Something has always bugged me about the way Xbox Live deals with Gamertags: I think there’s too much privacy. I may be the first one in the history of the Internet to accuse Microsoft of protecting my privacy, but hear me out: on Xbox Live my original Gamertag, registered way back when I got my original Xbox, was Kensai. The original Xbox Live wasn’t good for anything other than head to head gaming, which I didn’t do much of, so I let it lapse. Along the way my credit card number and expiration date changed, so when I got my Xbox 360 and tried to activate my original Live account the system wouldn’t let me. I called in, and they informed me that due to privacy restrictions they were unable to let me have my old Gamertag, regardless of how I could prove that I was the same Jason Dunn that registered it. Gee-whiz, thanks for protecting me right out of my Gamertag, I really appreciate that.
Fast forward to today, and we have an over-done sense of privacy negatively impacting Xbox Live gameplay. How? By not allowing users to attach their real name to their Gamertags. Microsoft is so focused on the “cool” Gamertag experience where everyone uses a handle that they forget that Xbox Live is connecting real people, and sometimes real people like to use real names. On Xbox Live today my Gamertag is Tetsubo. What’s a Tetsubo (also known as a Kanabō) you might ask? It’s a big-ass iron-shod Japanese club meant for smacking people with, which is basically the way I play games (blunt force trauma). A quick look at my gamer score of 600 tells you that I don’t play game on the Xbox 360 that much, although I’ll point out that I think it’s lame that finishing a game like Gears of War on regular mode gets you a mere 110 points. That’s a rant for another day.
Back to the issue of privacy: because I’m unable to attach my real name to my Xbox Live profile, at least half the time when I add someone I know, I get a message back from them saying “Who’s this?”. My Tetsubo Gamertag doesn’t ring any bells with them, because it’s not attached to my real identity in any way. This was made especially evident when I installed the Xbox 360 update a couple of months ago and it integrated my Windows Messenger contact list, sending invites out to everyone on it that was also on Xbox Live. I received no less than six messages back from people asking who I was, and I had several people decline me outright – and these are people that I chat with online quite often, but they had no idea who this “Tetsubo” fellow was.
Why can’t Xbox Live allow people to attach their real names, making it optional of course, to allow people like myself who have no need to hide their identity behind a Gamertag? It’s great that the people behind Xbox Live want to protect my privacy by shielding my gaming identity from the world, but I should have the option of telling people who I am if I wish.