Curmudgeon Gamer
Curmudgeoning all games equally.
21 May 2008
Wrongheaded Microsoft
Yes, Microsoft has the right to choose what GamerTags are allowed and which are not. I don't dispute that. It's their system, after all.

But you don't have to choose to cater to the very lowest common denominator, the poorly informed (at best, stupid at worst). If a man's name happens to be Richard Gaywood and he uses that for his nickname online, then for crying out loud honor his request. And if someone complains, then do your due diligence, determine if it's the guy's real name, and then explain to complainant that "it's the dude's name, now you know the story behind it, please go back to playing games".

Honestly, Microsoft missed the opportunity to set a great example here and they blew it. If this keeps happening (the most recent case before this one was a ban of theGAYERGamer), all the backpedaling in the world won't fix it. After all, Microsoft took a $1 billion charge toward supporting all those red-ring-of-death systems out there (and largely calmed the storm) but that still won't stop people from wondering out loud whether Microsoft's next system after the Xbox 360 will have the same quality issues.

Also, someone with connections needs to ask what happens to PSN IDs like this. (Does Mr. Gaywood have a PS3? If they'd allow his name, Sony should send him one and offer him the PSN ID of his choice.)

I'm really kind of in favor of allowing theGAYERGamer too, but I can at least understand their complaint. The problem is that Microsoft contends it contains "sexual innuendo" since the term gay has sexual connotations for a lot of people. I stopped thinking of it that way some time ago.

Labels: ,

--Matt Matthews at 21:29
Comment [ 8 ]

Comments on this post:

The problem is that Microsoft contends it contains "sexual innuendo" since the term gay has sexual connotations for a lot of people. I stopped thinking of it that way some time ago.

And you've replaced it with _____, with which a no longer wrongheaded but now enlightened Microsoft should too, in the firm and reasonable belief that _____ will also be the connotation for the term each of its online gamers will share in their online bickering?

By Blogger ruffin, at 22 May, 2008 08:42  

Microsoft is effectively agreeing that the word has sexual innuendo. In the case of Gaywood, it's the man's name. In the case of theGAYERGamer, it could be a statement of the person's lifestyle -- which need not include sex. The name in and of itself need not be the problem. If either of these dudes is acting in appropriately, especially with regard to their given nickname online, then you have cause. The name itself is not cause in either of these cases.

Microsoft should stay above that and say "the word has legitimate non-sexual uses" and leave it at that. There is no requirement that alternatives be provided, only the acknowledgment that the given word has other meanings.

By Blogger jvm, at 22 May, 2008 08:58  

In the case of theGAYERGamer, it could be a statement of the person's lifestyle -- which need not include sex.

I don't mean to go all Lacanian on you, but again you haven't substituted what gay means if it isn't largely sexual orientation. Do I believe you should censor names based on sexual orientation? Interesting question. Reminds me of the similar discourse about sexuality in men's professional sports.

But your desexualization of "gay" (perhaps legit wrt Gaywood, but only within a certain scope; with theGAYERgamer your desire for desexualization becomes clear) and the suggestion that online gamers should also desexualize the term are particularly notable in their logical omissions.

And as I suggested with Gaywood, above, the scopes of concern and control are the critical issues. Even if Mr. Gaywood doesn't personally carry a sexual connotation along with his name -- or, even more likely, he wishes to repress the connotation he and others have conglomerated around it -- Microsoft would still have, in a practical sense, a potentially inflammatory name in the, let's say, disproportionally immature and, imo, [again, disproportionally] homophobic online gaming community.

I remember when my UO character, Thopas, a name that already has its share of sexual connotations, got pkilled early on in his career, and the people that waxed the poor newbie said, "More like Thomp A$$!" Not particularly sexual, but certainly annoying. Har har. Still, the lesson is that we hardly have control over our names as if they were in some sort of social vacuum. Your statements to date seem to neglect both the socially inherent sexual connotations for the word "gay", as argued above, and the practical considerations of, here, Microsoft (you might also check out, in a sort of related note, Racism in [WoW] arena [team] names) as police of their online community.

An interesting topic, but I'm not sure you've reasoned your way far enough to start making well-argued suggestions. I know I haven't.

By Blogger ruffin, at 22 May, 2008 09:53  

In Microsoft's mind, Xbox Live is a Ben Stiller movie, and they're Robert De Niro.

By Blogger JohnH, at 22 May, 2008 13:12  

Oh, good. The world has returned to normal.

Ruffin, always the careful writer, ought to read what he writes. Microsoft is banning GamerTags with "gay" in them because of the supposed sexual innuendo. Ruffin insists Matt cede this point because surely "gay" means sexual orientation.

Just because the word "sexual" appears in both phrases doesn't mean they're the same thing.

"Sexual innuendo" means implications of the sex act -- naughty bits have to be involved somehow. "Sexual orientation" refers to which gender you're attracted to. And no, that doesn't imply sexual activity. Most 12 year olds have an opinion on whether they're gay or straight, but haven't had any sort of sex.

Should "ILikeGirls" be a banned GamerTag, by the same logic? It clearly connotes a sexual orientation. Depending on the person, it might even connote a homosexual orientation. How is it different?

I assume if "theGAYERGamer" is unacceptable, "theSTRAIGHTERGamer" must be also. And anyone named Straightwood would be subject to the same prohibition.

Matt's not "desexualizing" the word "gay". Ruffin (and, admittedly, others) have sexualized it -- dehumanized it, really -- to just mean "having homosexual sex". But (thankfully) human relationships -- homosexual and heterosexual -- are much more than, and often don't include, sex.

Claiming that these banned tags are "potentially inflammatory" in the "...immature and ...homophobic online gaming community" is PRECISELY what "catering to the very lowest common denominator" means. And I agree with Matt that Microsoft would be savvier to avoid doing it and suffering backlash from the gay-friendly community.

Bear in mind Microsoft's interest here is related to receiving complaints about the name. The griefers who said "More like Thomp A$$!" probably did NOT complain about the name to a GM -- more likely they reveled in it, and dearly hoped to pkill you again. Similarly, the adolescent who's sniggering about RichardGaywood isn't going to complain to Microsoft -- it's part of the entertainment for him.

Microsoft's concern comes in when a parent sees "RichardGaywood" and assumes it's slang that they don't want their kid exposed to or asking about. They're who send complaints to Microsoft about inappropriate GamerTags.

But it isn't slang. It isn't even about sexual orientation. It's someone's name. And as Matt said, absent inappropriate player behavior, that should be the end of the story -- no ban, and no upset feelings. (I assume complainants that can't bear that they or their children be exposed to names with "gay" in them, like Bengay and Ben Gay and the Enola Gay and Gay Street (Baltimore and others) and Gay, WV (and others) and Jonathan Gay and Marvin Gaye and Crystal Gayle, are few and far between.)

"theGAYERGamer" is at least explicitly making a statement about orientation, and I acknowledge there are people who don't want their kids exposed to the notion of homosexuality. I don't expect Microsoft to be any more progressive in this regard than, say, Wal-Mart. On the other hand, it seems that Cracker Barrel changed it's anti-gay policies, presumably because it was better for business.

Nevertheless, I can understand (if not condone) a "pragmatic" argument for banning "theGAYERGamer", but not "RichardGaywood". Microsoft obviously wants to avoid complaints, and "theGAYERGamer" can be expected to generate several -- and refusing to cater to them may mean losing their business. It seems to me that most complainants against "RichardGaywood", however, should be mollified by the explanation (it's really his name), while the banning option will likely lose gay-friendly customers to backlash. (Banning "theGAYERGamer" will lose customers too, but presumably Microsoft predicts less revenue lost from ticking off the gay-friendly subscribers than ticking off the gay-insulating parents.)

Matt's claiming his calculus and/or business values wouldn't come to that conclusion. I'm curious to know his reasoning: would he allow theGAYERGamer tag if he ran the circus, because he reckons that lots of customers' views reflect his and he won't field enough complaints or lose much revenue over it? Or does he feel that it wouldn't be right to banning a tag that he doesn't find inappropriate?

By Blogger Bob, at 22 May, 2008 20:02  

Bob -- Horribly reductionist misread of what I wrote, but thanks for playing.

By Blogger ruffin, at 22 May, 2008 21:18  

Silly me. I thought I'd engage the thoughts

"Do I believe you should censor names based on sexual orientation? Interesting question."

"Your statements to date seem to neglect...the practical considerations of, here, Microsoft ... as police of their online community."

"I'm not sure you've reasoned your way far enough to start making well-argued suggestions. I know I haven't."

Oh, and point out the distinction between Microsoft's stated concern in regulating GamerTags (complaints from concerned parents), and Ruffin's concern about the immaturity of the average gamer.

I thought maybe we could "reason our way far enough to start making well-argued suggestions." But I should have realized this was just false modesty, and that Ruffin's comment was the final word on the matter.

Bob -- Horribly reductionist misread of what I wrote, but thanks for playing.


And thank you for the respect. I won't be playing further.

By Blogger Bob, at 23 May, 2008 02:02  

Combining our shared distaste for lazy engagements with our work with your promise that you will now refrain from such play, I'll ask that you reread what was written without applying unhelpful logical binaries (binaries intended only to incubate what I see to be no better than drive-by talking points) and refrain from requesting that authors of posts to perform self-courtesies that you yourself so clearly prefer not to extend to them -- namely to read what's been written.

Upon closer inspection of what I wrote, you'll now notice only the lazy reader will come away with the impression that, Ruffin (and, admittedly, others) have sexualized it -- dehumanized it, really -- to just mean "having homosexual sex", a charge I find unquestionably offensive. There is nothing in my post that comes close to suggesting such a conclusion to the careful reader. Quite the opposite is true, as I suggested only the most obvious of all statements: One cannot humanize without sex.

Even more plain: How can you have sexual innuendo without first passing through the waystation of orienting -- somehow, anyhow, nohow -- sexually?

So very well. Lambskin gloves on.

Matt's not "desexualizing" the word "gay".

How does his lack (lack? Lacan? Are these worth Googling before replying in such haughty tones, perhaps Googling along with the words "poe" and "purloined"? I believe they are) of providing an adequate method of ensuring that his still unstated, non-wrongheaded, and (using your term) sexual innuedo-less interactions with the nicks Gaywood and theGAYERgamer would be accepted and used throughout the MS online gaming community dodge the letter of desexualization? TheProudGayGamer or TheProudHomosexualGamer might be interesting monikers that deserve our respect, in theory and practice. My question is how do these nicks manifest in this specific community?

Now, based on that reaction, what should the police do? Matt's lack implicitly suggests the police should simply declare we have all signed up to be multicultural superfriends and realize that we have never been at war with Eurasia. Unfortunately it is more difficult to eliminate those who have sex in the fields and shanties without viewscreens (forgive me, it has been a while since 1984 for me) and continue to turn a profit.

Practically speaking, I do not suggest Microsoft bash names containing gay. Practically speaking, I do not encourage Microsoft bash gamers bashing gaywood. Practically speaking, I do not know what to suggest, Sam I am.

Claiming that these banned tags are "potentially inflammatory" in the "...immature and ...homophobic online gaming community" is PRECISELY what "catering to the very lowest common denominator" means.

Lamber still: Perhaps the disconnect is that you again missed the importance of the word "practical". Perhaps it is that you refused to integrate that word into your quotes' context so that it was easier to create your talking point. Perhaps. Or perhaps the makers of the Terms of Use are, understandably enough, trained by and on the LCD.

Ask yourself this: Why do the parents complain? Which parents complain? How do the parents complain? What would the parents be doing if they did not have this vent for complaint? Did a parent, in this case, complain?

What do your answers to all but the last tell you about the inescapable conditions of living in a society?

The griefers who said "More like Thomp A$$!" probably did NOT complain about the name to a GM -- more likely they reveled in it, and dearly hoped to pkill you again
...
It seems to me that most complainants against "RichardGaywood", however, should be mollified by the explanation (it's really his name)

It's real? Says who? No no, I know who. Now ask why who is who.

But back to A$$. Let me assure you pkillers don't give a rat's potooey what newbies they kill, regardless of name, and I would hardly elevate their encounter with Thopas as a revelatory experience.

Let me assure you my intended lesson with the Tale of Sir Thopas was, strangely, the lesson of your perceived counterpoint, "But it isn't slang. It isn't even about sexual orientation. It's someone's name." Quite a letter.

Let me finally assure you that, had one googled the terms, they wouldn't have needed to chance misinterpreting Toulose's (and Geoffrey's) intents.

The end of your post cannot but leave me frustrated, as you'd now reduced me to, at best, a Cheneyesquely cautious gay basher, inexplicably following up this flattery by asking Matt to sexualize exactly those points I'd posed in the earlier posts. Please, as a rule, read a "careful writer" with more respect before asking for more to be paid to you.

Discuss. Or not.

By Blogger ruffin, at 23 May, 2008 13:09  

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