TBS Newsbot

Microsoft looks to ban users who swear online, miss expanse of the problem

With Microsoft looking to ban Xbox Live users for using abusive language, I’m wondering if they understand the expanse of the problem, and how naive they sound.



As someone who has spent part of my teen, twenties and the morning of my thirties online gaming, I’ve seen a lot of conflict. And while that conflict may have stretched over two World Wars and into the near-future, there has been a constant. A meta-war of abuse. One without peace or lull. I’ve had my sexuality, my parents, and my resolve questioned on a daily basis by the shrieking voices of those I’ll never meet, and despite what hack television anchors or antiquated journalists may think, it hasn’t caused me harm, or pushed me to the edge. Online gaming is a bastard construct populated by the angry, and the very angry. It’s always been like this, and I believe will always be.

The reason why I bring this up, is because Microsoft is attempting to put the Tourette’s addled genie back in the bottle, looking to introduce a swear jar, vowing to ban those who use offensive language, with them acting as Judge, Judy and Executioner. There’s another facet to this issue, which revolves around paranoia. On this very topic blogger Jonathan Corbett wrote, “They do nothing to define ‘offensive language’ (or ‘graphic violence’ for that matter)… these terms allow Microsoft staff to play unrestrained censor if and when they choose…what’s also clear is that they reserve the right to go through your private data, and these terms seem to pretty clearly allow them to watch and listen to your Skype calls, so long as they are ‘investigating’ something.”

Maybe. But, assuming that Microsoft is above board with their push, it doesn’t make them vindictive, it makes them naive. Microsoft, in their own words, look to do the following: “…we’ve also clarified that violation of the Code of Conduct through Xbox Services may result in suspensions or bans from participation in Xbox Services, including forfeiture of content licenses, Xbox Gold Membership time, and Microsoft account balances associated with the account.”

Honestly, the system of freezes, or bans, or suspensions never works. It’d be akin to bring a stable, pacifist democracy into the landscape of Mad Max. It’s been lawless for so long, it’s all they know. So, shaking the fist at the entirety of the class, and promising a slap on the wrist will make the bad kids rebel forevermore. Considering the entire class is essentially stacked with those quick to verbals, it’s a moronic solution to an impossible problem.

Say, for the sake of argument, that it worked, and that blanket bans for the abusive players stood. And it’s a noble idea, don’t get me wrong. But considering that the rough estimate of Xbox Live users stands at 48 million, and let’s say that 40% of that number use unfortunate language, and are subsequently banned, the moral crusade becomes a financial problem.

Which is just vast speculation. You could argue that tipping the barrel over and picking out the bad apples could garner more users, or Microsoft could merely lose them to their market rivals, Sony. Further to this point, it’s far from an abusive free-for-all. In the modern experience, often players only interact with their party, handpicking those who they can interact with. The verbal cul-de-sac where users are ground down by waves of criticism is not as common as the general vibe would suggest. It does, however, exist, and I can understand the concern, and on an objective level, sure. People should be able to game and not be abused, but we’ve waded too long, and too far into the river of blood to turn around.

To be brutally fair, the only arbiter that has existed, and indeed worked, is the mute button. It doesn’t solve the greater problem, sure. But I’m unsure what the solution is, if any.

Resetting it back to Year Zero to “play nice” certainly isn’t it.