When playing competitive video games online, it doesn't take long to hear a slew of curse words, slurs, and other offensive rabble-rousing, often from an annoying, precocious 12-year-old. That might not be the case for long, though. Microsoft is cracking down on swearing gamers using its new Xbox One console and suspending users who upload videos with curse words. Some of game makers are getting in on the potty mouth backlash, too.
One of the big selling points of the Xbox One was its Upload Studio, a built-in app that can edit and share videos of gameplay. Through Xbox's Kinnect device, the app records gamers' video and commentary, which can then be overlaid onto the gameplay video and easily posted to YouTube or elsewhere. But videos shared through Upload Studio can also be heard by Microsoft, and the company isn't liking what it's hearing. As a response, Microsoft is suspending gamers that use “excessive profanity” from accessing its online Live network. The company explained the policy in a statement:
"[W]e take Code of Conduct moderation via Upload Studio very seriously. We want a clean, safe and fun environment for all users. Excessive profanity as well as other Code of Conduct violations will be enforced upon and result in suspension of some or all privileges on Xbox Live.
Those online suspensions also forbid Skype use, leading some to question whether Microsoft was eavesdropping on private conversations, but Microsoft was quick to put the kibosh on those rumors.
To be clear, Microsoft isn't do anything to quell cursing on its Live platform or on Skype, but only on videos shared through Upload Studio. That, to Techcrunch writer Alex Wilhelm, screams of a weird double standard. "Gamers are notoriously dickish to one another over in-game chat on any platform. Saying that swearing is not to be tolerated (at least partially) in this one area of gaming on top of a platform that is an obscenity cannon just feels squishy."
But it's not just Microsoft attempting to clean up the cursing-heavy video game culture. Best-selling soccer game FIFA 13 last year introduced a feature in which the digital referees and commentators heard and responded to the human gamer's real-life cursing with in-game penalties, such as yellow cards. That same feature appears in this year's edition, FIFA 14, and it's now getting greater public attention as part of the pro-free speech backlash to Microsoft's snooping.
One of Reddit's top rated posts today comes from user "Rossboomsocks", who posted the picture at right showing that the game's sensors are listening. Framed as a warning from "Manchester City's Board of Directors," (the franchise that he controls) the message reads that "the language you have used puts us all in a bad light. Please try and refrain from using such colourful language in the future and control your overly aggressive nature." Apparently, Mr. Rossboomsocks had been a bit too vocal in his surely tasteful and respectful disagreements.
If Microsoft holds its line and gets foul mouths out of its online Upload Studio, there might be one decisive winner: rival console maker Sony and the Playstation 4.
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.