I am ELATED that I won’t have to leave behind a community that I adore. The official forums have long been a cesspit, but that does not mean that there is no value in them.
In the WoW-Blogosphere there has been a solidarity of spirit that has been enlightening and exhilarating. Being part of something that has touched the lives of thousands of people worldwide is both frightening and ecstatic at the same time. While I discussed the worried of the marginalised groups, compared to the worries of the whole, the conversations were worth having for all involved.
Would the Visibility of Marginalised Voices Have Increased?
Oh what might have been. Facebook actually has more women, worldwide, than men (self-identified women, at least). Is the female voice safe there? I don’t know, and -ist language can certainly have free reign there, but then women are equally capable of misogynistic language and behaviour as men. Facebook is not a focused forum, like the WoW Community, it is merely a framework that people hang their real life connections on to. People meet and connect through it, but it is just a medium and not a community in and of itself. Trying to measure WoW, and what might have been under a ‘Real Name’ forum system is futile, and using facebook as a metric for accountability even more so.
I cancelled my two accounts because I didn’t want to participate in a game where I could not communicate on the official forums with at least some basic personal safety features. I cancelled because many women (and others) would be silenced by the lack of choice that is becoming a target vs Silence. We were lucky Blizzard were able to use this against whoever in Activision-Blizzard decided RealID was a good thing. I feel that there is a battle that took place within the company, without the player base having insight into the internal conflict.
However there was a part of me going “Sod this. I need to be visible.” Part of the reason that the internet is geared towards the privilege of ‘white, male, 18-35′ is because pseudonymity masks those who are ‘other’ from plain sight. Pseudonymity protects the marginalised, but it also means that other users are never confronted with people that have different needs and wants, with different world views. If they never get confronted with the idea that the gaming community is a lot more diverse than it was 10,15 or 20 years ago, then we will have to work harder to make it apparent.
Women (to take the marginalised but numerous group that I identify with) are much more visible in tech/gaming communities now than they were 5 years ago, but female techies and bloggers who participate in a neutral way (that is, they don’t go around saying ‘here I am, woman, here me roar’) still get targeted for harassment merely because they are female. While it is safer for us to hide behind anonymity, I am still left wondering what might have been if the ‘Real Name’ forums had been filled with loud and proud women from the start. However this wistful view point still ignores the exclusion of other marginalised groups, and does not take into account the white, able-bodied and straight privilege that I personally have.
I am considering attaching my real name to my blog, and to my characters. I am not ready to do this yet, but I might be. It’s a big decision and one I won’t take lightly. On the other hand this blog has a relatively small readership. The other ‘result’ is that I am considering splitting off the Elemental Shaman side, and concentrating on a full fledged feminist gaming blog. Possibly with multiple authors. I don’t have a following that would make such a thing guaranteed to succeed, but I need to consider the possibilities.
It’s not just psychos who connect the dots
This is hard to post about. It is NOT just actual stalkers that will hunt you down. People are naturally curious, and people know that they can google anything. I am not a psycho. I’ve never harassed or hounded someone, or take things from curiosity to contacting them in real life. I have, however, connected the dots between someone in my community and a personality who was infamous in certain other on-line circles, and on ‘drama’ websites like Encyclopaedia Dramatica. All the space of a short hour I found out about this individual’s history of drama, of business scams. I was suspicious about some things he was telling people, bored, and fascinated by the fact that a person would do all that kind of crap. I found one piece of information and clicked through to find the next bit. Astonished. Disgusted. And I told some friends of mine because I didn’t want them to be scammed in the same way. I didn’t want them to put their trust in someone who had apparently violated the trust of so many. Even a pseudonym is dangerous – all I had to go on at the time was a first name and a character name.
I know I’m not a ‘psycho’ (hah). I was one bored person, at work, with google, who is good at picking a part individual bits of information because it is what I do for a living. The people who commit sexual assault are not strange weird people living in caves. They are otherwise ‘normal’ people who do horrific things. Remember the truism that most sex offences are committed by someone known to the victim? Potential trolls aren’t some strange breed of alien, they are people. Ordinary people can do monstrous things in the name of curiosity and ‘teaching someone a lesson’. The people who hunt down the private information of the person who killed them in BGs, or told them off for being racist in party chat are not monsters. They are ordinary people who have no thought of the consequences of their actions, and no frame of empathy for people on the other side of a computer screen.This is not an excuse, this is a reason to stop thinking of stalkers as and harassers as ‘something that will never happen to me’, because a mob is made up of ordinary people.
I know many recruitment officers who do a routine google of email addresses and character names, who use the ‘detective’ options of wow-progress to help them track down and assess the history of a potential application. Guilds are private members clubs, and retaining members is often dependent on careful screening of applicants. Guilds all look for different criteria of course, but background checks are a part of protecting the guild community.
Stop Comparing the Situation to Terrorism and Rape
For serious. As much as I feel this whole event is a feminist/intersectional problem, as well as a Right to Privacy issue – comparing the RealID to rape is not cool. Rape is rape. This is silencing, and violating, but it is not ‘rape’. I know it is an analogy to get the point across, but it is a really bad choice in my opinion. I’ve seen a couple of blogs do this, and I’m pretty unhappy about it. It might be a little shocking and thus get the point across, but it is no better than going ‘Argh, the horde totally raped us in that battleground’.
Secondly I’ve seen some people on twitter (and around the net) saying things like “Congratulations, the Terrorists Won’. The bit of me that is currently apt to flare up and be mad about stuff easily saw red at that. Comparing a PR and privacy issue to Terrorism is, frankly, fucking disrespectful of those who have lost their lives to terrorism, and members of the public who are doing anything but ‘terrorisng’ Blizzard. I don’t for a moment think it was the ‘examples’ made by wowriot and a couple of other blogs that forced Blizzard into making this decision. No, I think it was the perfectly reasonable objections of thousands of people who cancelled their accounts and gave the feedback on the forums, who spread the word via twitter, and through many major news outlets worldwide. Through all the people objected on the Wall Street Journal article, the BBC Have Your Say.
At this stage I don’t think the people who just.don’t.get.it will ever understand the concerns of those who protested. We can explain privilege, the hostile society that is the gaming community, and how real rape and stalking is for women (1 in 10 women get stalked) and the growing threat towards men, and the prevalence of trans-hate and homophobia, but I think they just don’t want to see. It doesn’t fit into their world view, so they dismiss it as paranoia and tinfoil hatting.
Blizzard and our Personal Information
Now, I have seen some bloggers quitting because they can’t change the name on their account to a false one. Frankly I think this is overreacting. I don’t think Activision-Blizzard is going to flick a switch one day and make all our real names ‘public’. They will always give customers a ‘way out’ of sharing this information. As I’ve said before, the implementation and granular controls are not good enough, but legally they have to give a way for you to opt out of a system. They need to do this without the clunkiness that is using Parental Controls, and hopefully they will make sure that choices for protecting privacy are REAL choices in future. However I don’t expect them to let anyone remove a real name on an account once it is verified, as money is involved, and they need that information to hold players accountable for crimes committed through the game. Expecting a business not to keep real name records of it’s ongoing customers (hello, invoices?) is ridiculous.
At the moment, if you want to be safe, turn Parental Controls on. A handy guide can be found here. There is still a bug that can leak your Real ID even if you have no Real ID friends, so be secret, be safe!
Okay, after about 6 posts on this topic I need a break. I will return to Gamer Culture and Feminism another time, but I really want to look at Worgen and Goblin Hairstyles and childishly *squee* and think about 41pt talent trees. As, yanno, that’s really what this blog is about, right?