In an interview the week before the release of Halo 4, Bonnie Ross, from Microsoft’s 343 Industries, and Kiki Wolfkill, Halo 4’s executive producer, boldly announced that Xbox Live would be implementing a lifetime ban for “players who are found to be making sexist or discriminatory comments against others.” The blogosphere lit up with claims that Halo 4 on Xbox Live would be “banning sexism,” but what does this really mean?
According to ESA game player data, female gamers now make up 47% of all game players, and females over 18 are the industry’s fastest growing demographic. Nonetheless, sexism in gaming is a prevalent issue. Websites like Fat, Ugly, or Slutty encourage gamers to submit screen shots of players making rude, sexist, or inappropriate comments. Sexist comments are an integral part of the banter over the microphone headsets that gamers use to communicate with each other.
The fact that two industry leaders behind a popular game like Halo 4 are women is quite impressive. It is also important to have them calling out sexism in gaming as “behavior that is offensive and completely unacceptable.” The question is, do their words have any real impact? At it turns out; their seemingly groundbreaking announcement does not reflect any actual modification of the current Xbox Live policy. The code of conduct, has not been changed, and reads as follows:
Don’t create a gamertag, profile content, Avatar action, Avatar content, or in-game content that other users may be offended by. This includes, without limitation, anything related to or suggestive of: profane words/phrases, topics or content of a sexual nature, hate speech (including but not limited to racial, ethnic, or religious slurs), illegal drugs/controlled substances, or illegal activities.
As you can see, the code of conduct includes no new language specifically addressing sexist comments. Since the interview, a Microsoft representative has said that the company is not changing their Xbox Live policy for Halo 4, adding that Microsoft does not support any form of bigotry.
So to summarize, Xbox Live is not placing a lifetime ban on players who use sexist comments, and Ross and Wolfkill’s announcement does not mean that Microsoft will be initiating any special measures to stop sexism on Xbox Live.
The few days of excitement over the possibility of Microsoft taking steps to actively fight sexism raises important questions; should sexism be fought in online gaming forums? With women now making up a large and growing percentage of gamers, is this an issue that needs to be pursued, or should online gaming outlets stay out of the situation?
In their interview, Ross and Wolfkill placed more of the responsibility for ending sexism in gaming on the developers. As the number of women in the gaming world grows, it will be interesting to see how companies like Microsoft handle the issue of sexism.
– Amelia M. Torre
Re-blogged on The F-Bomb