Spammers rejoice at the newfound bounty
iOS gamers, prepare to be skeeved right the hell out. Apple has changed their terms of service police for the Game Center. This policy - which you must agree to before using the app - requires users to reveal their real names when making a friend request. This cuts out a big chunk of the anonymity people are used to in their online games. The change was not accompanied by a press release or any other sort of public announcement
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As our earlier coverage mentioned, Blizzard tried to do something similar back in July. Their goal was to reduce anonymity on the forums by requiring users to register with their names. Anyone who has spent time in the spite-filled cess-pits that are the WoW forums has wondered (at least for a bit) if killing anonymity would improve the quality of discourse. We may never know: tens of thousands of angry gamers protested the move, causing Blizzard to relent in short order.
Apple doesn't cave so easily, though. And this move comes at a good time for them. iOS gaming is huge right now, and the iPad is the most wanted device for consumers between 6-12. I'm sure a few users will uninstall Game Center as a protest. The rest will keep right on playing, if they notice it at all.
The hope here is that killing anonymity will make people accountable for their online bad behavior in real life. It's easy to vent your rage at DumbNewb20, but you'd probably hold your tongue in front of Susan Gonzalez. Especially if she had the ability to report your name to the authorities when you threaten to punish her camping with a claw-hammer to the face.
As nice as that sounds, there are some serious concerns with what Apple is doing. Putting your real name up on Game Center is a great way to end up on a whole bunch of spammer mailing lists. Apple could also run into the same problem Google hit with Buzz. Some people (such as abused spouses) have a VERY good reason to protect their online anonymity.
There are also a lot of crazy, angry people on the Internet. Some of them like to take online games too seriously. These terrifying individuals will have an easier time tracking you down if they can get your name.
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So how to protect yourself? Friend sparingly, and only with people you know in the real world or well enough to trust with your identity. Make sure your email address doesn't contain your full real name and beware of friend requests from people you don't know.