So Halo 4 is being released tomorrow (what, is there something more important going on that I don’t know about?). Thanks to the recent acknowledgement by 343 Industries and Microsoft that half their potential market was being weeded out by the “early adopters” who are defending their territory via terrible sexist remarks, rape threats and abuse, it appears that the folks responsible for the Xbox Live service have had it with that nonsense behaviour and are about to start dropping the banhammer on their users.
Apparently this is a zero tolerance policy too, so if you’re found to be making sexist comments, don’t expect to get away with just a slap on the wrist. Wolfkill and Ross say that developers have a responsibility to break through gender stereotypes and stamp out sexism in the games industry too. It’s sad that it has to come to Xbox Live bans just to get people to act civil toward one another, but that’s unfortunately what you get when everyone is hidden behind a veil of anonymity.
Of course, there’s one easy way to avoid the banhammer altogether: just don’t be a jerk. It’s fine to get angry when you’re losing a match or can’t seem to get a decent shot in, but there are plenty of other ways to express that anger without resorting to bigoted or sexist remarks.
This is just another instance of men taking a new niche, becoming “default person” there, and doing everything they can to keep women from joining thereafter by demeaning them for being in the minority. It’s not like there’s anything especially gendered about online video gaming, except for the fact that it’s an extension of the already-male-dominated tech world in a society that already prioritizes men’s (totes important and super serious) social interactions over women’s (which are of course invariably fluffy and irrelevant). This is how patriarchy seeps into every aspect of society, and how a culture of casual misogyny in one area can creep into and entrench that misogyny in others.
I am, of course, curious about the specifics though. Since this is a zero-tolerance ban and requires being “found to be making sexist comments”, one would assume they’d have to record the voice chat sessions. They probably already record a percentage of them for quality assurance, though I’d have to look at the end user agreement to see if it’s more thorough a recording system than that by design.
Either way, I’m not sure a permaban is the best solution, and not because “zomg ur limiting free speech!” or some other such self-centered nonsense. That just encourages users to morph and use anonymizers and break into the Xbox Live servers using middlemen and proxies and reverse-engineering the client, maybe even cracking into the system without paying. A better solution to provide repercussions for misbehaviour would be some combination of the following, in my estimation:
- Defaulting these users to Muted, perhaps so that they can only be unmuted if all users agree in a given game session
- Provide in-game options for reporting sexist/racist/assholish behaviour when you mute someone — and remembering the muted status (and optional reason) forever, so you’ll never forget who threatened to rape you because you beat them
- Flagging all accounts for review when they receive a set number of mutings/reports per time interval
- Giving them custom titles so other users are forewarned of their assholery
- Providing tiered temporary bans for repeat offenders, with permabans reserved for the most egregious
- Making admin-moderated users only able to play with one another
- Giving them major disadvantages in-game — like, other players can see and shoot them through walls for instance — until their “time-out” period is over. (The idea here is to make the game as un-fun for them as they make it for others.)
I’m sure there’s other, better ways to grief the griefers and troll the trolls. Permabans don’t actually teach them anything, except how to get around permabans and how to continue pushing people’s buttons for their own lulz. And any attempt to fix the loopholes will tighten the noose to the point where someone who has committed one indiscretion and is sorry, has no way of earning a second chance legitimately.
Hat tip to Aliasalpha for passing the story along.