Sunday, August 31, 2008

Can Microsoft Stop Racists on Xbox Live?

I'm no stranger to Internet tough-talk. I've dealt with it for years, and have even been an Internet-argument starter myself. It's fun.

My skin is tough, my self-esteem is high, and my confidence in the quality of humanity is severely jaded. I don't mind being insulted or made fun of in an open community when it's relevant. I do mind when it's unnecessarily turned into a racial issue.

The most accurate glimpses into human nature can be found in YouTube comments, message board postings, and chat room discussions. The Internet isn't real life, but it's safe to say that real thoughts come out when people can't really see you.

Normally, I can dismiss the negativity if I'm not in a position to end it. If I can't moderate something, I'll simply shrug it off and move on.

But if I said I wasn't just a little bit bothered by a racially-charged tirade, I'd be lying.

It's unfortunate because I should know better.

It shouldn't be my problem that the bass in my voice and New Yawk accent force people into letting their insecurities show. It's not my fault that someone harbors such a deep resentment for all that is unfamiliar that they feel compelled to target my nationality while pwning no0bz.

There are extremes I go through when I'm confronted with racism during a game.

One aspect of my personality wants to lash out and escalate the if anything will ever happen. Other times, I simply locate the user's gamertag, and Mute/Block the user.

Then there are the times when the hatred is so random, unjustified, and intense that I'm left clicking through my 360 dashboard in vain.

Microsoft doesn't offer an option to file a report against racism. They give you harassment, but that generalization doesn't fully capture the gravity of being called a nigger.

Making fun of someone for sucking at the game, having a high voice, or costing your team a round is not an equivalent to racism. It's not the same harassment. Reporting such misconduct shouldn't be absent from Xbox Live.

I don't pay $50 per year to be called a 'nigger' every time I speak during a game. And while Microsoft can't dictate the personalities of their subscribers, the company should initiate policies that accurately reflect the different levels of harassment on their servers.

Microsoft has no issues processing my payments for using their service; but when I expect the service to work for me, the effort clearly isn't being reciprocated.

I understand that it's virtually impossible to moderate all interactions in a massive community. Every member can't be disciplined accordingly. But Microsoft shouldn't plead ignorance and hope it goes away.

This issue took me to a point where I refused to play Tom Clancy's Rainbow Six: Vegas 2 because that community attracted some of the least sensible and most volatile Klan members with an XBox Live account. After spending $60 on a game, that really shouldn't be part of my experience.

In the spirit of honesty and full disclosure, I've been called all sorts of things on the Playstation Network, too. Sony's network isn't racism free, either. However, I've always appreciated the "you get what you pay for" philosophy. The PSN is open to anyone with an email account, so I couldn't reasonably expect Sony to enforce their Terms of Service.

It appears as if Microsoft is content with sweeping this problem under the rug, accepting it as a futile battle, and chalking it up as a point for the bad guys.

There needs to be an end, or a better effort made to establish a reasonable balance. I don't play games online to segregate the community and play strictly with 'my own kind.'

I only want to be assured that my involvement in an on-going conversation will be respected, and not met with a barrage of racially-motivated attacks.


Establish a force of gaming moderators to police the community.

Moderators can be selected after applying online. The ideal candidate will be someone whose account is in great standing, plays at least 15 hours a week, meets a particular age requirement, and has an honest commitment to enforcing the terms of service for the sake of quality gaming.

I wish I could count the times my teammates would sit in silence as one ignorant user ruined the experience entirely. The presence of an anonymous moderator would be the best way to keep everyone honest, and make sure time on XBL is spent playing together and not debating skin color.

Giving a moderator the authority to suspend a user's account for twelve hours, one day, one week, and eventually resulting in complete banishment may help rid the community of the rampant hate mongering.

The only people I've ever known to be punished on Xbox Live were those who cheated the gamerscore system.

It's time to tackle something a little more serious, Microsoft.


Jessica Selca said...

Well what they could do is the way world of warcraft does it (revealing my nerdness i know..but im reading amen and dwillis gaming blog so fuck it.)
lets say someone is spamming the trade can make spam complaints and eventually the persons account will be suspended accordingly.

In the same way that you can bad rep a player you should be able to file a complaint and with so many complaints the person will be suspended.

You must also look at it this way, how is microsoft to determine who is abusing this? How is there anyway to prevent all the klan members getting together and complaining about your gamertag?
Or how is microsoft to moderate the moderators?

Just doesn't seem like there is really a way to keep tabs on shit like that.

Yours truly,

Anonymous said...

That's like monitoring cell phone calls because you pay for the service. Well written but you might want to stick to the games you can play on your IMAC.

The Iphone has some great games too!!

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