The banhammer is the most powerful weapon of all.
Last week was mostly a downer I'll admit. While the whole potential corruption in games journalism thing is hardly new, this particular case just kind of made it apparent how bad it might be. Certainly if someone offered me a job in this industry with the rider that I'd have to stifle my assertions to be more in line with what bigger fish expected of me I'd have to reject that offer. However, since I'm still just a dude pretending to be a dude pretending to be another dude who blogs about vidya gaems I think that I'm alright.
With that out of the way, let's get back on track, shall we?
Odds are if you play online shooters then you've encountered trash talk. Whether you've been the person dishing it out or the one on the receiving end it's fair to say that smack is somewhat ubiquitous in most FPS's. Now, trash talk can range from fairly light stuff, to outright garbage. The thing is though, if you're one of the many, many people that's going to be enjoying some Halo 4 multiplayer in the very near future, then it would be wise to make sure that any smack coming out of your mouth is more towards the lighter side of things.
Why do you need to watch your mouth? Because the dev team is saying that anyone who gets caught laying down sexist, racist, or otherwise inappropriate comments could be getting a lifetime ban.
The question that immediately springs to my mind is how something like this might be enforced, and where the line is drawn. Doubtless that people will complain that they should have the right to say whatever they please, since first of all the ESRB doesn't give any guarantee as to the rating of online content (basically, don't go crying to them if people start swearing in an E rated online game, or whatever), and that by purchasing the game they've also purchased the online component of it as well, so it shouldn't be taken away from them.
I can concede on some level that if you can't handle the language and trash talking, then such online games might not be for you. However, even in the circles that I run in I still hear trash talk now and then that transcends mere chest-thumping and really gets into harassment level territory. People may argue that they have a right to say whatever they want online, but I honestly believe that people also have a right to play the games they want to play without necessarily having to deal with the kind of shit that spews out of the mouths of those around them.
Although I have mentioned it before, I think it's worth saying again that playing the online component of any game is a privilege, not a right. You buy a game for access to the single player in some cases, or even just to get in the door. For a long time communities have reserved the right to let whomever the hell they want either play or not through use of passworded servers, VIP access, and of course banning and kicking features. Since Xbox Live services are provided mostly through Microsoft, they're essentially just letting you hang out on servers they provide, and they can (and have) revoked that right.
The largest concern I can think of is how people will prove that they've been the victim of unwanted harassment. Not everyone has opporunities to record gameplay footage, and I think that the system might would do better to err on the side of caution rather than end up banning people who got the finger unfairly pointed at them. This of course does assume that all of this posturing will actually amount to something, I'm not 100% sure, but I do believe such claims about coming down on people with severe cases of shitmouth has been tossed around, only for nothing to really come of it. I guess we'll find out rather quickly in this case whether it's all bark, no bite, or actually something they plan to follow through on.