Anyone that has played games online for an extended period of time, especially multi-player games where several random players can be matched up together, is used to hearing all manner of offensive material hurled at you. Even if you don't play online much, you've probably heard the jokes about the kids being some of the worst. Well, it's not really that much of a joke. Things can get pretty bad online, the younger the players are the worse they seem to be, and it's not for the feint of heart.
Well, Microsoft is tired of cutting out the 'feint of heart' demographic and is cracking down on naughty language online. The online slurs have long been an issue many gamers have complained about, but it's a difficult problem to deal with manually when millions of gamers are using your service. Long ago, we talked about their plans for revamping their reputation system, but there is a more immediate response in some instances: Allowing software to monitor gameplay and suspend players for excessive cursing. At this point, however, this only effects Microsoft's Upload Studio and is not being used to actually help monitor the real problem area: public matches.
A Warning for Upload Studio Users
One of the new features of the XBox One is the Upload Studio, which allows gamers to use the Kinect to record themselves giving commentary while recording gameplay. If you tend have a potty mouth as you play, letting a naughty word slip here or there as you meet your demise in a game, then you had best avoid using that feature.
We take Code of Conduct moderation via Upload Studio very seriously. We want a clean, safe, and fun environment for all users. Excessive profanity as well as other Code of Conduct violations will be enforced upon and result in suspension of some or all privileges on Xbox Live. - Microsoft Statement
Now, as for their regular Live service, you'll still have to rely on the reputation system and filing reports on offenders as this only applies to the Upload Studio for now. There were rumors that Microsoft was monitoring private Skype calls as well, but Microsoft insists this is untrue, but has said you can be suspended from other services when you are banned because of an issue.
To be clear, the Xbox Live Policy & Enforcement team does not monitor direct peer-to-peer communications like Skype chats and calls. - Microsoft Statement
Not convinced, some users still insist Microsoft is monitoring Skype, but for now this sits clearly in the gossip category until more proof surfaces. User MacVolki reported "Was typing to my buddy on Skype, typed a few words of profanity talking about movies, and when I jumped back to Xbox One, it said I was banned from it for the same reason, citing "past behavior". Another player reported that a link he sent to a friend on Skype had been shown that it had been visited by Microsoft as well. So far, though, this is not a widespread issue and could simply be error either on Microsoft's end, or the observer's.
I have to admit that it is odd that they monitor Upload Studio over Live multi-player gameplay, especially with Microsoft having said previously it would "not put restrictions or limitations" on users of the service. Multi-player has long been the biggest problem with the community and a service like Upload Studio could easily have a report feature for viewers or the ability to mark content as explicit if a gamer wants to speak freely to their viewers. After all, if you are watching videos, you are seeking that content out; but if you are playing in a multi-player game, you can't always control what you end up getting an earful of.
Cursing Crackdown Affects More than just Upload Studio
The crackdown isn't all on the shoulders of XBox One, aside from PS4 having its own drama with Twitch uploaders, some game-makers are building punishments into their games and effecting users on either console. FIFA 14 users have received in-game warnings and the possibility of being carded for letting the wrong words slip out.
Players on NBA 2K14 have also reported in-game technical fouls for saying a curse word that the Kinect or mic pics up. This is not only happening when playing with random strangers online, but in private games, direct with friends. Then there are games like Battlefield 4 that will attempt to censor curse words in multi-player, but have an endless supply of them from in-game characters.
Expecting consoles and games to babysit players, instead of parents, is a dangerous path to head down. It's exactly what some misguided souls expect. Unfortunately, it sounds like it will put more restrictions in places it's not needed than actually curb the language and hateful comments players have to deal with in multi-player games.
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About the Author - Jeremy Shane
Jeremy was born in a small mountain village of a strange foreign land called Weystvurginea. Banishment for liberal views saw him spend years wondering the east coast until he decided to bike to California. When he saw how long a trip it was, he drove instead. Now he's living it up in a low humidity climate, sometimes working on his photography and when not, he writes for us covering books (by way of his blog: Reading Realms), gaming, tv, movies, comics, conventions in the SoCal area, and creates a weekly webcomic: A Journey Through Skyrim. If you look for him offline, start in the L.A. area; online start at: www.jeremyshane.info for his profile and all the social networks he's on... or just follow him on twitter, he seems to be on there a lot: @jeremyshane.
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