You know what Microsoft’s Xbox Live does not consider offensive enough to ban? Grand Theft Auto IV: The Lost and Damned, where players steal, harass other characters, beat on prostitutes, and shoot to kill. And Resident Evil 4, where players encounter a dead female corpose pinned against the wall with a pitchfork through her face in the first few minutes of game play. And NARC, where players smoke pot, roll on ectasty, and get high on LSD to make their characters stronger. And 50 Cent: Bulletproof, where players take part in drive-bys and gang warfare to buy new music videos. But you know what Xbox Live does deem too offensive? Identifying yourself as a lesbian in your player profile.
In 2007 we told you about a player who got virtually gay bashed (video) playing Xbox’s Halo 3 for having the screenname “xxxGayBoyxxx.” Another Xbox player reported being forced to change his account name from something other than “thegayergamer,” since, according to a supervisor the player spoke to, the Xbox “community” thought the moniker was too offensive. Even a guy named “Richard Gaywood” had to change his screenname.
And now another player says she was banned from Xbox for acknowledging she was a lesbian — after users complained. She writes Consumerist:
I just recently saw a thing on your site about someones gamer tag being banned because it had the word gay in the tag.
I had a similar incident, only my account was suspended because I had said in my profile that I was a lesbian. I was harassed by several players, ‘chased’ to different maps/games to get away from their harassment. They followed me into the games and told all the other players to turn me in because they didn’t want to see that crap or their kids to see that crap.
As if xbox live is really appropriate for kids anyways! My account was suspended and xbox live did nothing to solve this, but instead said others found it offensive.
Today I received a message from another gamer calling me a fag. I am a lesbian, so they aren’t too smart if they cant get their anti-gay slurs right.
Microsoft does nothing to stop this or prevent it, but instead sides with the homophobes. No one will help me get the word out about Microsoft’s anti-gay policy. Not even the HRC who says Microsoft has a positive image with them. Not to me it doesn’t!
It’s worth noting that Microsoft doesn’t ban the words “gay” or “lesbian” as a matter of policy; that is, you can type those strings of characters in Xbox games without immediately being banned or censored. Doing so is, I think, a good thing — though a video game community of homophobes probably means the words “gay” and “fag” are used more often as slurs than anything else. And when someone flags a user for being too “gay,” Microsoft’s wrath follows.
But Microsoft’s position to cave to the Xbox “community,” rather than defend its paying customers from harassment, is hateful. While it’s unrealistic to think all gamers can be protected from being taunted while playing, the company should have some method of protecting those who alert it to harassment. Instead, they blame the victims, and ban them. Despicable.
[Video game descriptions via Gamespot]