In a newly published op-ed by Phil Spencer, the Xbox executive outlines the Xbox team’s plans to fight toxicity in gaming. Leading with a short anecdote about how gaming served as a portal for him and his father to begin programming, Spencer then transitions into the two “fundamental truths” he holds about gaming: Gaming is for everyone, and it should protect everyone who partakes in it.
“If you imagine gamers as predominantly men and specifically teen boys, think again,” Spencer says. “We are a 2.6 billion-person strong community of parents playing with our kids, adventurers exploring worlds together, teachers making math wondrous, grandmothers learning about their grandchildren through play, and soldiers connecting with their folks back home. Most gamers today are adults; nearly half are women.”
Spencer continues to overview the ways games and gamers have been “dismissed or maligned,” offering counters to this viewpoint with multiple studies showing the mental, social, and academic benefits gaming offers both children and adults.
“Gaming is uniquely designed for equality,” Spencer says. “We don’t just walk in someone’s shoes – we stand on equal footing, regardless of age, education, socioeconomics, race, religion, politics, gender, orientation, ethnicity, nationality, or ability.”
Spencer then outlines his and Xbox’s plan to combat toxicity. The first step, says Spencer, is to expand the reach and scope of the Xbox Safety team, nicknamed the “Defenders of Joy.”
“A welcoming community is the key to a safe community,” Spencer says. “Our 150,000 Xbox Ambassadors – community leaders, stewards, and allies – will be engaged to embark on new community missions to help create an inviting and safe environment for all gamers.”
Additionally, Spencer delves into content moderation for children and teens, citing workshops and online resources Microsoft has offered to parents looking to protect their children from adult content or online harassment. Spencer also mentions the upcoming “Gaming Summer Camps,” where children can be offered “new ways to explore life skills and practice healthy habits that can be used in gaming and everyday life.”
“We’re innovating now in these and other concrete ways to reduce, filter, and develop a shared understanding of toxic experiences, and to ultimately put our community of gamers, and their parents or guardians, in control of their own experiences,” Spencer says.
According to Spencer, Microsoft intends to share this technology and knowledge with police and other technology companies to create a safer universal gaming space.
Closing his statement, Spencer cites the approaching launch of streaming services such as Microsoft’s Project Xcloud, as well as the Apple Arcade and Google Stadia, to stress the importance of immediate improvements to player safety from abuse and harassment.
“Our industry must now answer the fierce urgency to play with our fierce urgency for safety,” Spencer says. “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.”
Xbox’s supposed willingness to share its safety resources with other tech companies is a good move, and continues the trend of Xbox listening to its fans. Toxic culture in games isn’t going away any time soon, but if Spencer’s promises are followed through, there might be more resources for people to fight it.
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Xbox Head Phil Spencer Addresses Toxicity In Gaming And Outlines A Plan To Combat It