Xbox chief welcomes legal game regulation moves as action is urged on ‘toxic stew’ of online hate
NEW laws and regulations around video games might be needed, according to Dave McCarthy, head of Xbox operations at Microsoft.
McCarthy recently told The Sun that “regulators and government getting involved” in gaming was “a positive thing” for the industry and it would be “good” if Microsoft helped inspire some legislation.
“There’s a role for government and regulation to play,” he says, adding that government involvement also “helps raise awareness of the problems and the tools available to tackle them.”
“It’s good for us to talk about holding everybody up to a base level of expectations,” he says, before going on to say that Microsoft would be “pushing regardless” to improve its track record on safety.
“If that complements legislation, great,” he explained. “If it helps inspire some, or inspire our partners or even competitors to go new things in this space I think that’s good too.”
“There’s not actually a ton of ill intent” among lawmakers trying to ban games and crack down on loot boxes, McCarthy says, and “the responsibility is at least partially on us to meet them in the middle.”
His comments come as part of a call from Microsoft for the games industry to come together and act on safety and accessibility rather than just pumping out products.
McCarthy’s boss, Xbox chief Phil Spencer, says in a blog post today that “gaming must promote and protect the safety of all” and slamming the rest of the industry for not doing enough.
The “growing toxic stew of hate speech, bigotry and misogyny” threatens everyone, Spencer says, and it’s down to the industry to act.
“The imminent roll-out of new game services such as Apple Arcade, Google Stadia and Microsoft’s Project xCloud, will make gaming available to even more people worldwide,” he says, and so it’s time the industry matched its “fierce urgency to play with our fierce urgency for safety.”
The only way to fight this and make gaming safe is by “uniting as an industry”, he says, and is promising to work with other companies to share technology covering “safety, security and privacy”.
When it comes to cross-industry co-operation Microsoft has put its money where its mouth is with Photo DNA, an AI tool they developed that is now widely used by other companies to automatically detect and block child abuse images or extremist propaganda.
They recently buried the hatchet with fierce rivals Sony with a promise to work together for the future of gaming.
McCarthy told The Sun that xCloud and the upcoming next-generation Xbox were all designed from the ground up with “safety, privacy, and security” in mind.
Safety is now “ingrained in the team” in a way it hasn’t been before, which is affecting the design of new products.
Spencer says that Xbox will “identify potentials for abuse and misuse on our platform” and promises they will fix any problems that come up quickly.
There are new AI tools being implemented right now as well as an 150,000-strong army of Xbox “Ambassadors” to help root out problems in games and in the communities around games, according to McCarthy.
Microsoft is also going to “roll out new programs for the health of our entire gaming community” and new tools for gamers and for parents to “fit for your personal comfort level”.
The new push comes as Parliament probes “addictive” games and shortly after the World Heath Organisation launched an attack on gaming as it separated out “gaming disorder” from other technological addictions, and as the police warn about the dangers of online predators in games.
It’s important for the industry to recognise “that it’s tough to be a parent today,” according to McCarthy, and put more power in parents’ hands.
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Microsoft’s growing suite of parental controls are meant to do that, with Spencer revealing that so far 26 million ‘Child or Teen’ accounts have been made for Xbox.
These let parents not only precisely control what games their kids play, but also what websites they visit, when they’re allowed to play games, and how and when they can spend money.
“It is our responsibility in the industry to provide people with the tools that help [parents] cope,” McCarthy says.