Many many moons ago, there was an uproar in the Warcraft community about being forced to use RealId (aka real names) in lieu of chosen aliases. Women and other often targeted minority groups were very against this for, what should be, obvious reasons (i.e. taking online stalking to the next level). I was very much against this and while against RealId at first, I ended up using it to connect with a few real life friends and, eventually, a few WoW friends that I had met in person.
When Blizzard came out with Battletags, I was honestly thrilled. I could retain my online anonymity, even though I was blogging by then and putting more of myself out there online. My boss, parents and real life friends were able to find me easily on Twitter and some of my game friends were now on my Facebook. The line between my online persona and my real life self was blurring.
Then I got my husband to join Twitter. He has always had interesting names (Jigokukoinu, Paliclaus, Cyniclaus, etc) so I didn’t think I’d have to watch him when he made a Twitter alias. Imagine my surprise when I got a follow request from HusbandLastname.
“What the ever loving hell did you just do?” – Me shouting at him from the other side of the house.
“I don’t want to use an alias here. I want to use my real name.” He wandered towards me with a confused look on his face. “Why is this such a big deal?”
“Because I have referenced where I live enough, and they know my first name. So if they add it up with our (rather uncommon) last name, they can find me. CHANGE IT TO SOMETHING ELSE RIGHT THIS SECOND I SWEAR TO GOD.” I think two voices came out of me at this point. One from my throat and one from the pit of my stomach as I imagine piles of dog crap getting mailed to my house from jerks on the internet.
“Fine, whatever, if it makes you happy.” And he wandered off to change it to @NotAPseudonym. Which was a poke at my paranoia, but whatever. I won.
When we started playing Ingress, which is obviously a location based game, I picked my name and went about my life. I had a great time and didn’t think anything of it. Until a group of resistance agents (aka smurfs) drove to my tiny town and smashed it up because it was MY town and because my husband and I lived there.
I was one town away at the time (about a 10 minute drive) and when I started getting notifications that they were attacking my stuff, I sent them a message saying “OMW”. It wasn’t until I was about halfway there that I realized two things.
- I was alone.
They are all men.
Now. I have known one of those agents since I was 18 years old. The other 2 I wasn’t as comfortable with. I pulled over to the side of the road and had a panic attack. I started pleading with my team to get them out of my town so I could go home. My husband was not going to be home until later and I ended up sobbing in my car next to a portal they had already hit (so I knew they’d not be back) while I waited for confirmation that they’d left town.
If I hadn’t let them know I was on my way into the town, they wouldn’t have been watching for me, and I could have slipped by them and gone to my house without them knowing I had gone home. But because I had said I was coming and because they knew my car, knew I lived in town and knew the general area where I lived (like I said, location game) I didn’t feel safe going home until I knew they were out of town. I didn’t want my house to be known to the resistance because I don’t want to be trolled.
Why am I writing about this? This is the downside of Ingress. Because it’s a location based game, you can track people and know where they are. We joke about it within our community (“If it’s not sketchy, it’s not Ingress.”) but this is something that is a concern for me.
In our area, we have a lot of women playing and they often play alone. We have certain protocol for approaching agents when they are alone. (This past Saturday, I was alone in my car and a resistance agent messaged me in Comm to ask for a face to face meeting. It was daylight, at a park with others around. So I met him under a tree.) But I’ve had to have long discussions with a few male enlightened agents about being female and being alone and being safe. If you are female, you know what I mean. If you are not, just look at the hash tag #yesallwomen on Twitter.
And last night, to me, it came to a head. It wasn’t my couch portal, it wasn’t my address, it wasn’t my name. But a enlightened agent has had her real name with her real address posted three times by a “high ranking” member of the local resistance leadership. This enlightened agent did not submit this portal and she has requested it’s removal. You can reach it from the road, there is parking there and yet still she is being harassed about this portal.
Giving out this kind of personal information is against the terms of service. Posting it three times is pretty awful in my opinion. When Husband and I discussed it, he got very indignant and passionate. (And if you know him in person, this is not something he gets often.) I don’t know what this agent is planning on doing to fix this situation. But I’m lucky enough that I’ve been able to watch online interactions for almost half my life and I know what my rights are. I hope she’s safe.
I may be on the side of the angels, but do not think for one second that I am one of them – Sherlock