Well this is interesting. Blizzard just posted that they’re planning on redoing the forums to show our real names. They will not be adding your real name to existing forum posts, however if you choose to display your character under your new profile, people will probably be able to go and look up everything you’ve posted on that character.
Trolls. They are the bane of the internet, especially popular places on the internet. Doubly so on forums that contain people who are vulnerable to trolling (read: regular people). Even reasonable, well meaning people can begin to display internet fuckwad characteristics when involved in a heated debate where they feel that their real name is anonymous. In fact, anonymity is directly related to trolling. See 4chan.
In Blizzard’s mind, this means that serial trolls will stop posting, and trollish behavior among normal people will be reduced. There is no action without an equal and opposite reaction, however. In this case, assuming that the forums are still public, every single thing you post about concerning this silly little hobby of ours will start to show up when people search for your name. Unless you’re willing to walk into your boss’s office with a printout of what you just said, you won’t be able to write it on the official forums. For many people, this will prevent them from doing more than trolling- it will prevent them from normal conversations.
Additionally, even if you’re not worried about having WoW references litter search results for your name, if you offend anyone in any way, all they need to do to pay you back is put a trivial amount of work into it, and they will be able to ruin your life. I mean it.
Ya. They don’t need to “uncover secrets” or “come to your door to see if you’ll say it to their face”, all they need to do is email your kid’s principal that they’re worried about abuse. Email your boss asking for a reference for a new job, and email your wife sexy pictures addressed to you.
So why do you do it?
When I took the job at wow.com, they insisted that I write using my real name. I did it knowing that they harbor some of the most vicious trolls on the internet, short of 4chan, and the only reason it’s even remotely worth the risk is that I can now say that I’m a “professional” writer. I talked to my family and friends before I started, and keep a baseball bat near the door these days, though.