This week’s topic is a little different from usual because this week, we all need to talk about the news.
And I don’t mean all the chaos that tends to show up on Channel 12 between 6:30 and 9 in the morning, or the downward spiral that seems to be Cyberpunk 2077 after a huge, months-long marketing push. (No, really—go look at the ratings for PlayStation and Xbox.)
No, today we need to talk about the actual newswire.
From what I can tell, this particular story went relatively unnoticed this week. Heck, I only saw it because my phone likes to recommend obscure news stories for who knows what reason. But on Monday, the Big 3 in gaming—Xbox, PlayStation, and Nintendo—put out a joint press release.
That would have been interesting on its own, because as someone who regularly works with PR, I can tell you it’s annoying enough to do a collaborative press release when it isn’t with your top two competitors. But the content of the press release was just as intriguing as the circumstances of it.
Essentially, it announced a joint venture between the three to work together to create a safer online world for what they called vulnerable players.
And I think this may end up being a bigger deal for gaming than we all thought.
The issue of online safety
According to the press release, online safety in the context of gaming has two main components: Privacy and security, and community.
All players deserve to have fantastic social gaming experiences in settings where respect and safety are mutual.
Privacy and security
This is absolutely a major concern, and not just in the gaming world. Cyber crime has only gotten worse with the pandemic, because with so many workers home and unprotected by their IT department’s superior firewalls and whatnot, cyber criminals have gotten much more aggressive.
I’ve even seen things like phishing attempts in private messages in FFXIV—and that’s a problem. Because while I’m a 29-year-old adult who knows not to click on things that kind of look like the official forum but aren’t, a 13-year-old in that same game who gets that same message doesn’t, and before they know it, a stranger with bad intentions has access to an account that’s connected to a credit card.
Historically, the issue of privacy and security is handled independently by different platforms—that’s not unique to gaming.
I could be out of the loop here, but this is one of the first instances I’ve seen of companies coming together to establish a united front against privacy and security problems, which I think could inspire more of the same—both from other companies and other industries.
We can accomplish more when we work toward the same goal.
Anyone who’s spent any significant time in an online gaming community will know the level of toxicity that can happen. Just watch a clip of a girl in voice chat in an online FPS; more often than not, she’ll get threats of violence and even death.
May or may not be why I am antisocial as heck in online games.
I don’t entertain any illusions that anything Xbox, PlayStation, or Nintendo could do would ever stop people who do that from doing it. That’s a problem with those humans, not a problem with the platform. But I do believe that measures of transparency and awareness can only be good things.
From what I understand in the press release, part of the new initiative is a joint effort to promote a unified vision of what the online community should be, including better communication about what’s acceptable and better reporting structures for what’s not.
After all, people take cues from others, especially as kids learning how the online gaming world works. If we can teach future generations that manners matter online as much as offline, I say that’s a win.
And it could mean big things for gaming, too.
When they finally gave in, it was to allow players to play Fortnite with other platforms, and involved strict rules around what could and couldn’t be shared.
This, at least to me, represents a much bigger leap of faith—and a little bit of humility.
While the video game industry has a long history of taking steps to protect gamers, we recognize that no one company or industry will solve these challenges alone.
It suggests to me that rather than bridging gaps in each other’s policies for their own users, the Big 3 in gaming are instead looking to create one policy that they—and any others who choose to participate—can share. It signifies a much grander scale, a new industry standard for how players are treated online.
From there, I can see this turning out in a few different ways:
- It could promote new styles of crossplay, where games aren’t nearly as console-locked as they are
- It could help bring communities together and end the console wars once and for all (here’s hoping, at least)
- It could help empower women and minorities in online communities where they might have previously been afraid of verbal violence
- And it could help teach a new generation to be more mindful of others, both online and offline
I think it’s worth a shot, don’t you?