Gaming Must Promote and Protect the Safety of All

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Today, in an opinion article I published on the Official Microsoft Blog, I shared my views on gaming as one of our society’s great unifying forces. We are a 2.6 billion-person strong community of parents playing with our kids, adventurers exploring worlds together, teachers making math wondrous, grandmothers learning about their grandchildren through play, and soldiers connecting with their folks back home. Most gamers today are adults; nearly half are women. For many people around the world, gaming is the first entry point into technology.

This widespread embrace of gaming and its global communities have turned video games into the world’s leading cultural industry, bigger than movies or music. It’s essential that we embrace our role and take responsibility for creating safe gaming.

When people call video games a waste a time, I point them to the well-documented health and social benefits of gaming. Beyond pure exhilaration, gaming helps children with autism make new friends and seniors with Alzheimer’s improve their memory. Researchers have found that gaming teaches adults leadership, improves decision-making and reduces stress and depression and also teaches kids computational skills and empathy. Gaming is the gateway to these 21st century skills and to STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math). Just consider: teen girls who play video games are three times more likely to pursue a STEM degree.

Here are what I believe to be the two fundamental truths about gaming:

First, gaming is for everyone. No one group “owns” gaming. Instead, whether you’re new to gaming or are a diehard esports fan, you are welcome to play and welcome to all the fun and skill-building that comes with gaming. In this way, when everyone can play, the entire world wins.

Second, gaming must promote and protect the safety of all. Gaming must be a safe environment. Creating community is shared work, and protecting community is essential work. So, we all carry part of the payload of community safety, game industry and gamers alike.

We on Team Xbox are building on years of expertise in the area of online safety and embracing design that prioritizes safety for all.  We commit to work to protect the safety of all gamers, regardless of platform. And we invite the rest of our industry to join us. Microsoft, Team Xbox, and I are personally committing to making gaming safe for everyone in these ways:

We commit to be vigilant, proactive, and swift. We will identify potentials for abuse and misuse on our platform and will fix problems quickly. We are also intent on expanding the composition of our safety team so wide-ranging perspectives can help us identify future safety problems and solutions. Because hate and harassment have no place in gaming, we have published a refreshed version of our Xbox Community Standards to communicate how each of us can keep gaming fun and safe for all and detail the consequences when any of us break these standards.

We commit to empowering you to safeguard your gaming experience the way you want. We believe in equipping you with the tools to customize your gaming experience fit for your personal comfort level. This summer, we are empowering our official Club community managers with proactive content moderation features that will help create safe spaces for fans to discuss their favorite games. We plan to roll out new content moderation experiences to everyone on Xbox Live by the end of the year. Creating a Child or Teen Account is the easiest way for parents and guardians to manage who their kids engage with as well as their family’s screen time, content and spending. While more than 26 million Child and Teen accounts have been created to-date, we will make it easier for parents and guardians new to console and PC gaming to discover and create Child or Teen accounts.

Additionally, we recently launched a new “For Everyone” destination on Xbox.com where parents, guardians and players can learn how we’re making gaming more fun for everyone with our new inclusivity, accessibility, and safety features. We’re innovating now in these and other concrete ways to reduce, filter, and develop a shared understanding of toxic experiences, and to ultimately put our community of gamers, and their parents or guardians, in control of their own experiences.

We commit to working across the gaming industry on safety measures. Because we intend to protect all gamers, we will openly share safety innovations with our industry the same way Microsoft has made PhotoDNA technology universally available to everyone from the police to the tech industry to fight the spread of child pornography. Today, multiple teams working in areas like moderation, user research, data science, and others are already aligning with industry partners to share insights and best practices in areas of safety, security and privacy.

Our industry must now answer the fierce urgency to play with our fierce urgency for safety. We invite everyone who plays games, and industry partners, to join us in following these principles to help unify the world and do our part: make gaming accessible for everyone and protect gamers, one and all.