There are several factors to consider when it comes to what seems like an entire community of young(ish) "anonymous" gamers w/ voice mics shouting venom out into the openness of net-space, but the ones I'm most curious about is a.) the demographics b.) the administrative policy and c.) how to fight the tide of the sea of douche.
A.) The Age Demographics of Xbox Live:
A cursory google search qued up the following from Gamer.Blorge:
Microsoft Xbox 360
The Xbox 360, currently sitting in a very
comfortable second place in terms of sales, appeals mainly to males aged between
12 and 17, and females aged between 25 and 34. This seems like a bizarre mix but
the younger age range for boys could explain the level of petty whining and
douchebaggery on display over Xbox Live
Now, this shouldn't come as much of a shock. Anyone who's played Xbox Live with their mics on for any reasonable period of time has been forced to endure the blatant perviness, over the top racism (often unprovoked nor topical), gay bating, cheating, and general purpose douchebagginess. Its an epidemic. Initially, I'd thought it was an isolated incident when goofing around with Halo, or Gears of War but conferring with a number of fellow gamers has proven that Xbox Live runs rampant with ignorant, vile little monsters.
What drives these trends? Well, the easiest one to put one's finger on is anonymity. Log onto any local newspaper's websites and you can see the power of the internet at work. People find it a lot easier to espouse their teabaggy rants about how Jews are secretly in control of the universe and how black people are all maundering thugs when hiding behind a computer screen. One can join a social environment where borderline antisocial behavior is neither kept in check nor discouraged. Its language lobbed as carelessly as a plasma grenade in Halo 3, and in minor doses arguably excusable, but what you have in large game matches with dozens kids trying to get attention by throwing out whatever words they've learned will spark the most fires, emboldened by their relative anonymity it becomes a really noxious environment. One it seems less and less fun and rational to operate in, let alone pay $8.99 per month to be a part of.
B.) The Administrative Policy- As per Xbox.com website, the company policy is
"Publish, distribute, or disseminate any content, topic, name, material, file,
or information that incites, advocates, promotes, depicts, constitutes, or
expresses child pornography, profanity, hatred, bigotry, racism, illegal drug
use, gratuitous or graphic violence, or criminal or fraudulent activity;
Create a Gamertag , avatar or use text in other profile fields that may
offend other members. This includes comments that look, sound like, stand for,
hint at, abbreviate, or insinuate or relate to any of the following: profane
words/phrases, topics or content of a sexual nature, hate speech (including but
not limited to racial, ethnic, or religious slurs), illegal drugs/controlled
substances, or illegal activities"
Now, this seems straightforward enough. I've seen users banned for having namertags that are somewhat suggestive, or racially insensitive (One called "Jewkiller" was inexplicably untouched however) , and seen a gamer from Ft. Gay, West Virginia in some trouble over this putting this information in his profile. I've seen people who use modded systems (cheating/piracy) banned for life. But what I haven't been seeing is any direct recourse for the constant orgy of hate rants and its unfortunate. I know I'm not the only one questioning my sanity for paying for a product I have to endure this level of stupidity to "enjoy". If it is impossible to prevent this sea of douchey behavior, if its "just the nature of the beast that is the interweb" to be crude, bigoted and mean spirited then perhaps its best that I take my football and go home. From what I gather from discussing this issue with others, I'm not the only gamer in the universe who got rid of his Gold account because it was too distracting/aggravating to play online when 80% of the other players are on par with Leeroy Jenkins. But then, what can Xbox Moderators do when the majority of the problem is guys using psychological warfare (try listening to a 15 year old sing off key with his voice autotuned to sound like a robot in a really high pitch for a few minutes.), are throwing around slurs at the top of their lungs because they're a collective of sociopaths intent on conveying such, and individuals who mistake the above for what it is to be "cool". Add groupthink mix well and that about sums up the general vibe of an Xbox Live experience.
C.) Combating the Douche-tide. As offputting as coexist amid the din of pre-pubescent rants and general purpose douchiness, the idea of Xbox Live, of banding together with friends and strangers to team up and chat about the games we play in real time,stlll looks better on paper than it is in practice. Many of my friends only play exclusively with/against people they know and vouch for, or discontinue their accounts due to the absolutely irksome experience that Xbox Live has become. Its masochistic to pay to exist in hostile, unpleasant, belligerent environments and I wonder if in the next generation of Microsoft game products this could be more handily resolved. The easiest way to cut down on the blind item screeds on the online newspaper cites I referenced? Compell the individuals to register their names before posting. When it comes to online avatars and realtime dialouge, it becomes a harder thing to discern who's saying what when, but some game programs have indicaters that flash when a person is talking. When many persons are spewing incendiary speech concurrently, it becomes a more difficult thing to monitor, but seriously, NOT adressing the problem in some decisive way just makes the Xbox Live experience even less inviting to both new users and well...non-dicks. Its a bad business plan and it ruins the experience for those of us who like to play online with children not shouting obsenities at us. I'd love to get some feedback from Xbox Live moderators on this one.And now, some mood music. :)