Thursday, February 26, 2009

Microsoft acknowledges gaymer gaffe

Unless you've been living under a rock for the last two days, you've likely seen the news that Microsoft recently suspended a female gamer's Xbox Live account because her profile mentioned she is a lesbian.

It look little time for the story to hit the gaming and gay press, and even less time for gamers of all sexual identities and persuasions to call on the house that Bill Gates built to address the matter.

Well, Microsoft did just that earlier today when it allowed Stephen Toulouse, program manager for policy and enforcement on Xbox Live, to talk to MTV News' Stephen Totilo. (Which, as you'll see in the next few posts, is quite a step forward from how the company's PR department handled earlier, similar situations.)

"It is true that as a matter of policy, the expression of relationship preference in gamertag profiles and tags is not allowed across the board, whether that's heterosexual or other," Toulouse told MTV News before admitting that the policy is, "inelegant. And it's inelegant because the text-box field is freeform."

Toulouse suggested his employer is looking into a more elegant solution, such as allowing gamers to check off boxes or use symbols to denote their gender, sexual orientation or other qualities.

"That's the type of thing we're looking at as a solution," he told MTV News. "I can't talk about future plans, except to say we want to provide the capability for our users to express relationship preference or gender without a way for it to be misused."

(Note: Last summer, when Microsoft first made headlines for suspending the Xbox Live account of a gamer whose name and gamertag were Richard Gaywood, I wrote an article on the subject for a well-known LGBT publication. I later revised the article to include the story of a gay man, Michael Arnold, whose Xbox Live account met a similar fate after gamers complained about his gamertag, THCxGaymer. Since neither version of the article were published by the unnamed magazine, I am going to publish them here.)

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