaming would was the sense that you could construct a character different form who you were in the real world,” he said.

“World of Warcraft” has more than 11.5 million subscribers who pay monthly fees to play the game worldwide.

Copyright 2010 by The Associated Press.  All Rights Reserved

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