Conversation with Not in the Kitchen Anymore’s Jenny Haniver: A look back at #MicrosoftUnsupport

GAB: Can you give our readers (who don’t know you already) a quick overview of what you do at NitKA?

Jenny Haniver: Not in the Kitchen Anymore is a growing collection of audio clips and transcripts showcasing the reactions (largely related to my gender) that I receive while gaming online. They range from the bizarre, to the humorous, to the downright disturbing.

You’ve been in the nat’l gaming news this week due to a particular incident. What happened?

JH: I received a rape threat over Xbox LIVE, reported it, and 16 days after initial complaint I filed, the user was still active. I decided to escalate the situation by directly questioning Xbox LIVE about why the player had not been banned from the service, and various influential people and news sources started picking up the story and Xbox’s seeming reluctance to do anything about it. Most everything has been summed up here.

What were your first steps in response to the rape threat?

JH: I immediately filed an in-system complaint using Xbox LIVE’s ‘file complaint’ function. I also sent an email to an Xbox related email (that I later found out was only there to deal with forum specific harassment, and couldn’t address my concerns) detailing the voice message I had received.

What reply did you get from Xbox LIVE initially?

JH: Nothing. I tried again the next day, piggy-backing on a @FemFreq tweet, and received a canned response.

What inspired you to take this incident and reach out to your following for help?

JH: When I looked up the user on Monday, August 12th and realized the player who sent me the message was still active as of Saturday, I was completely fed up. I’ve been gaming on Xbox LIVE for almost six years now, filed a multitude of complaints, and I was just sick of feeling like my complaints weren’t being treated seriously. I was tired of being ignored. Similar incidents had happened in the past- for instance, I received an equally upsetting message in early 2012, and as of April 2013, he was still active.

How did that go? Both in terms of your interactions with people who took up your cause, and Xbox’s response to your (our?) pleas?

JH: The outpouring of support from the people around me has been fantastic. I never thought things would blow up as much as they did. People started spreading the word soon after I began my Twitter “campaign”, and in turn reached out to others they had connections with, and it grew from there.Despite the onslaught of tweets from people seeking information (and by information, I mean the simple reassurance that Xbox was taking this seriously, and looking into the situation), Xbox Support continued to give generic and non-helpful  (sometimes snarky) responses. They couldn’t point myself or anyone else towards someone who could actually supply us with answers.

What were you looking for in a response from Xbox?

JH: Simple reassurance that they take rape threats and the like seriously. I did not want any personal information about the player in question – just to know that he was being dealt with. I wanted to be notified when he was suspended or banned. Apparently Xbox sometimes sends you a message if a complaint you have filed has been acted on… But only sometimes.

How are some ways Xbox LIVE (and other hubs) can improve their service to help victims of this type of behavior better feel like they’re being heard? And how about preventing this behavior from happening in general?

JH: One of the major things they can do is notify you if you file a complaint, and it is acted on. This is massively reassuring to people, and lets them know that the report function actually functions. Otherwise, it’s all just guesswork. You can file as many reports and complaints as you want, but as of now, there’s no real way to tell if they’re effective.Honestly, Xbox also needs to expand the number of options they give you when you file a complaint on another user. The broad categories they have now seem to be part of the problem when they have to wade through thousands of complaint reports- how are you supposed to effectively separate out the rape threats from something much more innocuous (like a player calling another player an asshole in a voice message) when they are both technically filed under the same categoryText and Voice Communication – Voice Message is not descriptive enough. Where is the category for sexual harassment? Racial slurs? Or even things like virtual stalking.

A lot of people have commented along the lines of “All I need is a huge internet following and a national campaign to get Xbox to act upon my report.” What are your thoughts about this? What is your advice for individual gamers (who may not have teh interwebz in their corner)?

JH: In a lot of ways, I am a very privileged person in the exact right situation to take this stand. I know people who know people who know people, and my connections helped this story spread far wider than I could have ever gotten it on my own. People stepped up and showed they cared and were angry about this issue by sharing my story and asking Xbox LIVE questions. The average gamer does not have a support system like I do. All they have is the tools Xbox LIVE gives them to report harassment- and those tools are not currently effective enough.

What can the gaming community as a whole do to learn from this and improve?

JH: Companies need to be held accountable.  If something happens in game that is against their terms of service or code of conduct, report it. If you witness another player being harassed, speak up. If you can’t speak up, file a complaint yourself. If that report is not followed through, try contacting them through every avenue possible. It’s an unfortunate truth that we have a finite number of tools at our disposal right now, and the tools are, to be frank, inadequate.But if you don’t try at all, nothing will ever change.

Any final thoughts?

JH: Gaming is meant to be fun. At no point during a gaming experience should you feel targeted over something innate about yourself that you cannot change, and that has no bearing on your skills as a player. Gaming has the unique ability to be the great equalizer– almost anyone can play a game. So we need to stop acting like it’s some elitist club where if you don’t fit the “normative” description of “a gamer”, you deserve to be attacked and harassed. We need to stop saying things like, “Well… What do you expect? That’s just how gaming is.” Change is a very real possibility, as long as we prove that we want it and can get gaming companies to realize that moderation and enforcement is a necessity to protect their player bases.If you enjoy games, and you’re having fun playing them, you’re doing it right. It’s that simple.

Thanks for your time, Jenny, and for taking a stand to make things better for the rest of us! Jenny can be found on her website or on twitter

  • Jo McKillop

    There needs to be a site where victims can publish the content of these complaints and name the offenders. If xbox won’t punish these guys then they can be punished via public shame. Either way, justice must be served.

    • Cari

      There is for messages and the like that target based on gender. Not sure if there are others.

      • Jo McKillop

        It’s a start 🙂

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