May 20th, 2019, 22:07 Posted By: wraggster
Xbox is on a PR campaign. Not, as you might expect, purely for itself, but on behalf of the whole games industry.
This week, the World Health Organisation will decide on whether to add Gaming Disorder to its list of official diseases. It's putting an official diagnosis on situations where a person becomes so hooked on a game that it negatively impacts their lives.
Microsoft agrees with the Entertainment Software Association and almost all other games industry bodies in that there is currently not enough evidence as to whether Gaming Disorder is a standalone disease, or rather a symptom of other underlying issues. "We need more research" is the common response from those within the business, and one that Microsoft concurs with.
Yet the response from Xbox to this -- and indeed the row over loot boxes and gambling -- isn't entirely a denial.
"Things are a bit spotty and the story isn't complete and we need to learn more," head of operations Dave McCarthy tells us. "And we participate in that research and we drive some of our own. At the same time, we feel -- at Xbox and Microsoft -- that we have a huge responsibility when it comes to the healthy gaming lifestyle of the players on our service overall. We have an on-going commitment to constantly evolving that tool set around things, like screen time, content restrictions and spending controls... because some people need help. Parents especially, it's not easy being a parent in this modern age.
Xbox's Dave McCarthy
"I think it's a balance of having the right research to guide decision making overall, but that does not excuse ourselves from having responsibility to lead in this area."
McCarthy is talking to GamesIndustry.biz from a hotel room in London where he is demoing the firm's latest safety features. We've been shown some of these features several times before. Microsoft has certainly been proactive in promoting them.
The parental controls are extensive, allowing parents to block certain titles (and not just those with higher age ratings), restrict websites, set gaming time limits for each day, track their kids' screen time, prevent spending in-game, and more.
McCarthy also detailed some of the company's efforts in shutting down offensive imagery and text using machine learning and AI. He detailed its PhotoDNA technology, which prevents offensive imagery over Xbox Live and is now being trialled in identifying inappropriate language in text within Xbox's various online Clubs. The aim, he says, is to roll this out across Xbox Live.
This is in addition to current human moderation, McCarthy stresses. He also called out the firm's latest efforts in educating its audience on what is appropriate behaviour on Xbox Live.
"It's the power of transparency and showing intent to people on what we actually value and what we want the community to be. It sounds like a painfully simple step to take, but it's actually been really effective. Having our gamers understand what good looks like... because a lot of them don't know any better. They've grown up without somebody laying it out for them."
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