343 Industries' boss Bonnie Ross and Halo 4's executive producer Kiki Wolfkill (who wins the award for best name ever) have hit out at the offensive chatter and sexist abuse that has often been witnessed across Xbox LIVE, particularly when it comes to the multiplayer components of certain FPS franchises.
"I've seen many of the sites that have documented some of the more gender-specific slanderous comments," Ross said. "This is behaviour that is offensive and completely unacceptable. I'd like to think most of our Xbox Live players don't support this kind of behaviour."
Wolfkill added that there'll always be bad eggs out there, feeling empowered through anonymity: "It can be dangerous to give adolescents a broadcast mechanism," she added. "There are always going to be jerks out there, and if you give them a way to express that side of their personality without being seen, you're going to see this type of behaviour manifest itself."
It's clear that Ross and Wolfkill view developers as having a serious responsibility to assess the manner in which their games might be perceived. With regard to Halo, this manifested itself in some deliberation over gender roles in the game.
"As developers, we have a personal responsibility to think about how our games come across," Ross said. "With Halo 4, we were very deliberate in thinking about who should be female and who should be male in the game, and if we came off stereotypical, we went back to question what we were doing and why."
"Most people look at a franchise like Halo, and automatically assume it's run by a guy. People are surprised to learn that it's a woman who's running the Halo 4 show. When Microsoft created 343 Industries to take over Halo, I was given first choice to run the studio because I had proven myself. My gender played no part in it." [GS]