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Blizzard Will Require Real Names In Gamer Forums

In another blow to web anonymity, Blizzard Entertainment, maker of the popular online game "World of Warcraft," says it will require players posting comments on the company's forums to use their real names.

The change, announced Tuesday, will go into effect first for the forums connected to the highly anticipated "StarCraft II" game, which is set for release July 27. The same rule will apply to "World of Warcraft" forums, starting with community sites connected with the release of "Cataclysm," a WOW expansion set for release this year.

In essence, Blizzard is ending the use of in-game character names on community sites. While those names can still be used, they will have to be accompanied by players' real names.

Blizzard made the change in an attempt to remove the cloak players use in posting boorish comments.

"The official forums have always been a great place to discuss the latest info on our games, offer ideas and suggestions, and share experiences with other players -- however, the forums have also earned a reputation as a place where flame wars, trolling, and other unpleasantness run wild," the company said in a statement. "Removing the veil of anonymity typical to online dialogue will contribute to a more positive forum environment, promote constructive conversations, and connect the Blizzard community in ways they haven't been connected before."

Blizzard is only the latest organization to end anonymous postings on forums in order to bring more civility to public discussions. Newspapers, which once encouraged anonymous postings on comments pages, have been backpedaling in order to put a stop to offensive comments.

For example, the News & Observer of Raleigh, N.C., launched last November a registration-required policy for people who want to use its forums. Other newspapers revising their comments policies include The New York Times and The Washington Post, and American Journalism Review editor Rem Rieder has called for a general end to the practice of allowing anonymous comments.

In addition, mean and offensive comments have led to lawsuits against newspapers and web companies, including Google, in an attempt to identify the person responsible.