I don't play a lot of online games on consoles, and when I do it's with friends. Why? Because of the state of the online gaming community. Most console gamers are fine opponents and teammates, but it doesn't take many vile individuals spouting racial slurs and homophobic epithets to turn a gaming session into a very uncomfortable environment. If you haven't played online, trust me you'd be shocked at the things you hear.
When Microsoft was pitching the Xbox One they promised to take steps to improve the community by instituting a reputation system. If someone is misbehaving you can report that person, and if enough people report him, his reputation drops. It sounded like a good start but when the Xbox One launched, it did so without the reputation system.
That's finally going to change. According to a post on Xbox Wire the reputation system is coming soon. When it arrives all players will fall into three categories.
"Good" players are players like you and me. We're there to have fun, not to explore the limits of human decency. Microsoft says most Xbox Live players will be "Good" players.
As your reputation falls you'll enter the "Needs Work" bracket. That's just a warning to you to change your ways. If you don't, you may fall into the "Avoid Me" bracket. At that point your matchmaking opportunities may be limited and you could lose access to certain features, like Twitch streaming.
Microsoft says they're already gathering data and when the reputation system launches some players may already find they're in one of the lower brackets.
Your reputation improves as you encounter other people who don't feel the need to report you. In other words, "no comment" is a positive vote in this system. If someone complains about you, your reputation falls. If someone compliments you or says nothing about you, your reputation improves.
Microsoft claims to have systems in place so that people can't game the system and gang up on individuals to drive down their reputation. For obvious reasons they're not giving out details of these systems (since that would help people figure out how to work around them). They also point out that if you have a bad day and spew some curses and are reported, your reputation isn't going to plummet. It sounds like there needs to be a pattern of many people consistently reporting you in order for your reputation to fall.
I'm glad Microsoft is rolling out this system though it still feels a bid too coddling towards the trolls. If someone is being awful and I just drop out of the session in disgust, that person has in essence gotten a thumbs up from me because I didn't stop to report him before I left. It's going to be up to gamers to be pro-active about reporting people who don't know how to behave in public. Whether they will do that, or whether they just won't bother, remains to be seen.
When I talk to my friends who play online, many of them tell me they immediately mute all other players they don't know upon entering a gaming session. This means my friends won't hear bad behavior and so won't report it. Again, they'll effectively be giving all other players a thumbs up. Microsoft is asking everyone to subject themselves to the bad players in order to report the bad players. It'll be interesting to see how effective this system is.
But at least it's a start.
Read more of Peter Smith's TechnoFile blog and follow the latest IT news at ITworld. Follow Peter on Twitter at @pasmith. For the latest IT news, analysis and how-tos, follow ITworld on Twitter and Facebook.