Xbox head Phil Spencer announced on Monday that his company will be an ally in the fight to rid the gaming industry of what he called a “growing toxic stew of hate speech, bigotry and misogyny,” according to The Hollywood Reporter.
In an op-ed on the Microsoft blogs, Spencer declared that “gaming is for everyone” while denouncing the stereotype that gamers are predominantly men or teenage boys.
“If you imagine gamers as predominantly men and specifically teen boys, think again,” Spencer wrote. “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 noted that gaming has become a leading cultural industry greater than music or movies that unfortunately has engendered “a growing toxic stew of hate speech, bigotry and misogyny.” He explained that video games are the exact opposite of that, primarily in their capacity to give people of all different backgrounds an equal plane to meet on.
“No different from rock and roll, books and TV before them, video games are often dismissed or maligned as frivolous, fraught with violence or filled exclusively with hate-mongering,” he wrote. “But gaming is uniquely designed for equality. 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.”
Buttressing his point, Spencer cited Dr. Linda Tropp, a professor of psychology at University of Massachusetts Amherst, who said, “As an interactive form of entertainment, gaming environments have the potential to bring people together for collaborations across differences, and to build empathy and mutual understanding through play.”
To those who would call video games a “waste of time,” Spencer argued that video games have been proven to have social benefits, such as helping the socialization of children with autism or the memories of Alzheimer’s patients. He also claimed that gaming engenders girls to enter STEM fields.
“Just consider: teen girls who play video games are three times more likely to pursue a STEM degree,” he wrote. “Among teenagers who play games online with others daily, 74% have made friends online and 37% have made more than five friends online.“
Spencer laid out three principles in order to best combat the growing trend of toxicity in the gaming industry:
- We commit to be vigilant, proactive, and swift.
- We commit to empowering you to safeguard your gaming experience the way you want.
- We commit to working across the gaming industry on safety measures.
On the first principle, Spencer said the following on rooting out hate speech:
Our Xbox Safety team is nicknamed the “Defenders of Joy” because we will defend you in every humanly and technologically possible way, so gaming remains fun. We will identify potentials for abuse and misuse on our platform and will fix problems quickly. We are also intent on expanding the composition of our safety team so wide-ranging perspectives can help us identify future safety problems and solutions. Because hate and harassment have no place in gaming, we recently published a refreshed version of our Xbox Community Standards to communicate how each of us can keep gaming fun and safe for all and detail the consequences when any of us break these standards.