Multiplayer gaming is something anyone should be able to enjoy, but Microsoft is warning would-be trolls to knock it off with a new strike system that could change their whole experience.
It’s not unreasonable to ask for people to just be good and nice, and to behave like adults, but you’re not always going to get that.
It can be much worse behind computers, and you only have to see the disaster of a hellscape social media can turn into when people get angry. Disposable accounts with abusive and often narcissistic people just being angry and rude to others because someone is different or has a change of opinion, often forcing a mute or block.
In video games, the experience can be totally different.
While social media is often just text on a screen, gamers playing with someone intolerant, rude, dismissive, or downright aggressive (or even a combination of these qualities) can be exhibited in similar gameplay and spoken communication.
It’s bullying, plain and simple, and it can make gaming just that much worse, almost as if you’re forced to play against someone who just wants to make your life a living hell.
Microsoft has been working on ways to deal with those sorts of people, and has recently switched on a strike system to force would-be trolls to grow up, lest they want to experience a totally different way of playing: not at all.
The new system is part of the Xbox Enforcement Strike system, and will see accounts found to be breaking community standards rules as risking their access to the platform. For instance, if a player receives two strikes in a six month period, they’ll lose access for a day, while four strikes sees a full week of access lost. Manage to get eight strikes in the space of six months, and access to the Xbox multiplayer and social services disappears for one year from the enforcement day.
Microsoft notes that the severity of these strikes differ based on what has happened, with some more aggressive than others. For instance, hate speech equals three strikes in one hit, causing a day of severed access from one incident, while other forms of bullying and aggression will result in other amounts. Interestingly, all strike information will be fully visible to players so they can see how the enforcements stack up, and so they can see the situation they’ll find themselves in: disconnected social and multiplayer services.
It’s a move designed to get trolls and aggressors to stop, with anyone feeling intimidated or threatened encouraged to report what’s happening to the Xbox Safety Team, who reviews the incidents and determines whether action needs to be taken.
However, it’s also one that could change the very nature of games designed to be multiplayer and social in and of itself, segregating those disrespectful players from any game designed to work in this capacity alone.
Microsoft noted to Pickr that “if a player loses multiplayer access due to an enforcement action, the in-game experience may vary from one title to another”.
For instance, in games with a multiplayer component alongside that single player one, players with multiplayer and social access removed wouldn’t be allowed to play at all, and would likely be almost like having no internet access. Take Forza games, for instance, which you could play without multiplayer access, missing out on the social gaming of friends on the Xbox network.
But if you’re playing a game like Sea of Thieves and Halo Infinite — titles that are multiplayer only — your game experience will be non-existent if you’re cut off, as Microsoft cements the strike against you into a full-blown penalty.
Microsoft did tell Pickr that “during the period of suspended multiplayer access, you can still sign into your Xbox profile and play games that don’t require Xbox services”, but that connected services wouldn’t work, such as multiplayer and the act of being social.
All of this just comes to one obvious point that should be exceedingly obvious to anyone in general, but still seems to need the occasional reminder: don’t be a prick to others. Not just online, but offline, too. It’s just the way things should be.