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Anonymity is a two-edged sword

One of the fun things about WoW is getting to be someone else for a while. Generally speaking, you're not really a tauren. I think. Whether you choose to go the full-bore RP route or not, there's no denying that playing WoW allows you to sidestep questions of identity and to be anonymous behind whatever particular form the pixels everyone sees as 'you' takes. Sometimes this can be a bad thing.

Here's one for the 'huh' files. Reader Jessica emailed us asking what was up with her interview, as she is currently engaged in trying to get the Scarab Lord title on her server and was wondering why 'Matthew' didn't show up to interview her as he had promised. A further exchange of emails revealed that someone claiming to be me and using the handle 'Insidernews' had told her that he wanted her and two other people on a podcast.

This is the first time I've heard of someone using WoW's inherent anonymity to pretend to be someone from WoW Insider. In case anyone else has been contacted by 'Insidernews', we wanted to make it clear, this person does not work for WoW Insider, he is not me or anyone else here.

This was doubly weird for me because, well, I do enjoy the anonymity of WoW to some extent. As anyone who knows me would attest, I am not generally very likely to ask anyone for an interview, or even to go around telling people in game who I am. You may well have run an instance or done a raid with me without knowing it, but that's how I like it, mysterious stranger that I am.

Sure, there are a lot of creeps and people who abuse anonymity out there. John Patricelli (who I often interact with on the podcast and who I respect greatly) says it pretty well in this recent post. We've all run into that player who acts the fool, hiding behind the fact that there are no real world consequences to his or her actions, shielded by the fact that we have no idea who he or she really is, and those people are to be avoided. This recent episode brought to light an even more bizarre consequence of the WoW Anonymity factor that I'd never considered, namely that people could actually pretend to be other people with no real way to verify what they were saying. I suppose the reason I was so surprised by this was, heck, who'd want to pretend to be me instead of an undead warlock, especially if you have to be an undead warlock in the first place to make the pretense work?

The moral of our story? Well, if someone is telling you he works for WoW Insider, please contact us before doing anything he or she says, for one thing. In general, just be careful out there. Often, you have, and can have, no idea who the people you're playing with are.

Filed under: Events, Odds and ends, News items, Rumors

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