The latest episode of Extra Credits, the web series about gaming that’s hosted on Penny Arcade TV, is about in-game harassment, and it’s pretty fantastic. The show’s creators said they felt reluctant to speak up until they had proposed solutions. And, in collaboration with a range of experts, do they ever. Among other tools, they propose auto-muting players whose mute rates diverge more than 10 percent from the average, making communication tools a reward players have to earn, and providing publicly available data on guilds and clans that are influenced by individual players’ behavior to provide peer pressure in support of better behavior. And they’re asking Microsoft as the proprietor of X-Box Live to be the first company to step up and provide these innovations. I think these are all great ideas, and I hope they stay on Microsoft and keep us updated with a response.
I’d note, though, that all of these possibilities are circumventable. The most determined harassers and stalkers aren’t particularly deterred by basic attempts to separate them from the people they want to communicate with and intimidate. Determined misogynists can team up in clans and guilds. Technological and market-based solutions are great. But harassment victims should have the recourse to get their harassers kicked out if all other options and the communities fail them, and there should be policies and procedures in place to facilitate that final option when it’s necessary.