It’s easy to assume that with the widespread domination of online gaming taking over modern home consoles, the days of sitting cross-legged around a television with one’s friends and family playing a split screen game are likely on their way out. Shouts reprimanding the person sitting adjacent for screen-peeking and button mashing are now replaced by empty, frustrated complaints about online players camping, team-killing, spawn-killing, or using overpowered equipment. When all players in the same room it is easy enough to give the boot to the problem player, but online it’s not so easy. Xbox Live is going to change all of that by fine tuning its reputation system to punish players in poor standing with the community.
These punishments range from mild to severe depending on the feedback that fellow Xbox Live members report about the player in question. A player starts out as Good, which can also be considered neutral, because of the infrequency of reporting poor gaming behavior. There seems to be plans to reward particularly good behavior, but for now Good means incurring no punishments. A bothersome player who descends into the unfortunate standing of Needs Work will begin to receive warnings about their behavior as a method of encouraging them to cease their misbehaving and contribute to the benefit of the online community, rather than making the overall online experience miserable. Finally, the deepest circle of Xbox Live’s reputation system is called Avoid Me, and avoid this player they will, as the player with this ranking will suffer the penalties of reduced priority in online matchmaking as well as denied access to broadcast his or her gaming experience via Twitch.
While this reputation system certainly has the potential to be a boon to online players encountering abusive interactions that are worth reporting, something about it seems too easy to manipulate for malicious intent, after all, there is no accepted morality of online gaming. Consider a shooting game where the goal is to get as many kills as possible, the lines are not so clear-cut about what is unjustifiably cruel or unfair and what is simply someone playing the game to win. Angry about that last death? Want to punish the transgressor? Vengeful gamers will gain the ability to report violations that may not be deserved. Unless Xbox Live can implement some sort of defense against these claims, this system could possibly do more harm than good.
The other side of this coin, however, is that most players rarely find themselves using the rating system as it is now. Unless another player is very obviously behaving in a manner worth reporting, using the rating system is reserved for specific experiences. All of this may change, however, with Xbox Live’s new system involving rewards for players in Good standing. Perhaps players may see a rise in good online gaming etiquette if rewards are offered or the punishments are too severe. If the reputation system continues to grow after this update, then gamers may see Xbox Live becoming an even more social space for gaming.
Opinion by Michael Foster