Maroon and Gamer: An ancient topic awakens

I can’t even begin to exaggerate the number of times I’ve been on Xbox Live or PlayStation Network and have heard sexist comments, racial slurs and lewd homophobic statements. It’s almost as common as the audio in the actual game that you’re playing.

Most players tune it out and let it pass over their heads as competitive banter, but it has become one of the largest deterrents for people not wanting to join in with the online gaming community. For a brief window into the attitudes and behaviors in motion, you need only look further than this clip.

More incidents included a case earlier this March where Miranda Pakozdi was playing Street Fighter X Tekken and had to forfeit her match on a live stream “due to mental distress from all of Bakhtanian’s verbal abuse.” She asked him repeatedly to stop but he insisted on pursuing his course of actions. Capcom, the game’s developer and publisher, issued an apology to those who were offended by Bakhtanian’s comments.

Some developers have had enough of these people roaming around the online space and 343 Industries (developers of the recently released Halo 4) is at the tip of the spear.

The head of 343 Industries, Bonnie Ross, and Halo 4 executive producer Kiki Wolfkill say “there is zero tolerance for Xbox Live players who are found to be making sexist or discriminatory comments against others, with a lifetime ban from the network as penalty.”

Ross went on to say that with Halo 4, they were very deliberate in thinking about who should be female and who should be male in the game.

“…and if we came stereotypical, we went back to question what we were doing and why,” Ross says. “People are surprised to learn that it’s a woman who’s running the Halo 4 show.”

Now this has been recently debunked as of yesterday but it’s a topic that certainly warrants discussion and raises the question: What measures do developers take to limit the highly offensive statements?

Brenden Sewell, Creative Producer for ASU’s Center for Games and Impact, shares his thoughts on the matter:

“As a game designer, I can sympathize with Kiki Wolfkill’s assertion that developers have a shared responsibility to be mindful of the consequences of the media that we create,” he says. “Content is not consumed in a bubble, and as creators we are responsible for acknowledging the political and social contexts in which our art exists.”

From a pure consumer standpoint, I think developers should crack down on these sorts of comments and establish a playing space that is welcome to people from all walks of life.

If the purists want their arena where the competitive banter and uncouth behavior can still exist then I would like to see a more refined system of separating the people who want the game experience without the ill-mannered comments. And lets remove the people that are disruptive in movie theaters while we’re at it.

Leave a comment below with your thoughts on sexism, racial slurs and homophobia in the online gaming community.

 

Follow me on Twitter @MaroonandGamer or send me an email at shfawcet@asu.edu