|So back in 2001 Bungie created this great game called Halo: Combat Evolved for the Xbox game console. It changed the way that first person shooters were played, and opened up the MMO shooter arena full throttle. In 2007, after the release of Halo 3, Bungie decided to call it quits with Microsoft, who had acquired them way back in 2000. They agreed to make a couple more games after the split, Halo ODST and Halo Reach, but as soon as those were finished they moved on to other projects. The Halo franchise is now owned by Microsoft, through 343 Industries, a company they created just to run Halo. And now, it seems they are determined to change more about the gaming industry.
About 3 weeks before the official release date of Halo 4, pirated copies appeared online and thousands downloaded it onto their modified Xbox. This is nothing new really, all previous Halo games had been available online as well. Most games, movies, music and just about anything digital can and will be pirated. So why did Microsoft come down so hard its players this time? Ostensibly it's because so many people were posting spoilers and videos on You Tube (which also happened for Halo3, ODST, Reach, etc) Apparently, there were lots of people who watched these videos and had the entire game ruined for them. Seriously? I'm going to have to call BS on that. First of all, if you have time to watch the ENTIRE Halo 4 game on You Tube, thereby spoiling the story for you, I'm going to guess that you will still waste the same amount of time playing the game yourself. Second, gimme a break...watching a few vids of cut scene isn't going to spoil anything, it's just going to whet your appetite and make you really want to play the game. It seems to me that Microsoft has permanently banned players for giving them what amounts to free advertising. The few thousand people who did download the pirated game are still paying their Xbox Live fees (which is how they got caught) and not making the slightest dent in game sales. The publicity over the bans alone is bound to increase game sales, and that just seems a little too sneaky for my liking.
Then there is the anti-sexism banning. 343 Industries and Microsoft both, represented by Bonnie Ross and Kiki Wolfkill respectively, have taken a strong stance on sexism in games. Players found in violation of the code of conduct forbidding sexist remarks and harassment now face permanent bans for their behavior. They believe it is time to make a point: that gaming is not a male dominated area anymore. While I agree with the sentiment, I find the punishment to be extreme. You don't just get banned from Halo...you get banned from Xbox Live... no Hulu, no Netflix, no online at all for you mister.
In any kind of competitive arena, there will be trash talking. It's inevitable. If you can't take it, hit the mute button or stop playing. I'm not saying there shouldn't be a punishment for truly mean harassment, but do like Riot Games does, ban the player for a week first. Then a couple weeks. Then if they keep being a jerk, resort to permanent action. Also, instead of having Microsoft kick people off, try a player-made tribunal that allows people to report each other for harassment, and allows players to judge the cases and vote on punishment. That way it doesn't feel like The Man coming down on you for playing a video game. This is what happens when a game company starts taking itself too seriously. I mean come on, it's a game, relax Microsoft.