343 Industries takes a hefty stance against “sexism and discrimination” with Halo 4

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.

VN:F [1.9.22_1171]
Rating: 0 (from 0 votes)

12 comments
Jack_Green
Jack_Green

I think it'd be better if they just were to permeband the played from halo 4/other halos rather than from xbox live entirely. I think it's great they're cracking down on sexism hopefully they'll also do the same for racism homophobia etc.

Wheresmymonkey
Wheresmymonkey

I've had tons of fun on xbox live toying with these arseholes before. All you need is a female friend and a game you're good at thats usually dominated by men. Give them the head set and give them a sound thrashing under the guise of being a women. Its great fun.

Guest
Guest

Women are 100% more singled out in video games, I would know, because I am one.

Chris Langner
Chris Langner

I usually hear racial and homophobic slurs online far more than I hear anything sexist. Usually when a girl is playing an FPS, there's a bunch of guys trying to hit on her (which is stupid, but not sexist). I think my biggest concern about this is that it sounds like an innocent person could potentially get permanently banned without much investigation into the case.

Chris Langner
Chris Langner

I'm pretty sure they are just banned from Halo 4. The big question is how well will these claims be researched.

Jack_Green
Jack_Green

I get it probably is hard and you get targeted a lot but try to be constructive.

Max Kelly
Max Kelly

How's about a proper argument, eh? What you've just said literally gives me nothing.

Max Kelly
Max Kelly

Yeah, exactly. It's far too heavy handed and if someone gets their account suspended for being sexist, they should have a right to appeal. Otherwise they've been ripped off.

Max Kelly
Max Kelly

Actually they've said as much that they will be handing out Network Bans.

Zach
Zach

I disagree with this article. You are pointing out worst case senarios and undermining the meaning in the process. Sure every group should be protected but why criticize anyone for beginning with just one group. I also think microsofts banhammer is very accurate. You seem to think that a mildly sexist comment will get someone permabanned but from my assesment you have to do it continuosly and be reported by multiple people to warrant a ban. I also think that its more of a threat and they would only permaban after issuing a temp ban and or halo ban and the problem persists. It is a good step for 343 to advocate for anti-sexism and until we have cases and evidence we can't say the step they took is to harsh.

Devon
Devon

is this the reason why no one is using their mics anymore while playing halo 4? :/

Max Kelly
Max Kelly

The main point I'm trying to make here is that if 343 do as they say, which is to completely ban people from the network for so much as sexist comments on Halo 4, they are incredibly ridiculous and heavy-handed. I didn't say their cause wasn't noble, I'm saying the steps they're taking are pretty far. If they're going to carry out this punishment for just sexist comments then it really makes no sense that they wouldn't do it for other cases. Taking such a huge step shows they're committed so the fact they're ignoring other cases is just outright ridiculous. They're prioritising the problems of women over anyone else. This isn't Microsoft's policy, it's 343's. Examining Microsoft's only shows us how far removed 343's is from it. Yeah, now it does seem like a petty threat but it seems like a pretty stupid one to make to the public and have it spread among the gaming media. It serves no purpose.