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Blizzard: Anonymity suspends reality

Real ID furore "kind of a side thing".

World of Warcraft and StarCraft II creator Blizzard's recent kafuffle with its fans over the use of Real ID in its forums has taught it a valuable lesson: gamers like anonymity because it ties into their desire to suspend reality.

"That's been a very interesting thing for us to wrap our heads around at Blizzard," Battle.net project director Greg Canessa told Gamasutra.

Weeks before StarCraft II was released Blizzard about-turned on its plan to force gamers to use their real names when posting in its forum.

Real ID, as it's called, stores real first names and surnames so that other people can befriend gamers across multiple titles and recognise their real-life friends.

Canessa said Blizzard was "surprised" by the controversy Real ID sparked, and highlighted the disparity between gamers' desire for anonymity and what people are willing to divulge on social networking sites like Facebook.

Being "someone else" is actually part of the gameplay, and just because people are okay with being open about their identities on Facebook, that openness doesn't necessarily translate to games.

"I think it's an interesting sociological phenomenon that you have, in which people are completely comfortable putting their name, face, kids, wife and personal information out there for the world to see in Facebook, yet they're not willing to do, in some cases, similar things in the game space," he said.

"We were a little surprised by the controversy [about requiring real names on forums], mostly because it was kind of wag the dog. It was not where our focus was [for Real ID]."

The focus, rather, is on Blizzard's branding for community features that use real names as a basis for an in-game social suite that includes cross-game chat and Real ID friend discovery.

"That part was really, really positive, and that's where the Battle.net team has been focused," Canessa said.

"The forum stuff was kind of a side thing. The forums aren't that big of a deal relative to Blizzard's overall business. And so we were a little surprised. ... [But] we listen to our community. They didn't like it, and we quickly moved off of it."

StarCraft II was aces. Oli gave it 9/10 in his review.