Xbox boss Phil Spencer recently spoke to the New York Times about the state of the industry, and a big topic was harassment, what companies have learned from the uglier elements of recent history, and what they're going to be doing about it in the future. Spencer made it clear that Xbox doesn't see itself as a free speech platform, and understandably detailed the current processes and how Xbox accounts allow Microsoft to be pretty comprehensive when it chooses to wield the banhammer.
That is now, however, and Spencer has an interesting idea about what the future may look like. Someone with an Xbox account who is a bad actor can be fairly easily banned from Microsoft's services and games: But what about when they just take that stuff elsewhere? Or even follow their targets across games?
“Something I would love us to be able to do,” says Spencer, “this is a hard one as an industry—is when somebody gets banned in one of our networks, is there a way for us to ban them across other networks?”
What Spencer is suggesting may seem, depending on the type of bad behaviour we're talking about, a little like overreach: We can probably all agree that no-one likes toxic players, while also distinguishing between abuse and petulance (for example, rage quitting). The idea of bans carrying across games and platforms… that's a biggie. But the way to do it, Spencer suggests, is to link the bans to the accounts of people who've been bothered by these players: That is, the bad actors won't be banned from these other platforms, but the players they've bothered will never see them on these platforms.
“As a player,” says Spencer, “[what I'd like to see is] for me to be able to bring my banned user list, because I can always block people from my play. And I’d love to be able to bring them to other networks where I play. So this is the group of people that I choose not to play with. Because I don’t want to have to recreate that in every platform that I play video games on.”
Spencer talks about a wide range of topics in the interview, including Activision-Blizzard's ongoing reckoning with various allegations of abuse, harassment and sexism (“Xbox's history is not spotless”). You can read or listen to the full interview here.