With the rapid availability of internet in the 1990s, the number of people playing video games online has grown exponentially. Today, we have over 2.6 billion gamers playing online games via their respective consoles. 52% of them are male whereas 48% are female, a demographic which is becoming more balanced with every passing year. Online gaming has proven itself quite fruitful when it comes to making new friends and building communities. It helps children with autism make friends and introverted teenagers to open-up more. It helps build up coordination among peers and greatly increases interactivity among them. The worldwide online gaming community as a whole is open to everyone regardless of their choice of video game genre, their nationality, race, economic status, etc.
However, there are certain downsides to it for which it has been criticized by gamers, respective governments, as well as the mainstream media. Apart from social media, online gaming also serves as a rich environment for cyberbullying. Hate speech, racism, physical threats, misogyny, etc. are not quite uncommon to come across while playing video games online. In present day, we usually refer to it as “toxicity”. Toxicity can be seen in almost any popular competitive online game, especially in the present day. It makes playing online games somewhat irritating, if not difficult. Many online games, however, have strict rules against toxicity and often ban players reported for such action.
About a month ago, Phil Spencer, Head of Xbox, wrote a blog post titled “Video games: A unifying force for the world” in Microsoft’s official website. In his blog, Spencer talked about the growing toxicity in online video games and how he plans to reduce it.
He stated that the Xbox Community Standards have been revised to identify and resolve issues related to toxic behavior. He wrote –
“We will identify potentials for abuse and misuse on our platform and will fix problems quickly. We are also intent on expanding the composition of our safety team so wide-ranging perspectives can help us identify future safety problems and solutions. Because hate and harassment have no place in gaming, we recently published a refreshed version of our Xbox Community Standards to communicate how each of us can keep gaming fun and safe for all and detail the consequences when any of us break these standards.”
Resolving issues related to toxicity is one way of dealing with it. However, if someone truly wants to solve a problem, they will focus on steps which will prevent issues from arising in the first place. Phil Spencer made sure of that too. He mentioned how his company would bring in new content moderation features, first to Club community managers. These will eventually be available to all Xbox users by the end of this year. Spencer wrote –
“This summer, we are empowering our official Club community managers with proactive content moderation features that will help create safe spaces for fans to discuss their favorite games. We plan to roll out new content moderation experiences to everyone on Xbox Live by the end of 2019.”
When asked by a Kotaku representative about this new content moderation feature, Spencer said –
“The intersection of [Looking For Group] and Clubs is really interesting, because now on Xbox Live I can filter my LFG through my Club affiliations, which is a nice way to be able to say, Hey, I don’t like swearing online so I’m going to be in a no-swearing club. And I’m going to use that as my matchmaking service.”
It is often difficult to avoid toxicity as many online video games require you to play in a team. There are only so many toxic people you can block before you finally decide to avoid online gaming all together. This new content moderation feature will however change that completely. It will take note of your preferences and will match you with other players having similar requirements.
“Xbox Live is not a free speech platform. It is not a place where anybody can come and say anything. And as we’re working to ensure it’s a safe and inclusive environment for everybody, I don’t want to be opaque about it,” said Phil Spencer during his interview with Kotaku.
Anyone who truly loves gaming would definitely be happy about Spencer’s new initiative to filter the Xbox Community of toxicity. It is one of the largest online gaming communities that we have at present. Maybe someday down the lane, other companies will look up to this initiative and come up with their own set of solutions to make their own community toxic free.