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Pros and Cons

Microsoft Clarifies Harassment Policies for Halo 4, No Changes To Be Made To Xbox Live’s Code of Conduct

Last week, I discussed a GameSpot interview with Halo 4 execs Kiki Wolfkill and Bonnie Ross, in which it was stated that discriminatory behavior in-game — specifically sexism — would result in a lifetime ban. Given Xbox Live’s high profile, the interview had done the rounds at many major tech and gaming sites, and a lively debate ensued. As I mentioned in my original article, there were a lot of questions being asked, primarily regarding whether or not this rule applied to other forms of abuse, and how this new policy would be implemented. On Tuesday, Destructoid reported that they had contacted Microsoft in order to clear things up. The verdict? Xbox Live views all types of harassment as equally reprehensible (hooray!), but they won’t be making any changes to their existing Code of Conduct (hmm).

From Destructoid reviews editor Jim Sterling:

“While Xbox Live indeed does not condone harassment of any kind, account and console bans are issued based on a robust complaint and evidence-based system,” said a spokesperson. “There is no difference in the Xbox Live Terms of Use and Code of Conduct for Halo 4.”

In a clarifying phone call, I was informed that sexism is not treated with lesser tolerance than racism, homophobia, or any other type of abuse, and that Microsoft takes each case as it comes.

In other words, business as usual. The Xbox Live Code of Conduct does not mention any harassment other than “severe racial remarks” as basis for permanent suspension, so it sounds to me like the “lifetime ban” and “zero tolerance” approach mentioned in the original interview were misrepresented, at least in terms of official XBL policy.

Even though this amendment packs less punch than the original story, I still think there is benefit in seeing two women at the helm one of the biggest games of the year speak out against discrimination. That’s a good thing, and we could use more of it. That said, while it’s fine to hear Microsoft say that they frown on abuse, their existing harassment policies haven’t been very effective. A lot of Xbox players have been calling for improvement for a long time, and there are many — men and women both — who find the environment so toxic that they avoid multiplayer entirely. If players are choosing to ignore an entire feature of your game because certain individuals are making things that unpleasant, I think it’s time to take the issue more seriously.

In any case, apologies for adding to the mix-up. Hopefully your fight against the Prometheans is going well regardless.

Becky Chambers is a freelance writer and a full-time geek. She blogs over at Other Scribblesand can always be found on Twitter.

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  • WellYesYouMay

    Apparently “equally reprehensible” translates to “equally ignored”.

  • Anonymous

    So much for me actually going out and buying the game…

  • Anonymous

    So much for me wanting to maybe play multiplayer with my husband…*sigh*

  • you guys

    Capitalism, plain and simple. Xbox live is a subscription-fee service, they’re not going to ban a significant number of paying subscribers for saying things that Republican politicians feel safe saying in public forums, economics demands it. Capital does not liberate anyone, it enslaves everyone.

  • Joy P

    Similar situation here. Though we have an Xbox neither of us have signed up for XBox Live specifically because of the rampant harassment issues, but with the original announcement about a serious crackdown we were going to sign up and looking forward to it…not anymore :(

  • Marian Hilliard

    On the plus side, I just saved a couple hundred dollars, since I won’t be buying an Xbox after all.

  • Rose – Heroine

    Much as I don’t want to agree with you, you’re right. They’re not going to hurt the bottom line.

  • Jack

    You know if you don’t play with a headset or simply put yourself in a party then you don’t have to hear any of it. My wife and I play several first person shooters and we simply don’t play with a headset when we don’t want to hear people. That said I do think Microsoft needs to be harder on people but it’s not like it’s unavoidable.

  • Canisa

    Yay, I just saved £40 a year!

  • Canisa

    What’s worth remembering is that white men are not the only people who have money. Women and PoC actually have some of their own too. By getting rid of the white men who cannot act like civilised human beings, they could then get quite a bit of money from the civilised people who would then feel encouraged to join the service.

    If you tote up the number of women and PoC, as well as decent white guys, in society: there’s more of them than there are uncivil white men as well, so potentially Microsoft could get more money.

  • Sara Green Williams

    So continue to allow reprehensible behavior and put the onus on us to just avoid it? What if this type of behavior was going on at your wife’s job or when she went to the grocery store? Should she just then not go to work or not eat? Avoidance is not a solution.

  • Aerindel Prime

    Grow up. You know that saying about sticks and stones? Thats all it is.

    And most of it is coming from little kids dispite the games rateing.

  • Sara Green Williams

    Sticks and stones? We’re not on a school yard anymore, and no one should have to put up with this kind of crap anywhere. If it is kids, all the more reason to set them straight now. If it’s adults, they should know better. But regardless, it’s stuff that like this that leads to worse stuff – harassment, assault, etc. It’s f’in 2012 and we’re still getting hassled for having brains. That we use. And somehow that’s threatening, and threatened people lash out. It’s bull and it needs to stop. I’m not a gamer, but I am a smart, capable, and kick-ass woman and if I choose to do something because it appeals to me, I damn well better not be getting hassled in a gender-biased way by some insecure fool who can’t deal.

  • Aerindel Prime

    Okay, because you aren’t a gamer I’ll explain how it works. All games have an option to block all voice chat, voice chat from people outside your team or even just specific people. Many games have the option to never be paired up with that person again.

    Choosing to not participate in something that does not appeal to you simple because some members are abusive is hardly kick ass. Kick ass is doing what you want regardless. It standing up to the idiots, not avoiding them. If your a minority (as unfortunately girl gamers are) threatening to not buy a product will not encourage a company to better enforce their rules. Its simply is a victory for the harassers. It means that they win by keeping you away from ‘their territory’

    Second, by far most of the offenders on xbox LIVE are very young kids so again, letting the verbal abuse of a ten year old hold you back from something you want to do sets a terrible example.

    If you really want to be kick ass then play the game and KICK SOME ASS. Mute the little A-holes and move on. Don’t cower in a corner because someone may call you a bad name. Stand up for yourself!

    Everyone of you who claim you aren’t buying an xbox because of this are giving more power to the bullies. Instead of joining a community and trying to shape it to your will you are just backing down. Not everyone is strong enough to stand up to bullies in the real world but all we are talking about here are words, the words primarily of little kids.

    And finally, the kind of enforcement that you are recommending is not possible. We are talking about a service here that can have tens of thousands of people logged on simultaneously, communicating in real time, and that is just for one game. Monitoring that much activity is not possible by anything short of a national agency.

  • Nikole Gates

    Well thats the thing. People can leave written messages for you right? I am not on xbox, more of a playstation girl myself. It’s the fact that harrasment is not just spoken but written as well.

  • Nikole Gates

    I don’t think that banning them is a good idea but consequences are. I think that in a contract that you have to agree to is a system of consequences for improper use of the multiplayer system. So that when someone is harrassing somebody they get temporialy suspened. Then if another offense is commited, make them pay a fine. If they don’t pay the fine then they cant use the system. If they don’t get the message after that then they cant play well with others and don’t deserve to play with others online.

  • Anonymous

    Okay, because your privilege is palpable, I’ll explain to you how it works. Ahem……harassment is very serious, we need help from the community (that includes fellow gamers, the people who make the game, everyone) to get this to stop. Interesting that you tell the victims of harassment what “they need to do to stop the harassment”….when the ONLY one who can do that, is the harasser.

  • Aerindel Prime

    Typical non-answer from someone who would rather feel like an entitled victim that simply solve the problem.

    You are getting help from fellow gamers, your getting told how to not have the problem. But it sounds like what you want isn’t a solution, its revenge.

    If you want to stop the harassment then raise your kids right. Stop throwing around words like “fuckin” on a public forum would be a good start. Play the game and add one more non abusive voice to the choir rather than bitching about how unfair it is that you have to push a couple buttons to stop hearing words you don’t want to hear.

    The ironic thing is that in the whole time since I’ve been playing Halo 4 I haven’t run into anybody harassing anybody. Its a remarkably polite community compared to say, COD but you wouldn’t know that because your too busy feeling like a victim.

  • Anonymous

    Point, it just…flew over your head. Okay, player :)