Sunday, August 1, 2010

Real names in China's online world

Who would have thought that the Chinese government would eventually require everyone to use their real names? Well, at least it's a surprise when it comes to requiring gamers to log into online chat rooms with them, officially starting August 1st. A few weeks ago we had a similar requirement in the United States, albeit briefly, by Blizzard. Outcry by forum users about their naming policy almost sent the entire industry into a war for a brief moment, but then cooler heads prevailed and Blizzard receded their policy.

So why is China pushing so hard on its policy, which in some cases has actually be in effect for months now? Population. China has an online video game user population of over 265 million, approaching that of the population of the entire United States. Revenue for online games grew by over 100 percent last year alone. With problems of population grow in all sectors, the government has found it much easier to control its citizens online if they, naturally, knew who they were. The crux of the problem though is identifying everyone.

It's meaningless to put into policy a system that can be easily circumvented by a quick change of ones name. One day I could be John, the next, Lee, and the next, Kent. Fortunately, China has little concern in implementing a state identification system. Once fully in place, real name policies will become the norm, and then policing of online games can begin. The question to ask is, it hasn't been needed in the United States, so really, why is it seemingly needed there?

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