Thursday, December 05, 2013

The Swearing Ban Begins!

Microsoft’s “swear ban” isn’t new news, but it is making the rounds. Within days of the XboxOne’s release there were already stories popping up on Facebook and through gaming forums about players over certain titles being temporarily banned for up to 72 hours for swearing over their headsets while talking to other gamers. This started off as a Skype only instances where gamers chatting on Skype through XboxOne would be temp banned for language when you share a video that contains cussing. But has now expanded into the games chat systems as well. So yes…Microsoft is listening in on your conversations. Sort of.

On the one hand, this is a pretty big invasion of privacy that the XboxOne’s systems are listening in and possibly recording your every word through your headset when you’re not saving the file for a Twitch upload. Instead, they’re policing their users.

On the other hand, why hasn’t this been done sooner? Look. I’m not going to sugar coat this. We all know that Xbox users out of all others tend to be the most verbally aggressive when it comes to online chatting. I’ve personally removed myself from any and all Xbox chats because of how pervasive of an issue it has become. Versus the Playstation 3 and even general PC gaming, you get the occasional dickwad, but for the most part, people are more civil about being humans. There are only so many times I’ve been threatened with bodily harm, as well as my family, friends, and other relatives, where you get tired of hearing about it and go silent, muting all others in the process.

But this latest instance involves NBA 2K14. Using the facial recognition software with the Kinect and Move, the game can recognize when a person swears. In doing so, your in-game team will get a technical foul for naughty language. Interesting, no? So it’s not just the systems but the games themselves that will penalize you within the game space for your swears. That’s pretty hard core, and I would LOVE to see this in Halo. :D

But it does present some concerns regarding where do Sony and Microsoft’s terms of service bridge into Big Brother territory? Microsoft has issued a statement that they are not monitoring Skype calls. However, if a user uploads a video through the XBoxOne’s sharing services, then that video is subject to the TOS.  Excessive profanity even while using Skype does not absolve a person from what is uploaded to the internet. If you use a third-party, non-Xbox program but then upload it through Xbox, it’s still subject to the TOS. It’s as simple as that and applies to Sony as well, though their scan and ban system isn’t as pervasive as Microsoft’s has been. I’d like to point back to my earlier statement about Xbox users as a possible reason why that may be the case.

No I’m not a Sony Fan Girl. This is one gamers’ experience of being harassed way too much because of my gender by little boys (yes, even those of you who are over the age of 18 are still boys if you choose to cuss out a woman for beating your score in Call of Duty). So yes, I’m all for the swearing monitoring.

At the same time, is this enough? Swearing is one thing. Outright verbal and visual harassment is another. While I appreciate the steps that Microsoft and Sony are taking to ensure a safer gaming environment for everyone, they’re only addressing one facet, and that’s verbal swearing. What about messages and images sent to other players? What about the tens of thousands of crude content sent through texts every days on their systems that are left untouched by their staff? What about the pre-existing user complaint system? Is it being beefed up? Revamped? Or are they sticking to the old, crappy, doesn’t work at all until you call them out on social media, system? 

While I do think that in some cases the swearing ban is a bit much. At least it’s only temporary and it does allow you to play your games offline. Is it enough? Is it too much? I don’t know. But I hope that companies and game developers down the line will come up with a system to better confront the harassment so many gamers receive on a daily basis, and they are beyond the simple swear words like sh*t f*ck and g*d damn. Yeah. The last one confuses me too, but even radio stations are censoring god out of damn. *shrugs*


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