WoW: Real Names in a Fake World

Friendship can be found in the most surprising of places, including the virtual world. In fact the social aspect of World of Warcraft serves as one of the game’s many appeals.
Friendship can be found in the most surprising of places, including the virtual world. In fact the social aspect of World of Warcraft serves as one of the game’s many appeals. The bonds of friendship forged in game are often just as strong as those found in real life. However, maintaining these in game friendships can be far more complicated.. With the option to faction and server transfer, friends in game can come and go, and since there previously was no way to chat with them after the transfer losing touch with in game friends was a common problem.

Cue the introduction of Patch 3.3.5 and the Real I.D. system and much like the Berlin Wall the barriers of communication in World of Warcraft have finally been torn down . Players everywhere seem to be embracing the new addition, which provides chatting options never seen before in the WoW universe. Players are no longer limited to talking to only those on their server, but now can talk to friends cross-realm, cross-faction, and even cross-game. This new addition takes the social aspect of WoW to a whole new level, allowing players to remain in contact with their friends no matter the circumstances, but is there a darker side to this new feature?

To add a friend with the Real I.D. system you must obtain their e-mail address.
Security has always been tantamount at Blizzard. Proof of this lies in the frequent reminders to not give out your account information, and the introduction of the Authenticator, both of which seem to lead to more security for players. So it came as quite a surprise when reading more about the Real I.D system that in order to utilize the function players would need to either give out the e-mail address that corresponds to their account, or obtain the e-mail addresses of their friends.

As all WoW players know your e-mail address is a vital part of your WoW information, used with a password to allow players to login to their accounts. So it seems strange indeed that the usually cautious Blizzard has asked players to reveal their e-mail addresses, even to supposed  friends. This would not have been an issue in the past, when logging in required a username and not an e-mail address, however with the switch to the system the e-mail address has become a key link to a player’s account information.

So with Blizzard’s work to provide and help players achieve greater account safety in the past, the Real I.D. system seems to be a step in the opposite direction. With access to a player’s e-mail address hackers are one step closer to wrecking havoc on your account. With the amount of time and energy most players dedicate to their toons the loss of a character or items and gold can be devastating even if they may eventually be replaced.

The exchanging of e-mails is not the most worrying aspect of the Real I.D system. Once you have accepted a Real I.D. friend request your real first and last name is displayed for all your Real I.D. friends to see. While this may seem inconsequential to most, giving any personal information, even something as trivial as your name, out over the internet can turn out to be a very slippery slope indeed. While having access to someone’s full name may not get you very far, with just a few leading questions and some slips of the tongue in normal conversation someone could end up knowing more about you than you ever dreamed.

Any friend added via the Real I.D. system will be able to view the players full name.
The Real I.D system is amazing, and will truly take the social aspect of WoW to a whole new level. I personally plan on making use of the system, already having added several long time friends that I want to keep in touch with. With all that being said though, we must err on the side of caution and remember that by using the system we are giving out information that could be used against us. While this may seem like some paranoid delusion, we must remember that it’s a crazy world out there and there are those that are out there waiting ready to pounce on any opportunity.

Gaining information has long brought out the worst in people and I expect in this case it will be no different. So think long and hard about adding friends to your list in this manner, only allowing access to your nearest and dearest friends and not that guy you met in an instance run last week. By using good judgment you can save yourself (and Blizzard) a lot of headaches and keep yourself out of a potentially bad situation.

What do you think about the new Real I.D. system? Are you comfortable with having your e-mail and real name revealed and do you think this will cause even more security issues? Join us on our forums to share your thoughts.

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