Not since 2018’s The Game Awards have we seen the three console platforms stand so clearly side-by-side. But yesterday Nintendo, Sony and Xbox puts aside their differences and put out simultaneous announcements on safer gaming.
The three announcements, on official blogs, were all entitled ‘Our Shared Commitment to Safer Gaming’ and while the intros were different they all contained a set of principles that each company has agreed to abide by.
These principles have been created to help protect the the safety of all players, but specifically the most vulnerable in the gaming community. To that end, all three companies have commited to three key tenets. But what will these mean in practice and what wasn’t offered?
“Prevention: Empower players and parents to understand and control gaming experiences” – so educating and providing tools and safety features they can use. Although there’s no promise here to develop cross-platform tools to assist with monitoring usage in multi-platform households for instance.
“Partnership: We commit to partnering with the industry, regulators, law enforcement, and our communities to advance user safety” – this includes a promise to ‘conduct shared research for the benefit of the industry’ although there’s no commitment to make such research public. It also says it will work with a variety of bodies and experts to develop safety initiatives, so we await our invitation.
“Responsibility: We hold ourselves accountable for making our platforms as safe as possible for all players” – There’s a commitment here to publishing the rules that it will hold players too, much like EA has done recently. But there’s no commitment to publishing any kind of annual report on the joint effort, say number of complaints for instance.
The industry does need to tread carefully here. While there is obviously work to do, it’s easy for the platforms (often viewed by law makers globally as ‘for children’) to be vilified. The inherent social nature of gaming platforms means there will always be those acting poorly or in bad faith, but compared to the kind of behaviour/content seen on big social media platforms, the industry is far from being the biggest problem out there (after all, Xbox isn’t hosting the daily denunciations of democratic process by the democratically-elected leader of the most powerful country in the world).
How then to continue to improve things, and ensure safety to the best of its ability, but without creating a reaction in the mass media that could then lead to unhelpful knee jerk responses.
Here’s the principles in full.
Prevention: Empower players and parents to understand and control gaming experiences.
- We provide controls that let players customize their gaming experience. We support parents with the tools and information necessary to create appropriate gaming experiences for their children.
- We recognize that for safety features to be useful, they must be easy to use. We will promote the availability of our safety tools through our platforms, support channels, services, on our websites and in retail stores to reach more players and parents.
- We invest in technology to help thwart improper conduct and content before a player is subject to harm.
Partnership: We commit to partnering with the industry, regulators, law enforcement, and our communities to advance user safety.
- The industry’s commitment to safety is central. We believe that we have an opportunity to collaborate for the benefit of the video game industry and all players to offer a safer gaming experience.
- We work with industry trade organizations, industry members, regulators, law enforcement, and experts to develop and advance online safety initiatives.
- We commit to conducting shared research for the benefit of the industry.
- We believe that hate and harassment or exploitation of younger players in any way have no place in gaming. We partner with our community to promote safe gaming behavior and encourage the use of reporting tools to call out bad actors.
- We partner with ratings agencies such as the ESRB and PEGI to ensure that our games are rated for the appropriate audience.
Responsibility: We hold ourselves accountable for making our platforms as safe as possible for all players.
- We make it easy for players to report violations of our code of conduct and, in addition to removing content, we take appropriate enforcement actions for violations, including restricting players from using our services for misconduct.
- We comply with all local laws and will respond to all lawful requests from law enforcement. We promptly notify law enforcement if we observe unlawful conduct or where we believe a player is at risk of imminent harm.
- We publish our rules and requirements and we ensure that players who have been reported understand the requirements for continued engagement with our platforms.