Recently, Kiki Wolfkill (Executive producer) and Bonnie Ross (Studio head) of 343 industries made a statement that they would be handing out lifetime bans to players, not just from the game but from the Xbox Live network altogether, for sexist comments in Halo 4.
If I may be so blunt, honestly this seems to be a step in the wrong direction. Now now, put down your torches and pitchforks and just listen to me for a bit. Sexism in video game communities is bad, I get that, any attempt to stamp it out should be a good thing. If anything, 343 have taken a step in the right direction but in their burning enthusiasm have hopped, skipped and jumped past that step and are now hurtling speedily down a steep cliff face.
What I’m trying to say is, 343’s approach to eradicating sexism in video games is almost hilariously heavy handed and I’ll tell you why. I’m about to show you a couple of extracts from Xbox Live’s own complaints and banning policy. The first, is a paragraph from Microsoft’s policy communication abuse on their network:
“Communication suspensions are imposed because of inappropriate conduct during communication activities on Xbox LIVE. The suspension blocks a gamertag from accessing any communication features on Xbox LIVE. These include text messages, voice messages, video messages, in-game chat and party chat.”
So from here we can see that Xbox Live’s own policy for harassment of any kind on their services do not correlate with 343’s own. Personally, I would have expected a short-term account ban from Xbox Live so the leniency of this policy does come as surprising but it still helps my argument that Microsoft themselves do not seem to agree with 343’s own policy of banning players for sexism. But there’s more:
“The Xbox Policy Enforcement Team does not have the ability to resolve game-specific bans and suspensions. If you have lost privileges in a specific game, contact the game’s developer for assistance.”
So we can see here that Microsoft is perfectly fine with players getting banned from a game and they themselves have no part in that. Still, that’s not really the issue here. The issue is that people are being removed, permanently, from a service that does not belong to 343 and rightfully they should not be given such authority over it. I understand that Halo is Microsoft’s golden goose egg but to simply hand over dominion of people’s accounts for Xbox Live seems to me to stink of something incredibly foul. Even more so when the sentence doesn’t match the crime, not just in my books but in Microsoft’s own.
Another point that’s really worth discussing is what constitutes as “sexism”? Who defines what sexism is in each case? Will there be a team of mods who will monitor and investigate each case with scrutiny? The overzealous approach that 343 seem to take certainly doesn’t seem to suggest that much. I hope that 343 understand the level of power they have here and do not take it lightly when investigating cases. It’s all well and good saying that you want to get rid of sexism but when you are permanently suspending someone’s account, considering all the money that person may have invested into it, it wouldn’t do to not look into a case thoroughly before issuing a ban.
Also, here’s some food for thought: women are not the most discriminated against group of people on Xbox Live or in other gaming communities that are filled with juvenile gamers. I’m not just talking about the liberal use of the terms “faggot” or the n-word that certainly do plague the chat exchanges on games like Halo or Call of Duty, take it from someone who has played those games on Xbox Live, those kids will literally discriminate and insult you for anything. I’ve seen people get harassed and abused because they were British, French, Latin. Hell, people even attack people based on where they are in the same country as them. Women certainly aren’t “singled-out”, they’re just sitting in the same rocky boat as the rest of us.
What will 343 do about other harassment cases? What about racism? Homophobia? National discrimination? Will 343 be issuing lifetime bans for these too? Why not go the whole nine yards? In the same statement they briefly touched on racism but that doesn’t seem to be the main concern, at least not for Ross and Wolfkill. The thing is, I’m not saying that sexism or any other kind of abuse on Xbox Live shouldn’t be punished, it should. I’m just saying that 343 have gone about this in a terrible manner and seem to be very narrow-minded about the problem.
But that’s all I have to say on the matter. I’ve been wrong before, feel free to leave your own thoughts in the comments.