Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Farewell to privacy

First of all: I appreciate the social aspect of WoW as much as anyone else. I love to team up with and interact with other people and if I never did that I’d probably not play the game at all.

Now, this said, I also like WoW because you in spite of the socializing still can stay very anonymous. You’re not judged by other people by your looks, age or social status. If you want to stay private and keep some information to yourself you can do so. You share as much as you want to share and nothing more.

Armory changes
This is how it has been at least, until now. The recent “improvement” of the Armory feature has changed it. Not in the aspect that they’ll leave out information about your real life – that’s still a secret. But they’ve changed so that you’re character is open for inspection by anyone in the world.

I’m not only talking about your gear and talent spec. Those things have been available for others to see for a long time, and I think that makes sense. They provide information which is pretty necessary, for instance if you’re about to put together a team for some purpose, weather it’s an instance or Arena. You need to find people with the right combination of specs and gear.

No, the New Armory is something completely different. It will show the world everything available in your achievement window – not only achievements but also all kinds of statistics. Everything you’ve done in the game is available for judging and commenting – thing’s that you’re proud of as well as things that you’d rather forget.

How many times have you screwed up and died from falling damage? The Armory will tell. How much gold was the most you ever had? No secret anymore.

They don’t yet show what you have stored in your bank or carry in your bags and they haven’t yet displayed your friends list or ignore list. But thinking about how far it has gone already I wouldn’t be too surprised if that would appear too one day.

I can see benefits of the change. It’s a part of the achievement system, which many players appreciate. You can’t deny that the measuring of yourself against other players, the e-peen factor of the game, is something that many players enjoy. It’s fun to show off, to be able to manifest that you have done something that not everyone else has done.

People want to know more about other people. They’re curious. There is a reason why newspapers at least where I live love to publish lists over who’s got the highest incomes, the most exclusive houses or did best on the national tests for access to university studies.

It may also be beneficial for guild recruiting – with the achievements available it will be harder for anyone to lie about what previous experiences they have in the game.

Bullying and hacking
But this said, I must still say that I’m not entirely happy about the new thing. And it’s got to do with the less pleasant sides of socializing in the game. I don’t think I’ll suffer much from it myself, being old enough to laugh about my own crappiness. But I can vividly imagine that younger players will be able to find ways not only to gloat and show their e-peens, but to actually bully each other. I’m also afraid that the display of the financial status can give useful information and inspiration to hackers.

And I can’t help feeling that I’ve lost some of my privacy in the game. They’ve taken it pretty far already – is this where it will stop? Mind you, I’m not a very secret person – I’ve got a blog where I’m telling the world about my life in the game. But it’s always voluntary. I share because I want to share, not because someone forces it upon me.

A solution?
So with the pros and cons of displaying achievements – is there any solution to meet the demands of those who want to show them as well as those who want to keep their achievements to themselves?

Well, I don’t know if it’s technically doable, but in the best of worlds I think players should be able to decide for themselves to show it or hide it in Armory. Give the achievement nerds the tools they need to compete with each other. And give players who wish to work towards their own goals silently the possibility to stay in the shadows, private and unseen.


Funeral said...

I suggest you read the item description here =)

Grimmtooth said...

I agree that the financial stuff needs to come out. File under "what where they thinking?"

@Funeral: Need to book you at the World's End, we do.

Siha said...

I think the problem is that we all get very invested in our characters - naturally - and tend to think of them as _ours_. But they're not; they're Blizzard's, and all of the data is Blizzard's to do with as they will. We have no rights in WoW other than those which Blizzard give us, and expecting the same rights as in the real world just leads to disappointment.

Beth said...

It's not much more beyond being able to compare achievements in the game. I've found that no matter what opportunities are available, bullies will find something to bully about. But while it gives the innocent less privacy, it does the same for bullies. A lot of bullies like to say they've done better than the people around them (in raiding, for example), but in reality their accomplishments are often nonexistent. And it's now even easier to call them on being jerkwads with no cred.

As for hacking, I have a post about keeping your account safe that you might want to read. My husband is a computer guy and his friends are computer guys and there's almost no chance that showing gold amounts will tempt hackers to hack someone in particular -- hacking accounts, particular in WoW, is more passive than that. Most hacking (even in the real world) is done by tricking the account owner to expose his or her user name and password in a fake website or "official" email situation. So it's more about avoiding falling into traps than protecting yourself from invasion.

Beth said...

PS - My husband corrected me and said that WoW hacking consists mostly of keyloggers that people get from following infected links on the official forums. So it's good practice to avoid links in the forums.

PPS - Husband told me Blizzard just took gold information off the armory! Announcement on MMO-Champion. :) Figured you'd like to know.

Anonymous said...

@Funeral: thanks for the link! Great fun! I didn't know about that.

@Grimmtooth: looking at the comment from Birdfall our prayers seem to have been heard.

@Siha: I keep forgetting. You get strangely attached to them, while they're after all only a few pixels I borrow.

@Birdfall: yeah, you're right, bullies will alway find their ways. However I still think it's more likely that you tease someone about being crappy than that the shy person will check up the bully person and get back to him, if you get what I mean.

Great news on MMO-champion! That was quick. I had no idea my blog had such an influence. ;-)

Gevlon said...

@Larísa: I hate "privacy" as much as snowman hates Ragnaros.

You wrote "I don’t think I’ll suffer much from it myself, being old enough to laugh about my own crappiness. ". It's not being old, it's simply stand on the ground and not daydreaming.

The sooner people are face, - or forced to face - their problems, the better. Privacy is good for two things: to let criminals hide their activities from the others and to let stupid people hide their stupidity from themselves.

I really wish such Armory would exist on real world with school data, workplace history, financial and health records.

This way stupid people could not get away from their dumbness, they would be forced to improve.

Anonymous said...

@Gevlon: Good lord! Save me from such a world. My thoughts go to "1984" by Orwell and other dystopic novels I used to read when I was younger. Nowhere to hide. Everything open... I shiver.
Still - you DO have a point about facing problems. To know that you don't know anything is a great start, as Socrates (was it?) pointed out a couple of thousand years ago. But you'd better realize it yourself, not get it pointed out to you.

Still - I love your comments since you keep thinking for yourself, not following anyone else. It's so refreshing.

David said...


I can't believe you would advocate making private records public in real life. What if someone gets raped or abused as a child, and there are some medical records from that? Who would possibly benefit from having that information made public? According to you, such victims that deserve such privacy are either criminal or stupid.

Or how about a national online list of people with HIV/AIDS?

Should bank balances be viewable by anybody? That would make it really easy for would-be crooks to target wealthier families.

I am personally offended by your thoughtless comments and I hope you can spend some more time thinking about privacy issues in a more serious light, before making demeaning comments about people that deserve privacy for one reason or another.

Captain The First said...

There's other benefits like out of game character planning. If you don't play much the armory can significantly help you to do some character planning while at work (during lunchbreaks of course *caugh*).

The problem I have with the data represented is that it is ridiculously inaccurate.

My total deaths, my maximum gold they're all figures that started computing since wotlk.

If you have rampant altitis like myself the only real picture of what I have 'achieved' would require to combine all my character's achievements.

After all, I don't keep my gold on my warlock because he spending issues... I do my exploring on my paladin because he's faster. I did the holiday events on my warlock for the title and my druid hasn't even set foot in a bg thusfar.

The data that is there is meaningless and skewed. Anyone using it for anything than character planning is simply put: barking up the wrong tree and I tend to be more than happy to tell people how wrong they are if they do use the armory as a metric for anything.

Captain The First said...

In general I would like to add the following about privacy laws even though a comment section hardly is the appropriate way to discuss it.

In short the privacy laws are there to protect you.
If we do away with privacy laws there is literally nothing preventing me from stealing your identity. And with that I can request credit cards in your name, rake up huge bills and eventually send you to jail through no fault of your own (and that's by no means a rare occurance).

Privacy laws are not there to protect criminals or idiots. They're there to protect you from criminals and idiots.

There's many aspects of the privacy laws that work to benefitting you directly. Abandoning them under the guise of I have nothing to hide is a sad falsity propagated by those that don't understand what privacy laws actually do for you as an individual.

Your identity is a valuable commodity, I humbly suggest you treat it as such and inform yourself about the subject.

Gevlon said...

@Larísa: In "1984" and such novels, the GOVERNMENT knew everything about the people and the people knew nothing.

I'm advocating that the people shall know about the people.

BTW Socrates was a boss in Arcatraz (in pair with Delilah) isn't he :-)

@David: Rape victims are usually ashamed for the crime, I can't imagine why. If the people would know what happened to them, 99.9% would be supportive and it would help them handle the trauma.

HIV/AIDS: definitely. Maybe the nice girl who just said "yes, I go out with you" actually means "yes, I'm gonna kill you tonight" (42% of the HIV patients keep on having unsafe sex because they deny (from themselves) that they are dieing.

Wealth as targeting tool for criminals: Be assured, criminals already know that. They can bribe bank workers and also can approximate from your car, your favorite restaurant and your clothing. And above all: I refuse to fear and hide from criminals.

About being offended:

Funeral said...


Your claim that %99.9 percent of rape victims would be helped to get over the trauma if everyone knew about it is foolish.

Also you scenario about the nice girl with HIV/AIDS... well first I getting the feeling that's a completely made up statistic you've got there. Beyond that as someone who has professed their anti-stupid and pro personal responsibility beliefs, you should realize that having unsafe sex takes two people. A woman can't trick you into doing it... it's up to you to protect yourself. Not to mention that open medical records wouldn't protect you from such a person when you're out at a bar, unless your advocating them being forced to wear a special wrist band or something... which opens a whole new door of problems.

Beth said...

Mr. Gevlon,

Sometimes it's easiest to simplify complicated discussions into a basic statement and just go with it, even if the approach is more like a sledgehammer than anything that would work in a real world setting.

If you consented that, yes, there might be situations where people's information would be misused to their detriment, and that they have a right to be protected from that misuse, I might have considered you something more than a comment troll. >_> As is, I'm just trying to figure out if you actually think this way or just enjoy the thrill of defending positions that you know people will attack.

Anonymous said...

WoW! I never figured this little innocent rant about the changes to Armory would cause such a inflammated discussion about real life politics. Well, as soon as you respect each others right to express their opinions (as long as they're not racist or something) I'm fine with it. I think a pub like this is exactly the right spot to try arguments and see things from different sides. It's an excercise of mind. However I'm a bit lazy and not in the mood for fighting you anymore at this point Gevlon, so I'll just sit in the armchair in front of the fire for a while, watching the dancing flames as my guests will solve the world problems...

David said...

I'll be the first to call people out for their stupidity in-game, and I couldn't care less about who knows how much gold I have in-game. You would also be very hard-pressed to offend me in-game. It's a game. And if your comments were limited to WoW I wouldn't be up in arms. Your link about being offended does nothing to exonerate you. And surprise, another blanket statement there that says people that get offended are 'losers'. I disagree.

You also said there that sensitivity is the ability to notice when you are about to offend someone. I don't think that's true; sensitivity is the capacity for empathy and to take other people's point of view into account when doing something. Without empathy we are not human beings.

Your world view is clearly very selfish and that may work in a game like WoW which has no real-life repercussions, but I think you'll see in real life, over time such philosophies will only serve to alienate you from others and in general do more harm than help to yourself and those around you.

When people say things in a public space that reveal their ignorance about reality, AND their comments disparage real people I know in real-life situations, I would be remiss if I didn't make an effort to point out that they are misinformed regarding what they are talking about, and that they need to reconsider some of their opinions. I hope all this has at least given you a second's pause, a moment of realization that maybe throwing out such gross generalizations is in fact hurtful to some.

Sorry to hijack your blog comments to argue with Gevlon, but as I said, I would be remiss if I didn't challenge ignorant statements 'where they lay' so to speak. Your blog deserves better.

Anonymous said...

Ok, back on topic. According to the Achievements, I have never killed any of the bosses in old Azeroth, and have hardly done any instances in Burning Crusade, either.

I wonder how I got 600 odd Badges of Justice, in that case!

I know some people in my guild spend half of the their game time trying to get Achievements, whereas I really don't care about going back and say running Deadmines.
If I 'Achieve' something whilst I am playing, that is fine, but I'm not making any detours or doing any grinds to get them.

So, I don't think anyone can jusge you on whether you have achieved X or Y, seeing as the system was only implemented recently.

Anonymous said...

@David: I want to thank you for being the first one that I've seen to call Gevlon out. As fellow members of the WoW blogosphere, everyone is so quick to call his thoughts "refreshing" or to refer to him as a "free thinker."

@Gevlon: You wear your ignorance on your sleeve like it's something to be proud of. Your above average vocablury identifies you as a smarter person than the thoughts that those words form. As for your little disclaimer regarding "being offended," that really only applies to those who choose to read your blog. Since the comment that I left regarding the last time you made an ignorant statement, I've not been a member of that group. And yet, here I am reading your ignorance all over again on a blog that I DO choose to read.

I'm not denying your right to express your opinion or comment on another person's blog. But you're commenting on a WoW blog about your thoughts on real life. Nothing amuses me more than when I witness a player in-game boasting that he could kick somebody's ass in real life. Put those two people face-to-face, and the boaster wouldn't even have the guts to open his mouth. I can just about guarantee you that you wouldn't have the guts to spew your privacy theory to an HIV positive co-worker.

You're not a "free thinker." Your thoughts aren't "refreshing." You're just another ignorant know-it-all with too much time on your hands and not enough respect for your fellow man to keep that ignorance to yourself. If you truly think "the people shall know about the people," then respond with your home address, phone number, and email address. You hate privacy, right? Put up or shut up.

Anonymous said...

...And now I'd rather prefer if you moved the discussion somewhere else, preferably to Greedy Goblin. Goblin philosophy should be discussed, criticized or defended where it comes from. At Pink Pigtail Inn we discuss pigtail philosophy, which is something different, OK?

The Innkeeper