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Wednesday, January 19, 2005

Halo 2 and Xbox Live: Not Just Fun and Games

A subscription to the Xbox Live service comes with a microphone by which a user can both talk to and hear other players in the pre- and post-game lobbies of every team game on Halo 2. A couple of days ago I was particularly taken aback by the heated remarks that my randomly selected teammeates and opponents were trading with each other. By the sounds of things one side was black and the other white.

Now I've heard and said racist remarks before but never have I witnessed them expressed so directly and vehemently. Here the anonynimity provided by the television screen allowed these six remaining people, 3 younger blacks and 3 older whites, to bounce diatribes off of each other without fear of losing decorum or being socially stigmatized, while the microphones and earpieces ensured that their message was getting across without the risk of violent consequences. The white guys called the black guys "speak-chuckers" and "jungle monkeys," saying things like "I bet you don't even have a job." The black kids responded just as angrily with frequent curse words, saying that "white people are so lame" or "You guys can't dance" or "We are the best at everything physical." I sat silently, amazed by the audible emotional intensity that went on for at least 15 minutes. Eventually I spoke up, trying my best to not sound like a peace-loving hippie, but most of my speech fell upon deaf ears.

I know these people aren't poor or uneducated. You need money and technical know-how to afford and manage an Xbox, the Halo 2 game, and a monthly charge to access Xbox live. Now when I question the vitality of racism in society, at least within the 14-24 year-old male online game-playing society, I think back to this real-life scenario.

Bungie, the developers and online police of Xbox Live Halo 2 recently addressed this issue on their front page, explaining why they have temporarily suspended the accounts of certain "drooling halfwits":

Racism? This is particularly galling, and you should know, it is frequently and highly reported. If you're one of those slack-jawed troglodytes who uses racism as his main form of discourse you probably won't even understand this sentence, but note that you should keep your vile, bilious crap sealed up. Nobody wants to hear how stupid you are.
I had to look up troglodyte.

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