Much has been made of the social functionality of the next generation of home consoles. Not only can users use the PS4 and Xbox One to play games, but they can also share this screen time with friends and strangers, either by live streaming the footage or sending out pre-recorded clips into the ether.
Unfortunately, for all the talk of providing the future of gaming it seems that neither Microsoft nor Sony thought far enough ahead to consider that users might use these services for less than wholesome purposes - especially when the accessories available for both consoles allow users to turn the cameras on themselves.
The most notable incident involving illicit use of this technology involved a user named Darckobra who was streaming live footage of his living room via the PS4. Internet spectators reported how his feed showed him and a woman identified as his wife sitting on their sofa as they drank themselves into a stupor.
When the woman apparently passed out the man then lifted up her top and exposed one of her breasts to the camera before the live feed went dark. Fifteen minutes later the picture came back and the woman was still on the sofa, apparently asleep and completely naked.
The account involved was quickly banned but there have been many other reports of similar of activity being broadcast over Twitch, a service dedicated to game footage that has been steadily building up audiences over PCs before this year’s move into console territory.
One Reddit user commented “A few minutes ago there was a guy having sex with his partner on the couch. Why didn't they see this coming?” whilst users on another game forum reported that they “just saw a guy with a horse head motorboat a lady, next gen indeed”. Another replied: “Same people now have a shotgun out.”
Although responses to some of these reports have been light-hearted, there have been a number of more offensive incidents, including screenshots showing families with young children playing games whilst users comment with racist and abusive remarks.
Twitch have released a statement noting that they are “very vigilant about removing content that breaks the TOS guidelines and depending on the severity of the violation we will either ban or suspend accounts.”
“Like any social network from YouTube to Facebook, there will always be a very small minority of users who attempt to circumvent the rules. As such, our advice is to report it right away and our staff will be quick to act on it if they haven't already. In terms of privacy settings, those are up are to the respective devices.”
Although the Xbox One hasn’t been affected by these particular issues (Twitch has yet to launch on Microsoft’s console) it has been having its own difficulties in managing gamers’ behaviour.
A feature named ‘Upload Studio’ on the Xbox One allows users to share clips of their gameplay, but already some individuals have been banned for including recordings of “excessive profanity”. Gamers can upload footage from games that feature swearing and extreme violence but are not allowed to swear themselves in commentaries.
Microsoft has issued an official statement saying: “We want a clean, safe and fun environment for all users. Excessive profanity as well as other Code of Conduct violations will be enforced upon and result in suspension of some or all privileges on Xbox Live. We remain committed to preserving and promoting a safe, secure and enjoyable experience for all of our Xbox Live members.”
It’s clear that for both Sony and Microsoft creating safe platforms for sharing content online will be problematic and time-consuming. Although the incidents above are certainly in the minority (consider that both consoles sold more than a million units in 24 hours) they do illustrate the potential difficulties for both consoles.
Empowering users to share their content is a fantastic way of creating communities (users have also used the same feature to create their own impromptu talkshows) but it brings with it familiar problems, with the lack of moderation occasionally exposing individuals to unwanted or even abusive content.
These difficulties have long been apparent for the online communities that create and stream gaming content, but they are usually dealt with by the players themselves or simply ignored. The mainstream appeal of both the Xbox One and the PS4 mean that these issues, like the gamers themselves, are about to become more visible than ever before.