Xbox Live is, pure and simple, one of the biggest embarrassments in gaming. While the vast majority of players are normal people who just want to play some games, there’s a vocal minority of trolls that the service just can’t get rid of.
Microsoft is touting changes to Xbox Live coming as part of the Xbox One that will supposedly stuff the trolls back under their bridge for good. Unfortunately, those changes don’t look to be as effective as Redmond is hoping.
Here are the three prongs of what Microsoft hopes will make Live a place more people want to visit. And why, ultimately, they won’t work.
The idea here is that as you misbehave, you get reported, and as you get reported, your reputation will be lowered and lowered until you go from green, to yellow, to red. Red, of course, is the “avoid” color. And of course, Microsoft has systems in place to prevent trolls from sinking your rating, a claim that should already being ringing alarms.
Why It Won’t Work: The problem with trolls is that they don’t realize, or care, that they’re trolls, and the trolls tend to play with other trolls because, to be honest, Live is fairly self-selecting: We’ve all booted somebody from our lobby based solely on their Gamertag. So, building a reputation on what other players think has the potential to be like putting a serial killer in front of a jury of other serial killers; they’re probably not going to be able to figure out what they’re doing wrong. Until they blunder into somebody else’s game, and then they’ll think it’s funny.
The basic idea here is that you’re paired with somebody of the same reputation, skill, and so on. No more getting stomped! No more getting shot by your own team! Hopefully!
Why It Won’t Work: Yeah, this might deter your average seven-year-old calling you homophobic slurs. But it won’t deter the dedicated douchebag and it’s really those that have hung on the longest. Your average Xbox Live troll is a teenager, who by definition has unlimited time on his or her hands, which means in turn they’ll probably use that time to carefully build a reputation and then ruin your game before posting the results on YouTube.
Essentially, you can join XBL’s neighborhood watch. Yep, Microsoft wants you, the gamer, to report other gamer misbehavior on their system, starting with gamertags.
Why It Won’t Work: One of these days, somebody will Google “crowdsouring”, notice that 4Chan sent Pitbull to Alaska, Taylor Swift to a school for the deaf, and nearly got Mountain Dew named “Hitler Did Nothing Wrong” and realize that you get what you pay for. Granted, they’ll do a better job of it than Microsoft, just ask Richard Gaywood. But it grants anybody who wants it a thin rind of authority, which is usually the beginning of something horrible happening on the Internet.
So what can Microsoft do? Honestly, make permanent bans more common, and make them across all services. The reality is, Microsoft is trying to teach jerks to not be jerks, and that’s not only not its job, it doesn’t have the tools to do it. So, Microsoft, don’t skirt the issue: If you want the trolls gone for good, throw them out.