I realize this post may have come a little bit late, given our discussion of the current malignant gaming culture occurred on Tuesday. However, I feel that there is still plenty of potential for discussion on this issue. For example, we really never began to share our thoughts about solutions to these problems. Thus, in this blog post, I hope to use Consalvo’s piece as a jumping off point to spark a discussion about possible antidotes to this toxic culture.
Consalvo does a fine job of discussing current research on why the gaming world has developed such vitriolic attitudes towards those who do not fit the mold of who they believe to be a “true” gamer. Although she does not offer concrete countermeasures against such behaviors, she argues that by using research to understand their causes, we can “point to historical solutions … and thereby push for a more welcoming kind of game culture for everyone…” (Consalvo, 2012). As someone intent on studying medicine, a profession that is about as evidence-based as it gets, I admire Consalvo for her logical approach to the issue and agree that it is important that we understand why people are doing this in games or – in light of our discussion – how our society-at-large influences this behavior.
While it is true that Consalvo is not writing her essay to propose solutions to the vitriol in current gaming, I think that, even with the information that we have, we can take tangible steps to minimize such behavior. At the very least, it behooves us to discuss possible ones as we work to better understand toxic gaming culture. As such, here are two possible solutions.
The first and perhaps most drastic solution is banning. Industry-wide, platform-wide, or game-wide bans of players exhibiting sexist, racist, or homophobic behavior could serve as the quickest and easiest solution. However, there are definite problems with this measure. How long should the bans be? What are the specific criteria for language/behavior that would constitute a temporary ban? A lifetime ban? Also, will any game developers or company executives go for it? Such bans could be met with a surge of hatred towards the developers from those who are banned. As we briefly discussed in class, there were reports last October that Halo 4 would impose lifetime bans on individuals using sexist language. This seemed like a bold move, but, in the end, it turned out to lack backing from Microsoft. Perhaps some of the reasons above precluded Microsoft’s support.
(Yet banning such a player might be agreeable to all…)
Another, more tempered solution is giving players the ability to decide who they play with. This is a relatively passive but perhaps effective way to group together those who prefer not to read/listen to demeaning gamers and leave the rest to play on their own. Microsoft has already begun this process through their “gamer zones” – “Recreation,” “Family,” “Pro,” and “Underground” but these zones seem to have little effect on gamer experience (Wikipedia – Xbox Live). However, by refashioning this system, Microsoft could identify those individuals who consistently spew hateful comments and place them permanently onto, say, the “Underground” zone1, and away from those who would rather not lend an ear to their thoughts.
While neither of these solutions is perfect, I think they’re good discussion fodder. Ultimately, I have to bring it back to Consalvo’s idea about understanding the influences of our current culture to this whole situation. I feel that changing the way that society at large views the groups maligned in video games is the only real and lasting way to bring about a change in this toxic gaming culture.