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Halo Infinite: Xbox co-creator speaks up against harassment scandal

Halo Infinite Multiplayer - Image Microsoft
Online gaming has advanced dramatically over the past two decades, yet many players, particularly women, continue to have a negative experience with harassment. Twitch broadcaster Grenade Queen recently posted a video on Twitter that shows footage of her recent encounter with toxic Halo Infinite players.

Despite her silence throughout the footage, the offending players (mostly formed of men) are shown aggressively throwing sexist obscenities at her, telling her to quit playing Halo since it’s not for women and move to a more gaming-oriented game like Fortnite or VALORANT. One player even suggested that instead of playing the game, she should go on Twitch and do something provocative.

“No woman should have to deal with this if they’re having 1 rough game against decent people… this was only part of it,” Grenade Queen tweeted, implying that the insult-filled video was only a small fraction of the abuse she faced in the game. Many Twitter users responded in the comments section, either to agree or disagree with her.

Similar recordings of women being bullied online, regardless of how well they play, have gone viral before, and this will likely not be the last time a woman is ridiculed solely for being a woman while playing online.

Xbox co-creator speaks up on the issue

Seamus Blackley, the co-creator of the original Xbox system, is one of the people who encountered the harassment footage, and he’s not happy with what he saw.

First-person shooters, especially those on the Xbox network (previously Xbox Live), have a long history of being toxic cesspools brimming with bullies, out to ruin people’s days. This is a well-deserved reputation since the genre has traditionally been targeted towards adolescent males, and it is based on the notion that wearing heavy armor and shooting a rifle is a macho act.

In a direct response to Grenade Queen’s video, Blackey stressed, “This wasn’t the future for Xbox Live we envisioned. As a community and with the help of Microsoft this needs to be highlighted and stopped. It will take teamwork between players, devs, and console manufacturers to change this and it’s time. It’s past time.”

Blackley agrees that online hostility toward women is a persistent issue in video games. According to a poll done by Reach3 Insights in May 2021, 59 percent of women in online multiplayer games conceal their gender to prevent abuse. Only 39 percent of poll respondents felt that leading companies are doing enough to help women.

“I know this isn’t new. I know you’re angry because nothing has been done for a long time. You’re right. It only motivates me more. It’s possible to clean these environments up. Let’s do it,” Blackley concluded.

The fight against toxicity in gaming

Combating toxic conduct is a complicated subject that demands forethought from the start, as well as flexibility when new problems occur and collaboration across industries. In the same year that the Anti-Defamation League showed that the vast majority of adult gamers have encountered harassment while playing games, Xbox published clearer guidelines in an effort to reduce trash talk.

Since then, the topic hasn’t gone away, with a Sony patent for combating gaming trolls being revealed only a few days ago. It’s unclear how much publishers and developers can do to combat this type of conduct, but any move in the right direction would be a welcome improvement for anybody who has experienced gaming harassment, particularly targeted assaults based on a player’s gender or ethnicity.