If there’s one place where swearing can be considered part of the status quo, it’s in online games. Anybody who has played anything from Call of Duty to Planetside with their voice chat enabled has experienced high-pitched jibes about their sexual preferences towards various creatures of the animal kingdom on more than one occasion.
Microsoft may be content to let this slide, but not with footage on the Upload Store.
It’s hard to figure out where Microsoft are supposed to draw the line. Opinions vary greatly on the subject of freedom of speech online, and both sides have merit – with the average age of gamers breaking 30, what’s the issue with swearing? Uploaded videos laced with profanity should be policed like any other video, and besides, it’s far less problematic than the fluent and targeted torrents of abuse that gamers of all ages experience online.
But what about the children, the other side cry? A redundant statement nowadays some might argue, but with the average age of those who play games being as high as it is, they are likely to have children themselves – they know what to expect. The layout of Xbox Live is such that it’s very simple to encounter these videos whether you like it or not. Social networking makes sharing not only simple, but also a natural step in the publication of media. Should you not be able to opt out of profane and insensitive content?
Yeah, it’s not so cut and dry, is it?
The problem stems from a point I’ve covered in a previous article – these are not just consoles, these are social media machines. Both Microsoft and Sony alike have identified the evolving trends of interactivity, sharing and community online, and both have worked hard to put these features at the pinnacle of the next generation. A great development for the consoles, certainly, but it also means that they inherit the problems surrounding social media too.
As an example, lots of websites around the web police their commentary sections, cutting out abusive posts from users and handing out subsequent suspensions. Lots of websites don’t do this. When it comes down to free speech, it almost becomes a matter of personal preference about how much emphasis you put on monitoring the comments posted on your website. The host is not legally responsible for the content posted on his or her website, and therefore could be content to leave it as it is – other users will probably do the job of downrating/verbally reprimanding the poster for you. Even so, not everybody wants a racist or inflammatory statement sat underneath an article with their name on it.
Although Microsoft are at the forefront of the discussion, it would be naive to assume that Sony will not be doing the same with the Playstation 4. They have the same problems to deal with as their rivals, and although the console war will continue to rage on, solidarity on this issue will work best for both parties.
Both consoles have strong parental controls in place, but social networking is presenting a new challenge for both these companies to deal with. Microsoft are holding a hard line, and Sony is likely to follow, but I doubt this will be the last we see of the two heavyweight next-gen consoles struggling to cope with the nuances of something that nobody has mastered quite yet.