As part of the overhaul of Xbox Live as a result of the Xbox One, a new reputation system is being introduced. Not simply a reporting system, this reputation rating will learn and judge on a variety of factors. The goal is that gamers will be grouped with other people who share similar social norms and values.
I don’t generally play multiplayer games, primarily because I don’t like being harassed by trolls – if I wanted illiterate or rage-filled comments ranging from pure stupidity to personal offense, I could just take to the bowels of twitter. This new reputation rating will group players into three broad categories: Good Player, Need Improvement and Avoid Me. The ranking system will adjust to things like how often a player is blocked or muted. The system will apparently be built to avoid exploitation – people can’t gang up on you to sink your reputation on the system; like in real life, your reputation is built up slowly over time, but can also be drastically affected if you send unwanted naked pictures to others.
For those who primarily play with a group of friends, there won’t be much of an effect. You can still form groups with your friends and play together. However, your party will be saddled with the lowest reputation score in your group. Microsoft hopes that this works like peer pressure – you don’t want to run around with a low reputation party because one of your friends likes to troll strangers, so you will pressure him/her to behave differently.
As Mike Lavin (Microsoft’s senior product manager) explains:
“What we’re looking at doing is creating a very robust system around reputation and match-making. If people are in your friends list, we’re not touching that, we’re just making it easier for you to come together. It’s really the anonymous side of things where we’re making these investments. Ultimately if there’s a few per cent of our population that are causing the rest of the population to have a miserable time, we should be able to identify those folks.”
Like your Gamerscore, your reputation will be fully visible on your profile. While they haven’t decided whether it will use stars, numbers or some other symbol, the goal is for people to take pride in their score and aim to behave well. The offshoot of this means that there will be a seedy underbelly of Xbox Live where all the trolls will be grouped together. I wonder what kind of horrifying transcripts will emerge from those games. At least those gamers who behave with decorum and just want to enjoy a game with strangers will not be regaled with ridiculous comments.
Sounds great in theory, but I wonder how it will actually work in practice. Once someone makes it into the horrifying troll underbelly, I doubt they will continue to be reported/blocked. I mean, will other trolls be offended by the same things that go them all demoted in the first place? So, overtime, we may find that the trolls emerge from the “avoid me” nether regions. But, at least Microsoft is making an effort to clamp down on the terrifying behavior that people deem appropriate online.