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Tuesday, May 21, 2019

Phil Spencer and Games as a Unifying Force

By LUDWIG VON KOOPA - Some reactionaries are upset that Microsoft wants Xbox to be safe.

Yesterday, Microsoft published an op-ed in Xbox head Phil Spencer's name, entitled “Video games: A unifying force for the world”. The post outlines Microsoft's commitment to “building a safe and inclusive gaming space for everyone”. I don't really know what the impetus of the post is—Microsoft updated their Code of Conduct over a year ago and it was no big deal (contrary to reactionary hysteria). I guess I can't judge ‘em, since KoopaTV is untimely all the time.

Perhaps it was spurred by the ESA's recently released 2019 Essential Facts survey, since Microsoft indirectly cites their high-level (and misleading, especially given that Xbox doesn't have casual smartphone-player demographics) conclusions about gender and game playing. Maybe Phil Spencer got really excited about how Microsoft collaborated with the Special Olympics, especially when he wrote that, in terms of games, disabled people stand on equal footing with non-disabled people. (Sincerest good luck to the disabled in trying to play complicated games.)

The op-ed boils down to these three action items:
  1. The Xbox Safety team will moderate the Xbox ecosystem, per the code of conduct/community standards
  2. Club community managers and parents will be able to curate member/children experiences
  3. Microsoft will share safety, security, and privacy best practices with other game industry companies
None of that is objectionable and it's really standard stuff. But some people are certainly taking it the wrong way...

I've read and watched takes where people say Phil Spencer is a full-blown male-hating, anti-white crybaby social justice warrior. One such bad take is from this YouTube channel called Geeks + Gamers, which I'll only hyperlink because the thumbnail is idiotic and it'd be a stain on my article to embed it. I'm only giving attention to it because it's plenty more popular than KoopaTV is, but with logarithmically less insight, nuance, or entertainment value. It's eight minutes of an obnoxious host doing a very terrible impersonation of how Rush Limbaugh mocks hyperventilating liberals crying about unfairness, but without any comedic timing, and he seems really confused about whether or not to attack the secondary source (some random website talking about the op-ed) or the primary source (the op-ed itself, which I don't think he read in full, just the quoted parts on the secondary source).

The closest thing to a constructive point the guy has is that all of your problems would be solved with the use of a mute button. That's completely untrue and indicates that the guy doesn't keep up with gaming news or even read the op-ed. It's not just bad things being said on voice chat that Microsoft is concerned with.

Microsoft's search engine caption for this picture is, “Xbox avatars showing a diverse group of people in different outfits.”
I guess this is all Rare Ltd. ended up being good for?

Let's see what topics would fall under Phil Spencer's initiatives that KoopaTV has happened to already write about as existing problems. None of these would be resolved by applying the mute button, though Microsoft considers the mute button's existence to be an extension of this initiative:
By the way, there's this notion out there that since Microsoft has been taken over by social justice warriors, the only refuge left is Nintendo. That's nice to think, but Nintendo literally has been paying attention to, and acting upon, (almost) all of these same issues for years. Or did no one use Miiverse? It was very easy to get in trouble there for even the slightest of family-unfriendly offenses, to the point that I got a warning for talking about Turnabout Trump in Apollo Justice: Ace Attorney. You know, because no controversial political discussions allowed, and President Donald John Trump's name qualifies, even if it's game-related and “trump” is an English word.

I just wrote about how important free speech is for public debate and how lamentable it is that Internet communities are forbidding free expression. However, I don't hold it against Nintendo or Microsoft for trying to keep a tight, controversy-free family-friendly ecosystem and asking for controversial material to be discussed elsewhere (like on KoopaTV's comments section). 

And believe me, Microsoft has every reason to be as family-friendly as Nintendo. Last I checked, their average ESRB game rating is sub-teenager.

Ludwig really doesn't understand why anyone would watch some obnoxious repetitive YouTuber discuss this topic in an uninformed way when you could instead read this well-prepared article experience that you can customise to be a short read or a long series of reads with all of the hyperlinked content. Plus, any comments you make on Ludwig's articles will be responded to. Promise! Anyway, assuming you took the time to read Phil Spencer's op-ed, are you put off by it in any way? Do you think it's great? Or do you just shrug and wonder why anyone would care? Go ahead and respond how your mind wants in the comments section.

As a quick rule, KoopaTV is inclined to stand with Phils.
Ludwig had a similar take on the Gillette commercial and how people reacted to it wrong because they didn't actually listen to its message.


  1. Sounds like SJW garbage to me.
    Think of the children!
    Muh terrorism!
    Have we learned nothing?

    1. To clarify, what's SJW garbage? Phil's op-ed, or this article?
      (...Or both?!)

      Microsoft isn't sacrificing adult experiences for the sake of the children, at least not any more than a company like Nintendo has. (As far as I can tell, less than a company like Nintendo has.)

  2. So. Most of this article is, "okay, sure, whatever" but I do take slight umbrage at Microsoft's premise that making their online community more forcibly friendly is some kind of great stride in making video games "a unifying force for the world." For one thing, as you yourself pointed out, Nintendo has already been doing that. Of course, Nintendo has ALSO been paying as much attention to the online multiplayer aspect of gaming as Donald Trump does to anyone telling him that shit he's trying to do is illegal.

    So, this may yet have some kind of effect, provided it isn't just corporate media lip service and they actually have serious intent to cut down on the stupid crap. I still maintain, however, that it will take a LOT more than that for gaming to become an actual unifying force--which I do believe it has the potential to be. But I seriously doubt it'll be Microsoft who achieves that feat, in the end.

    1. ...

      Anyway, I interpreted Phil Spencer's writing as saying that games, by their very nature, are unifying. Microsoft and other gaming companies just need to help keep it that way. Microsoft isn't going at this alone. That's why there's action item #3, where Microsoft shares learnings and perhaps even other technologies to other gaming companies. And that's why his op-ed ends with,
      "We invite everyone who plays games, and industry partners, to join us in following these principles to help unify the world and do our part: make gaming accessible for everyone and protect gamers, one and all."

    2. Games are unifying by their very nature? I couldn't disagree more. That nature instead segregates gamers from non-gamers, sometimes in truly disgusting ways like when the media blames violent acts on video games, but most of the time in seemingly benign yet quietly insidious ways.

      I believe that games should be something anyone--LITERALLY anyone, can enjoy. Until that is achieved I can do nothing but scoff at the idea of games as a unifying force.

    3. Phil's idea is that games are a great equaliser for all segments of the population (I think it's only most segments of the population) for everyone who plays games.

      Obviously it's not unifying people who don't play games, but the unification is within everyone who does play games. And I'm pretty sure that's while they're playing games, not in the aftermath or meta-discussion or whatever.

      But in the moment when you're in the flow state with someone else, your minds are unified with a common objective.

      That's not unique to games or anything—I've heard being in the armed forces has the same effect—but games are probably the most accessible way to get that.


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