WoW: Stealth Changes to Naming Policy

Given that we have no server GM’s in WoW, I like to take time out of my busy play schedule to do unpaid volunteer customer service work for Blizzard. As paying subscribers, it’s the least we can do to help out a struggling company like Vivendi. Apparently Blizzard has decided to implement a stealth change to the official WoW naming policy. After petitioning a Blizzard Gamemaster last evening with a naming violation I was told that names with extended ascii codes are now allowed. I’ve been petitioning names like this for years now and this came as a shock. I guess I didn’t get the memo.

To illustrate the implications of this change to their naming policy, imagine you have created a name for yourself on your server through many years and many levels. Suddenly comes along and hijacks your identity by faking your name. Let’s say a player named Furor exists on your server. You can now create the name Fùrør or Furør in an effort to mock or degrade that Furor without any repercussions from Blizzard.

Other reasons for not allowing this is that it makes communication with players almost impossible as you can’t type their name or even see if they are online. How do you try to group with them if you can’t even invite them? As I mentioned above, it also allows players to infringe upon the reputation of existing players who have chosen an original legitimate name. There’s a reason you can’t start up a company called Äpplë or Mîçrosøft and get away with it. They will sue you and rightfully so.

Another reason why I think allowing this is a bad idea is that it allows players to draw attention to themselves by using a cheap and easy trick, instead of distinguishing themselves by actions and deeds. Unfortunately, some players are exhibitionists. They like to be your face and having a name with incomprehensible foreign characters is another part of their modus operandi. MMO’s are all about players achieving validation through earned status: status gained via level, gear, or association. This is just another example of the erosion of the importance of status in WoW.

What really bothers me is that this was done without any form of announcement on the part of Blizzard. Somehow players are supposed to find out these things by magic. Apparently a bean counter in upper management at Blizzard figured that too many GM’s were wasting valuable time addressing these types of naming violations. Or it could be that Blizzard doesn’t feel that establishing a consistent approach to player names is even worth enforcing any longer. Anything goes it seems (as long as it’s not my monthly subscription dollars).  But in all honesty we must forgive them because we know that they are working on much more important things.

Allowing players to use extended ascii codes which are intended for languages other then English is a big mistake which Blizzard rightfully included as a violation in their official naming policy previous to now. For reasons that are obvious, the English alphabet is the official alphabet of the English version of WoW. It’s a sad day when that point has to be made. Standards exist for a reason. Blizzard as a MMO company should know better.

In the end, this change will not cause any waves in the player community. Most players will continue to log on, do their daily quests and get their epic gear unmoved and unaffected. Yet somehow the players that care about this community and the culture of this MMO are all diminished if ever so slightly by this change. The death of a thousand cuts starts with one cut.


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