Sexism and Harassment in Halo 4, How Should It Be Handled?
As a female gamer who has played Halo since the original release, I know exactly what it means to be harassed online. Did that ever mean I quit playing? No. The worst of it wasn’t even being harassed and insulted. Usually what happened more often than not was me getting hit on. I would get a private message or voice mail during gameplay that was followed by repeated, “So-and-so wants to play with you”.
Perhaps it was annoying, but nothing beyond that.
When I played Halo 2 I remember younger kids insulting me more than anything. They would keep calling me a dude, and then telling me I sucked.
Then I replied, “Actually, I’m a girl.”
“You’re not a girl,” they would say. “You’re just a little boy with a high pitched voice.”
After a while, I just stopped talking while playing online multiplayer. Honestly, unless it’s a collaborative team effort, I really have little reason to talk anyway. I play in silence. And even though my gamertag hints I am a female, no one really thinks about my gender most of the time.
When playing other online games like Call of Duty or World of Warcraft I had very little problem as well with sexism. In Call of Duty, again, no one knew if I was male or female just from me playing side by side with them. In World of Warcraft, men play as female characters all the time, and vice versa. Usually unless there’s voice chat involved, or you spent time conversing, no one knows what you really are.
I very rarely have ever heard someone say, “Ack, I don’t want that girl on our team. Girls suck.” Or anything along those lines.
In a Gamespot interview back on October 30th, 2012, with Halo 4 executive producer Kiki Wolfkill and 343 Industries head Bonnie Ross, it is stated in the article:
“Speaking to GameSpot, Ross and Wolfkill said 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. “
While strict penalties may be the only way to go, is this approach too ambitious? Here’s a few things that come to mind, when discussing the permaban for sexism and harassment in Halo 4, and gaming in general.
1.) Using the guilty until proven innocent approach is bad business practice
C’mon, everyone has a bad day. There’s no excuse for harassment and name calling, but no one should be permanently banned over one comment that is subjectively offensive from person to person unless investigated further first. People should at least get one free pass.
Why not ban for 3 days, or a week, first?
Perhaps half of this is just empty threats. But one person calling their buddy the big C-word in fun, and another player believes it to be directed at them, can get someone wrongly banned. Of course these words are offensive, and shouldn’t be used, but miscommunication can happen.
Games are a release. People shouldn’t have to worry about being trolled or harassed. At the same time, you shouldn’t have to feel like Big Brother is going to come crashing down and ban you for one explicit comment.
What if your step-brother comes to visit one day, and turns on your Xbox, to then say some explicit things. Should you get permanently banned for life for that?
If people are threatened that one stupid comment, can make the merchandise they purchase become an expensive paper weight instantly with little warning, no one will buy your product. Then again, don’t say those things and you should be fine. There’s a lot of gray matter on this. Is everyone using an account, the account owner? Or, could it be a guest using a friend’s Xbox?
Are they going to allow you to state your case on these matters?
2.) There is no flawless system for banning
How can they even prove what one person says to another? Are all voice chats recorded? What happens when one player has a grudge on you and reports you, just because they’re mad? There has really never been a good player banning system.
In other years, with other games, these threats have always been made. There are report buttons for a reason, but how well are these cases investigated? How accurate can claims be made between one angry player to another.
3.) To perfectly implement such system would cost resources and time
What company is going to sit around and investigate all these cases properly? No, that costs money; a human being sitting a desk reading claims and listening to recordings. Is anyone going to sit around and do this? What if it’s all done by an automated computer system instead? Do such things even exist?
The cheapest way would be just to make people guilty and ban then first, with little question, or, do nothing at all.
4.) Society needs tougher skin
Let’s face it. Everyone is always crying about something, whining, suing, and tattling on each other. Halo 4, Call of Duty, and many many other games are rated M.
M, believe it or not, means, “Mature.” There will be mature content within the game.
Should people be harassed? No, and never. It hurts, and it’s downright mean. But at the same time there are a lot of people out there that can’t handle anything. Sometimes it just seems like people are waiting for someone to say just to right comment to them, so that they can go off and complain to someone. Of course there are definitely those serious cases out there, but not all of them are either. Is every minor case going to be handled in the same manner as the bigger issues?
Usually when I’m playing an online FPS nowadays I’m not muting people for harassing, I’m muting them because they’re either a) singing or b) playing their rap music over the speakers.
(If you do this, please don’t. No one likes your music.)
5.) If you do ban people for harassment, it can’t just be for sexism.
Originally, it was stated around all the media outlets that Halo 4 was taking a stance specifically against sexism. Now, it was clarified that other types of harassment such as racism and homophobia would also be taken seriously. I don’t know if it was the media taking one aspect of the story and blowing it out of proportion or if 343 Industries and Microsoft reconsidered their stance.
In either case, as a woman I do not necessarily appreciate someone overly focusing on sexism when there are plenty of other types of harassment that need addressing. It makes me feel like I’m a special case, that needs tending to.
All types of harassment should be addressed and punished equally.
Will a company ever be able to successfully ban players who rightfully deserve it? Let’s hope so. But I believe a lot of the problems are from kids who shouldn’t be playing the games to begin with. The ratings are in place for a reason but are very often not followed.
Online gaming is a social environment, and not everyone is going to get along. But how can a company sit and play mediator all the time for a, “he said, she said” battle? I think there needs to be a better system in place, but until then, the mute button is always an option.
Don’t get me wrong. I welcome these bans with open arms, but I also don’t want to see good people losing permanent access to Xbox Live over wrong accusations from a bad system. Were all these empty threats, or a serious beginning to cracking down on something that has turned gaming into something less fun for others?
I think instant permabans isn’t the right way to go about these issues, but I also don’t think people should go around tattling over every offensive comment.
I hope that all forms of harassment are treated as equally offensive, not just sexism.