Speaking as part of an in-depth Gamasutra opinion piece
, former Microsoft game user research head Bill Fulton has suggested that "the online behavior of our customers is dramatically reducing our sales", suggesting some possible solutions.
As part of his introduction to the piece, Fulton, who worked in-depth on Microsoft's online FPS Shadowrun
to attempt solutions to these issues, notes:
"Of all the ways I spend my free time, playing games online is the only one I would describe as "frequently barbaric". Insults of all kinds, including racist and homophobic slurs, are commonplace.
The women I know who play online avoid anything that would identify them as female -- including voice communication -- in order to avoid the unwanted, and frequently negative, attention.
And that's just how players are intentionally insulting -- what some people do while playing online can also be aggravating.
Even more gamers go online a few times and then never play again. This isn't just my personal speculation; I have seen convincing data from two different sources that the biggest problem with online gaming is the behavior of others. The biggest problem isn't the cost; it isn't connectivity issues, or even the quality of the games -- it is how people are f*ckwads online.
Why do I care? Some gamers might be thinking "If he's so thin-skinned that he can't take the online banter, maybe he shouldn’t play online." Unfortunately, many people do just that -- they stop playing online."
So what's to be done about the problem? Fulton suggests that there are things you can do to make the atmosphere less toxic:
"Social environments and culture can be designed. Just like good game design creates fun gameplay, good social design creates fun social experiences. Unfortunately, online games seem to have allocated very few resources to designing the social environment.
But honestly, I don't believe that resource constraints are the source of the problem -- I think that most people don’t believe that social problems can be solved. A common belief that I’ve heard used as justification for not addressing the social environment of games is that "jerks will be jerks". Essentially, many people believe that:
1. Behavior is determined by personality, and
2. You can’t change people’s personality
While I (mostly) agree with the second point, it is moot because the first point has been consistently contradicted by 60 years of social psychological research. Human behavior is complex and determined by many factors."
You can now read the full Gamasutra opinion piece on the subject
, with plenty of detail on Fulton's attempted fixes with Shadowrun
, as well as psychological insight into other possible solutions.