I originally wasn’t going to write about this new feature, because it didn’t seem like such a big deal. It’s just another social media type platform for a game system. In a way it is no different than the clans and guilds that formed around PC games, many of which I’ve been a part of myself. Generally a clan is a group of people who enjoy the same game, or group of games, get together on Ventrilo or Teamspeak, and chat in their own website forums. Xbox’s clubs feature is basically that, hosted on the console’s Live platform. It will let people form their own club, select interests and tags, moderate, chat, share game videos, and basically share their interests with other gamers. It does also allow you to filter out the clubs you don’t want, avoid the players you want to avoid.
Unfortunately some of the games media have dropped the ball on this, with headlines like “Xbox Live Is Getting A ‘No Trash Talking’ And ‘Females Only’ Mode” from Kotaku were slightly annoying, then I saw “Microsoft Wants to Make Xbox Safe for Gamers Who Aren’t White Men” from Bloomberg. First of all, the ‘modes’ offered by this are far more complex than ‘Females Only’, which screams the opposite of inclusive. These modes, both LFG and Clubs, will allow gamers to join groups and find games with a wide variety of criteria. Examples from Microsoft include:
Henshaw used the example of “parents who can only game after 10 pm”, “mic required”, “gender inclusive” and so on, as examples of tags people can attach to their Club, to seek like-minded players.
While I’m not a huge fan of separating the community, I have far less issue with these new features now than I did when I first read some of the games media’s reporting on it. My first instinct was, that’s what the mute button is for. I mute people all the time on games I play. Not the smack talkers, or the people taking jabs at me, but the real jerks, yah I’ll mute them. That’s not what these features are about though, despite what the major game’s media is making it out to be.
That second headline, from Bloomberg, is what convinced me to write this. That headline, and the article that follows, is so condescending on many levels. First, the implication that anyone but white men are somehow less capable of dealing with the jerks online. Are women and minorities delicate flowers that must be sheltered from mean words online? This seems to be predicated on the idea that white men are somehow safer? Like we don’t get harassed, insulted, and verbally abused online? If Dina Bass did a little research, or was honest with her premise, she’d know that everyone, white men included, get harassed online. If she doesn’t know this, or isn’t capable of the level of research it takes to find a poll related to her topic, why is she writing for Bloomberg? If she does know, why did she dismiss it in order to write such a biased article? In either case the media is simply dropping the ball in reporting these features from Xbox, and perpetuating a gender war in the gaming community that they continue to profit from.
Following that up, the second line of the article from Bloomberg says:
The company is creating safe spaces for people who’ve felt uncomfortable or endured abuse at the hands of other gamers online.
This is not what Microsoft is doing, though it is a result of what is being done. One result among many. It’s more honest to say that the company is creating a way for gamers to interact specifically with groups that share their own interests. They are creating a way for everyone to pick who they want to play with, not just ‘people who’ve felt uncomfortable or endured abuse’, but then again knowing that everyone has felt uncomfortable or endured abuse, maybe Dina is correct without knowing it.
The problem now is the popular games media has created this environment where everything has to be about gender, and a perfectly benign and inclusive feature (that helps people segregate themselves, yah strange I know) is now tied to this constant gender issue the media is pushing. It’s creating rifts in the community that don’t need to be there, and isn’t helping heal the ones already here. It keeps people on one side of the fence or the other, with many caught in the middle just wanting gamers to game.
Like I said, when I first read these headlines I thought they were actually creating a mode that was going to be called ‘females only’. The misinformation in the media made me not want discuss this because it seemed so asinine that it wasn’t worth my time. Then I went to Microsoft’s site, read about the feature from the original source, and realized I should have done that first. It’s a difficult habit to break, to ignore the media and go to the source. Even as a writer and journalist it’s something I have to consciously do, so I know how easy it is for people to take everything they read in the media as factual.
Yes, there are assholes online. I run into them on a regular basis when I play FPS games. It’s nice to be able to mute the ones that get out of hand. I’m told that the Xbox community can be worse than the PC players, though I personally have no frame of reference. If people want to be able to separate themselves into smaller cliques based on interest, more power to them. It’s not going to solve the issue of assholes online, and it won’t make the community better, it will just split us into smaller groups. I do know for sure, however, that the media is only making things worse and that’s a sad state of things.
We gamers really need to do more ourselves to keep our community growing, getting better. It’s become more clear over the last few years that the major games media has no interest in actually helping. Like the news organizations beating the political drums of one side or the other, the games media is only interested in keeping the drama going so we’ll keep on clicking and fighting. We must stop reading their headlines and believing everything they post. We have to stop letting them divide us into classes and groups, we’re better than that. Gaming has always been a great community, and it can keep getting better if we stop paying attention to the drama profiteers who only want to make a buck.