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

Pros and Cons

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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