Sophie - My username on Steam
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Date: 2011-01-25 10:15
Security: Public
Mood:sad sad
xposthttp://soph.livejournal.com/215095.html
Tags:gender identity, steam, usernames, valve
Subject: My username on Steam

[edited 26th January 2011: Just woke up to see that some people think I believe this is discrimination against trans people. Let me make it clear that I do not agree with them, and please let anyone who is saying this on my behalf know this. Thank you.]

[edited 27th January 2011: I have received a response from Steam, and it looks like the outcome will be positive. I'll update you all once it's resolved.]

[edited 28th January 2011: All resolved! Please see my followup post, which also responds to some things people were saying about this.]

Alright, this is a post that I've been meaning to write for ages, and haven't. The reason I haven't so far is because I wanted to try to resolve this in another way, but I really haven't been able to get up the energy to work out how best to do it.

As I suspect many of the people reading this are, I'm a user of Steam, Valve's game distribution platform. Or rather, I was; I haven't logged on to it for a while now. The reason for this is simple; I cannot bear to do so, because I've had the Steam username for long enough that it uses my old name, and this causes me distress. Unfortunately, Steam's policy is that usernames cannot be changed.

Why can't I just create another account? Because I have a number of games that I bought using this account, and Steam's policy is that you can't transfer games between accounts. (I'd link to an official knowledge base page stating this, but I can't find one that deals with the issue.)

This, of course, creates big problems for me as a transgendered woman. (My old name is tied to my male identity and causes me grief.) Sure, Steam allows you to edit your account settings such that everybody else sees only the names you want to give out, and they offer the option to add people to their friends list by email address rather than username. However, this doesn't stop me from seeing the cursed name every time I use the service. :(

I've contacted Support about this three times now. I'll share the last of these exchanges with you. Be warned: It may cause rage


1 Message by you on Mon, 8th Nov 2010 12:46 pm

Hello,

I'm opening up this ticket because I am not happy with the answers that have
been given to me regarding username changes in my previous tickets,
3192-SXGM-2252 and 5057-IFJZ-2231. Once again, I apologise for using this
category, but there is no category that covers this properly.

I know that you're probably sick of hearing from me regarding this username
business, but believe me, I'm sick of asking about it. This seriously affects
my mental health; I can get a doctor's note testifying to that if need be.

I do understand that you say that usernames cannot be changed. What I would
like now is a good, in-depth explanation of *why* they cannot be changed, from
somebody who is not first-tier support.

I want to emphasise that: PLEASE escalate this issue up the chain. I wish to
talk with someone - perhaps a technical person - who can give me a good, clear
explanation of why the username cannot be changed. Is the username used as a
primary key in the database or something? I will not accept a bland "We cannot
change usernames.", I want to know *why*.

There is one other thing which I would accept, and that's if I was able to
create a new account *and transfer the games on my old account to the new one*.
At this point I don't even care about saves on those games or Steam Cloud or
anything; you can feel free to blast those all away if need be. All I want is
to stop having to use my old username, because it causes me deep distress, and
I want to do so without having to buy all my games again, for what are
hopefully obvious reasons.

Maybe it's because you want to prevent fraud. I can understand this, so I want
to explain. I am transgendered, and my previous username is based on my
previous legal name. My legal name has now changed, and I will happily send a
certified copy of the name change document via post to wherever you request as
proof of this. As such, it's not merely an issue of not wanting to use the old
name any longer (although this certainly plays a part, because the name is not
the correct gender).

I have updated every part of the account that I have access to change, so it's
true that my friends - and in fact anybody who isn't me - will not see this old
name. BUT I STILL SEE IT, DAMMIT:

* I have to type it to log into the website, since the website doesn't let you
log in via email address.

* It is displayed constantly in the top-right corner of the interface.

* If I ever have to install my client again elsewhere, I will have to type the
username to sign in at least once.

These might seem like trifling things, but they matter deeply to me. I AM NOT
THAT PERSON ANY MORE. I don't want to ever see that name again used to describe
me. Please don't do this to me.

You might say that I shouldn't have chosen that username in the first place.
Well, pardon me for not realising that I was transgendered when I signed up.
It's not like I used a username that was something childish like
'PinkKawaiiUnicorn23' or something like that; I could understand that you
probably get a ton of requests to change those sorts of usernames, so I
understand completely why you wouldn't change those. But this impacts directly
on my mental health.

If this didn't involve things of monetary value then I wouldn't be nearly so
upset. But I paid for my games and I am not going to pay for them again in
order to have the privilege of using them on another account. I will be happy
to send whatever details I need to prove that this is a legitimate request.

So, let me recap exactly what I would like:

1. Firstly, I want this to be escalated. I do not want to speak to first-tier
support.

2. I would like whoever I speak to to give me a clear, in-depth explanation of
why usernames on Steam cannot be changed, and how it applies to my situation.
I am a programmer, so I am happy to hear technical explanations.

3. Then, if it's determined that the reasons do not apply to this situation
(for which I'm happy to provide any documentation you require), I would like
to have my username changed to something of my choosing.

4. If it turns out that this isn't possible, then I would like to be able to
transfer the games on my account to another account that I will create. Again,
I am happy to provide any documentation that is required for this.

5. If that isn't possible, I'd like a clear, in-depth explanation of why. I
would also appreciate at least a partial refund for the games I've bought -
though obviously a full refund would be preferable.

Thank you for reading, and I look forward to your reply.

- Sophie.

2 Message by Support Tech Rudy on Sun, 14th Nov 2010 7:46 pm

Hello Sophie,

Thank you for contacting Steam Support.

Steam account names cannot be changed.

You are welcome to change your alias (Nickname/friends name) at any time - your
Steam account name is not displayed to other users.

To change the name displayed within a game, do the following:

Click the Steam menu and choose Settings.

Your display name can be changed on the Friends tab.

The name you choose here will be displayed in-game.

You can also do this while in-game. Press SHIFT+TAB to bring up the Steam
overlay, and select "View All Friends" in the lower-left.

From here, click the arrow next to your friends name, and choose "Set Friends
Name".

Please let us know if you have any further questions.

3 Message by you on Sun, 14th Nov 2010 9:42 pm

This response does not do what I asked. I specifically stated that I would not
accept a bland "Steam usernames cannot be changed." answer. You seem to have
provided me with a stock answer. Let me repeat the salient parts:

> I want to emphasise that: PLEASE escalate this issue up the chain. I wish to talk with someone -
> perhaps a technical person - who can give me a good, clear explanation of why the username
> cannot be changed. Is the username used as a primary key in the database or something? I will
> not accept a bland "We cannot change usernames.", I want to know *why*.

and:

> I have updated every part of the account that I have access to change, so it's true that my friends -
> and in fact anybody who isn't me - will not see this old name. BUT I STILL SEE IT, DAMMIT:
>
> * I have to type it to log into the website, since the website doesn't let you log in via email address.
> * It is displayed constantly in the top-right corner of the interface.
> * If I ever have to install my client again elsewhere, I will have to type the username to sign in at least once.

and:

> So, let me recap exactly what I would like:
>
> 1. Firstly, I want this to be escalated. I do not want to speak to first-tier support.
>
> 2. I would like whoever I speak to to give me a clear, in-depth explanation of why usernames on Steam
> cannot be changed, and how it applies to my situation. I am a programmer, so I am happy to hear technical
> explanations.
>
> 3. Then, if it's determined that the reasons do not apply to this situation (for which I'm happy to provide any
> documentation you require), I would like to have my username changed to something of my choosing.
>
> 4. If it turns out that this isn't possible, then I would like to be able to transfer the games on my account to
> another account that I will create. Again, I am happy to provide any documentation that is required for this.
>
> 5. If that isn't possible, I'd like a clear, in-depth explanation of why. I would also appreciate at least a partial
> refund for the games I've bought - though obviously a full refund would be preferable.

I apologise for basically restating myself, but it seems that the ticket wasn't
read fully. Please, PLEASE escalate this matter to someone higher up the chain.

Thank you,

- Sophie.

4 Message by Support Tech Rudy on Thu, 2nd Dec 2010 1:54 pm

Hello Sophie,

We do not have first response personnel.

It is against our policy to change the name of a Steam account for security
reasons.

I'm sorry, but we cannot make exceptions to the policy of changing the names of
Steam accounts.

We hope you understand our policy and will still be able to enjoy Steam.

Steam game subscriptions and CD keys are non-transferable and cannot be reset
or moved between Steam accounts.

We will be unable to transfer this game to another account. You must be logged
in to the original account it was registered to in order to play the game.

I'm sorry, but I cannot help you further with your request.

We will consider this matter closed.



Not fun.

I'd like to be able to play the games which I paid for. Right now, I can't without being forced to use a name that does not belong to me any more, and which has a clear impact on my mental health. I should not have to do this; it should not be this hard to change it, given the circumstances.

I'm making this as a public post. Feel free to link this where you want - in fact, please do link this where you can. I'm not sure how much impact this will have, but hey.

I'm also planning to write an email to Gabe Newell, the managing director of Valve, but I don't really know how to write it. If anybody wants to help me write such an email, I'd love to hear from you.

Thanks for reading.

Post A Comment | 63 Comments | Add to Memories | Tell Someone | Link



enigmatic incomprehensibility
User: [personal profile] ideological_cuddle
Date: 2011-01-25 11:50 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)

That really does suck, and I'm sorry to hear you're having so much trouble with them.

I would imagine that it's policy rather than technical: even if they're using the username as the primary key it's pretty much *always* possible to do this sort of thing if you really want to. It's the sort of policy which should (very quietly) have some scope for discretion, but from their point of view it's easier to just be hardarses about it.

Hope you're able to get some acceptable outcome, though.

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Nikki: (Gwen) Looking away
User: [personal profile] shanaqui
Date: 2011-01-25 12:02 (UTC)
Userpic:(Gwen) Looking away
Subject: (no subject)

I will happily signal boost this if you would like: I have some friends who may be able to help advise you on the matter. (I could also signal boost on twitter AND Dreamwidth, or only on Dreamwidth, if you'd prefer.) If not, I can only say that I think you were very articulate and reasonable in your phrasing and requests, and I wish you luck.

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Sophie
User: [personal profile] sophie
Date: 2011-01-25 18:49 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)

Please do! :) Thank you.

Edited 2011-01-25 06:49 pm (UTC)

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User: [identity profile] pookatimes.livejournal.com
Date: 2011-01-25 12:11 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)

Write to Gabe Newell. If you can, write a paper letter as well as an e-mail, and whatever you do, include the responses to your e-mails to Support as shown above. There's proof that something's not being dealt with properly here.

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princessofgeeks
User: [personal profile] princessofgeeks
Date: 2011-01-25 12:45 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)

i am so sorry this is happening to you. i wonder what they'd do with someone, say in a witness protection program? they live in a world where there are NO EXCEPTIONS. unbelievable.

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the lady gloom & her hornets
User: [personal profile] tiferet
Date: 2011-01-25 16:53 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)

Actually if you were in the witness protection program you'd have to get a new account. In witness protection, only witness protection is allowed to know who you were. It would totally violate witness protection for this information to be lying around at a game company.

In fact if you were a well known gamer or the fact that you like games is well known to the people you're hiding from, wp might not even let you get another account.

(In no way is this a defence of what they're doing to Sophie.)

Edited 2011-01-25 04:53 pm (UTC)

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Azure Jane Lunatic (Azz) 🌺: twitter
User: [personal profile] azurelunatic
Date: 2011-01-25 14:41 (UTC)
Userpic:twitter
Subject: (no subject)

Ugh. That is bad customer service, let alone the impact this has on you. I have signal boosted on Twitter.

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Sophie
User: [personal profile] sophie
Date: 2011-01-26 00:12 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)

Thank you. :)

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Drew M.C.
User: [personal profile] dreamatdrew
Date: 2011-01-25 14:43 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)

This right here REEKS of an excuse to make money off people who don't like their current username. It's "Security" and "Policy".



It's corporate-sponsored-and-mandated brain-damage...

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the lady gloom & her hornets
User: [personal profile] tiferet
Date: 2011-01-25 16:54 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)

Yes; I suspect the same sort of mindset that thinks it's PERFECTLY OKAY not to allow people to make backup copies of DRM content and not to upgrade it when technology changes, forcing folks to re-purchase it.

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Aisling: lain
User: [personal profile] charcoalfeathers
Date: 2011-01-25 16:55 (UTC)
Userpic:lain
Subject: (no subject)

Ugh. What a jerky response. I've heard so many bad things about Steam. I hate those objectifying "pick a response from the dropdown" messages from "support" people, too. Writing them with a physical letter sounds like a great idea. I'm not sure what there is available there, but over here you can also get the parent company in trouble with the BBB.

Also: cis-privilege. :( (why would anyone ever care about changing their name? of course not! there's no such thing as trans people or witness protection program or ..)

(deleted angry ranting about the stupidity of DRM) [gollum]WE HATES IT![/gollum]

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Terraja
User: [personal profile] terraja
Date: 2011-01-25 17:39 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)

Get people in on this. As you've said, writing to Gabe is a good idea. But also, write to other media players: get a letter about it sent to dead tree magazines (anonymised where appropriate), big name blogs (though the comments pages might make that painful reading) and the like. You're one person — sad though it may sound, Valve ultimately doesn't have to listen to one customer or even a handful of them. But they do take note of PC Gamer, Kotaku, and whatever the Penny Arcade guys are talking about.

You're not asking them to make it easy, or to put in a WoW-like "pay to re-roll your user" option. It doesn't even have to be publicised that it can be done. You just want it to be possible.

With the right effort, you can get the government to recognise your new name, your bank, your utility providers, and even have your birth certificate changed. But you can't change the name you use to prove you paid for Team Fortress 2?

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User: [identity profile] morti.livejournal.com
Date: 2011-01-25 17:50 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)

I know what you're saying but the overwhelming response is likely to be "get over it, it's just a name". If Sophie wants to open herself up to that then fine but I doubt I would.

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User: [identity profile] morti.livejournal.com
Date: 2011-01-25 17:47 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)

If dealing with your old identity causes you that much distress then you have bigger issues to deal with and you can't blame Steam support people for that.

Calm down and be nice to them. They have no legal requirement to change your account name or allow you to move games between accounts and there's no reason why they need to create exceptions.

I don't know what your situation is like but I'll try to imagine it as best I can. Let's say before I was a Christian I had a Steam account called "satanlover69" or something, then on getting saved I'd have to identify myself as "satanlover69" when logging into Steam.

It'd be an identity I'd never want to associate myself with again, but I wouldn't work up a fuss with Steam about it. I'd send them a polite email, sure, maybe send one up the chain to Gabe but I'd keep it short and sweet, pointing out that having to use it causes me some distress. But, at the end of the day, it wouldn't be a big deal. I'd change the name so nobody else would see it, make sure the email address associated wasn't something similarly blasphemous, then I'd open a second account and put all new games into the new account and log in to the old one to play games I'd previously bought.

After a while, I'd spend far more time on the new account than the old one and all would be well. I have this now, I have an old Steam account with a crappy username (though not something blasphemous) that has the old HL1 series on it but I know what's there and I know how to find it if I want it. I refuse to pay for the games again but I can always either log back in with that account (feeling the slight sting of personal embarrassment at the old name) or pirate the games with impunity because I've already paid for them.

Yes, logging into my "satanlover69" account would be irritating but as time goes on I'd do it less and less and, after a while, I'd change my outlook. I'd see that old name as who I was and it'd remind me of who I became afterwards. You can't hate your old self or your old identity, you have to look at it as part of the journey to become who you are now and who you will be in the future.

Getting this upset about it is your problem, not Steam's, and you have to deal with it.

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Sophie
User: [personal profile] sophie
Date: 2011-01-25 18:45 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)

Just for the record, I have things I want to say to this, but I don't have the time to answer right now.

The short version, though, is that as a Christian, you believe that worshipping Satan in that way is a sin. Therefore, while it would be embarrassing for you, your behaviour would be governed by the fact that you learn from your past sins.

I'm not trying to pretend my old identity doesn't exist. I'm trying to play the games I paid for without going through distress.

(More to come later.)

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(no subject) - (Anonymous) Expand
nihlaeth
User: [personal profile] nihlaeth
Date: 2011-01-25 20:43 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)

I tweeted this for you... I totally agree that this is not ok, it is in fact discrimination if you ask me. I really hope that you can get them to change your username anyway...

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User: (Anonymous)
Date: 2011-01-26 04:55 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)

"It's not discrimination". In fact it is precisely the opposite. Sophia is being treated like any other woman in that , if a woman marries and changes her name, she STILL can not change her valve account. Nor can any man for any reason. It's in the Valve agreement.

So you either suck it up and deal like everyone else does or maybe you create a new nick that everyone else sees (they do NOT see your login account name anyway) or you just get a new valve account.

What you do not do is ask for special treatment that no one else trans or non-trans gets. Because doing that is very uncool.

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(no subject) - (Anonymous) Expand
(no subject) - (Anonymous) Expand
(no subject) - (Anonymous) Expand
User: (Anonymous)
Date: 2011-01-25 21:40 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)

I agree with you. I can't see why it's such a big deal. A while ago I had the login information I use for all manner of things compromised including my Google Account. It took me a whole day to dig up a way to get hold of a real person and when I did they were insistent they couldnt do anything. I had similiar problems with microsoft when I wanted to change the details for that also. When I asked it was like I wanted them to shut down their network for me.

As long as you have the nescassary paperwork it shouldn't be an issue.
I have retweeted for you also. With anyluck someone will hear.

Good Luck (:

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User: (Anonymous)
Date: 2011-01-25 21:41 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)

i imagine that steam won't do it because if they do it for yourself then why shouldn't they do it for other people? your case may be different to other requests for name changes but why should they make an exception to rules they have set out.

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User: (Anonymous)
Date: 2011-01-25 22:04 (UTC)
Subject: some naff suggestions

find someone to buy your steamid off you and re-buy the games with the money you got ;-)

or see if someone can do a patch that covers the steam account name up from being displayed

or just put the window a bit to the right so you can see the library but not the account name

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User: (Anonymous)
Date: 2011-01-25 22:06 (UTC)
Subject: Re: some naff suggestions

Oh, and you're bound to that your male identity is going to crop up occasionally anyway, so you may as well treat it as something to try and de-sensitise yourself to it so that when it crops up elsewhere it doesn't totally knock you for six.

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(no subject) - (Anonymous) Expand
User: (Anonymous)
Date: 2011-01-25 23:56 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)

I've sent this to Tycho of Penny Arcade fame. Hopefully he'll be able to signal boost this better than I.

a modest birdy doing his best

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User: (Anonymous)
Date: 2011-01-26 00:38 (UTC)
Subject: lamesauce

I've had very varied experiences with microsoft services and products since the introduction of the company. While I have never worked for them, I have a close acquaintance/friend/SO/relative (cannot disclose) who works for them in an upper managerial capacity, somewhat related to but not directly involved with steam, as well as some other friends/relatives/acquaintances/SOs who work in other areas at microsoft. I will be passing your issue on to as many personnel as possible. I've had who have had similar difficulties and the inability of the personnel to answer your clear and direct questions is infuriating.

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Sophie
User: [personal profile] sophie
Date: 2011-01-26 07:28 (UTC)
Subject: Re: lamesauce

Thank you!

(But please don't use ableist words such as "lame" as you did in the subject - that doesn't help anybody. Thanks. :))

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kyleri
User: [personal profile] kyleri
Date: 2011-01-26 01:31 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)

Boosting the signal; this is craptastic.

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User: (Anonymous)
Date: 2011-01-26 03:28 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)

Maybe of the biggest issue of your transition is a Valve user name that no one except you is ever going to see then maybe you are missing the whole freaking point of transition.

Get over it. Stop attention mongering.

If your mental health can not handle a new Valve user name then lots of luck on that whole transition thing.

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Katie
User: [personal profile] tajasel
Date: 2011-01-26 04:22 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)

Who, exactly, said this was [personal profile] sophie's biggest issue? Don't be so patronising, presumptuous and abusive. Or for that matter, hiding behind (Anonymous), cowardly.

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(no subject) - (Anonymous) Expand
(no subject) - (Anonymous) Expand
(no subject) - (Anonymous) Expand
User: [identity profile] immaterialuk.blogspot.com
Date: 2011-01-26 11:21 (UTC)
Subject: A change in policy?

Hi Sophie,

Have you asked what would have to happen for them to change their policy so they would allow updates to usernames in some (or all) cases?

I know it's quite basic but it could be worth checking anyway (and as corporate people it may have not occurred to them to suggest)

Sorry if this is somewhere in the thread already, i've tried to read it all, but may have missed it as expand links are opening a sub-thread so i loose track of where i've got to :-/

- imma

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Sophie
User: [personal profile] sophie
Date: 2011-01-26 11:33 (UTC)
Subject: Re: A change in policy?

Sorry about the expand links opening subthreads - it's an issue with the style I'm using. You might find it better to use http://sophie.dreamwidth.org/35576.html?style=site and use the expand links from there.

I'll try to see what I can do to fix it in my normal style.

And to answer your question, no, I haven't asked. But I don't think Support would be able to give me an answer anyway - I think, based on my experiences with them, that they're limited to stock phrases that are approved by management. I might ask that question of Gabe Newell, though, if/when I write my letter to him!

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markmanching
User: [personal profile] markmanching
Date: 2011-01-26 15:17 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)

signalboosted and post on my blog, for rapid feedback

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User: [personal profile] rho
Date: 2011-01-27 16:12 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)

1. Bad tech support is bad. Regardless of whether they are actually able/willing to do what you're asking of them, they aren't answering your questions. My response in cases like that is normally just to stop patronising whoever it is, but that doesn't work so well with DRM and access to things you've previously purchased.

2. I wonder about the legal implications of this. Not from their side, but from yours. I can't recall what method you used for changing your name, but I know that when I changed my name by statutory declaration, I signed a sworn statement under penalty of perjury that I was no longer going to use my old name. While I can't imagine anyone being tried or prosecuted for something like this, I wonder whether it's technically illegal or not, and if so whether it would make any difference to Steam's response if they knew. Of course, I'm not any sort of a lawyer nor anything even close to one, so this is nothing more than idle speculation on my part.

3. Would you be interested in writing a guest post about this for The Border House when it's resolved?

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Sophie
User: [personal profile] sophie
Date: 2011-01-27 16:50 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)

1. I think the problem here, from what I've heard from people, is that it's very likely that Steam tech support aren't actually allowed to do anything *but* select from a database of stock answers, and compile a message made up of these stock responses. You'll notice the large time gap between my... I want to call it a regreen, but I'm not sure what the proper term is... and the second answer I got. I suspect that was probably mostly made up of getting authorisation to use the custom line "We do not have first response personnel." (at least, I assume it's custom.)

2. I've wondered about that too. From a technical viewpoint, though, a username is an arbitrary sequence of letters and/or numbers, for the most part. There's nothing there that said I had to use my real name, though I did because that's what I do. I think you still have a point though because I suspect that legally it's not just a sequence of characters; it's part of an identity, so you might be right. (I did it via statutory declaration, btw.)

3. I could do! I'm not good with guest posts but I'll see if I can get something together.

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