I recently read a post on Truth/Slant about Blizzard's new efforts to go augmented reality, which of coarse brought many things to mind for me. First up, as a 15+ year veteran of the 3D Web, as I call this, I am very familiar with the duality of our existence online. I’ve never made it a secret that behind the character name, Tessa Harrington, is the real me, Tessa Kinney-Johnson, 15+ year veteran of the 3D Web, as I call this, and the Co-Founder/COO of SpotON3D.com, a new 3D Web World software that really pushes the idea of augmented reality. Whew! That was a mouthful.
So, after all that I’m sure you can imagine what side of the fence I fall on here. I don’t believe things are as dire as Paul Tassi @ Truth/Slant would like to think as long as this is handled responsibly. I can't give a unequivocal nods to Blizzard, as I’ve not had time to really research all the details of their RealID program. I do know they give you the option of whether to participate or not with your game character. If they do the opposite on the forums, allowing you to choose if you link your game character to your RealID forum accounts, then I think that’s not only good news, but a responsible way to go about it. The linking of the two should ALWAYS BE VOLUNTARY. The only exception to this would be in the case of behaviors that, if done in real life, would constitute a crime, such as harassment, stalking and the like, and even then that should mean your info only gets shared with the proper authorities. A banned account should be enough notice to those inside and out of the game environment that someone has trespassed and have reaped the consequences of their behaviors. It also gives notice to those that would think to grief that game in retribution, that they could be held responsible in real world terms, which I think – again – is not a bad thing.
What many might not think about is that this may also be a result of a lot of legal work that’s been going on behind the scenes since the Craig stalking incident and online bullying of kids, businesses and adults. When you start seeing real crimes connected to online behaviors then our legal authorities have no choice but to deal with them in a very real way. That includes requiring gaming companies, online forums, and blog sites to rein in and establish some standards that have some real teeth.
Having said that, I think there will always be games online that will won’t tie ID’s to their gamers and I think they will become the places folks hang out in who can’t restrain themselves from being “bad”. Question is, will mainstream users still be willing to tolerate such risks these "anonymous" sites would present, after experiencing the calming effects accountability tends to have on their community. If we’ve learned anything from the last 15 years of wild west standards online, is that without some level of accountability for our behaviors, we as human beings can be just as brutal, inhuman and unethical as we can be open, caring and generous.