Dealing with angry, sometimes petulant, and occasionally downright bigoted strangers is unfortunately an integral part of playing online video games, and the companies that operate the multiplayer platforms on which players communicate can only do so much to regulate behavior when the offenses consist mostly of real-time speech.
Now, Microsoft has an updated set of guidelines that hopefully make it a bit clearer what it considers crossing the line when getting frustrated with another player. The company outlined the guidelines as part of an update to its Community Standards page, released on Tuesday of last week, that includes information about content standards, fraud, cheating, and other behaviors Microsoft closely regulates on Xbox Live.
The company has a number of tips for avoiding suspensions and bans and for otherwise not being a jerk. Those include guidelines around specific actions, like spamming messages on Xbox Live or griefing or trollish behavior in an actual game itself.
There are also pretty strict restrictions around what types of words, phrases, or historical figures you can outright name or allude to in your online ID, your group names, and other public-facing activity. But the company smartly recognizes that trash talk is part of the culture of any competitive activity and it’s not going away anytime soon. So it clearly specifies when and what type of trash talk is generally acceptable, and when it’s no longer okay.
For instance, Microsoft says you can critique specific instances of poor play, like accusing somebody of exhibiting “potato aim,” after the popular meme. It also says you can engage in a bit of playful mocking, with phrases like “get wrecked” or “get good.” Crossing the line, however, involves personal attacks, use of slurs, or anything resembling a sexual threat.
Often times, it’s easy for the acceptable to cross over into the unacceptable, like substituting “wrecked” or “destroyed” for a bit of profanity that clearly insinuates something more sinister and criminal in nature. And of course, any type of slur or attack on identifiable traits like gender, skin color, or nationality is strictly forbidden and punishable.
“A little trash talk is an expected part of competitive multiplayer action, and that’s not a bad thing,” the company writes. “But hate has no place here, and what’s not okay is when that trash talk turns into harassment.”
According to Polygon, Microsoft says “the standards are not a new set of rules, but are a call to action that empowers every player to evaluate their behavior and adjust accordingly in order to be a force for good.” It’s also just a good idea to educate players, especially younger ones who might be going online for the first time to play these types of games with people of all ages from around the world. For teenagers operating in online spaces and often without the accountability of using their real names, it can be hard to discern when an insult or a throwaway line said out of frustration crosses into abusive territory or makes other players uncomfortable.
Microsoft also clearly lays out the consequences and the types of violations you would need to make repeatedly to approach losing your ability to play online, or worse, having your gamertag banned for good. “We may permanently suspend a profile or device if we can no longer trust it due to a severe violation, or if our attempts to correct repeated negative behaviors are unsuccessful,” the company explains.