So the sticky issue of banning gamers based on sexual preference has come up yet again on Kotaku today.
The comments on this thread make for both a good and disheartening read.
From the article:
Perhaps more alarming than someone being banned for their expression of sexual preference was how this particular gamer was treated by the gaming public.
Teresa tells the Consumerist "I was harassed by several players, 'chased' to different maps/games to get away from their harassment. They followed me into the games and told all the other players to turn me in because they didn't want to see that crap or their kids to see that crap.
"Five minutes worth of interaction with the general Xbox Live population will get the point across—they don't care for "the gays." But does the policy go too far in one sense, not far enough in another?
There's a lot of interesting questions in there about her pride deliberately putting her in harms way in a known hostile environment (anyone that's played any of the AAA mutliplayer games on XBL knows all about the terrible undercurrent of racism and sexism).
Microsoft, however, are taking flak (and rightfully so) for banning the account. Though I have a certain amount of empathy for their point. I guess my question to you guys is "is it prudent to be less "proud to be different" in scenarios where you know it would distinctly be to your disadvantage? What do you think about removing sexuality and politics from gaming in order to "keep everything running smoothly".
Certainly it's very hard to police- XBL is largely based on a Peer-to-Peer architecture resulting in a lack of server logs. As a result the only way to police an incident of this kind is to look for evidence before banning. Unfortunately the only evidence in the case of this horrible persecuted XBL member is a terms of service violating gamer profile.
Whilst it's a sorry state of affairs that it comes down to this, if the gamer in questions recount of the griefing she suffered is an example of general XBL behavior (and from experience I wouldn't doubt it) then actually, keeping a "just keep any mention of sexuality off XBLA profiles for your own good" policy is probably prudent.
It's not Microsoft's fault that the world is full of hostile intolerant fucks, and if not stating your sexual preference diffuses a load of awful griefing then it's probably a good idea.
That said, banning people over it, rather than just notifying and removing the perceived "offensive" content is really off the mark.
Ultimately the question is if it should be left to user choice to make themselves obviously a target, given the known nature of the audience. I think it's terrible that stating a sexual preference can be the same as putting yourself in harms way (virtual harm, at that), but I wonder if the same person would go into a known homophobic bar and loudly proclaim they were gay/lesbian? Would their natural better judgment take over in that case.
At the end of the day it's just representative of how you can't be totally open around the unknown quantity of strangers without unpredictable results. It's a shame because I think games should be allowed to deal with politics and sexuality and difficult topics, but unless the audience that consumes that material is on the same intellectual level as the material itself, things like this will *always* happen.
The solution probably is that when people run across any kind of intolerance on services like XBL, they should report the abuse. There are far too many terrible instances on griefing that go unreported, allowing the perpetrators to "escape" while the victims get punished. Microsoft have spoken about this in the past.
Or maybe it's just indicative that people who play COD4 online really are drooling intolerant fucks, who knows.
So what do you think?
It's a tough issue when you think about it and there's no obvious answer or solution. Microsoft are getting shot at because they're the messenger, but it certainly raises some debate on human nature.