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 Xbox Live gamer suspended for saying he lives in Fort Gay

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Seth
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PostSubject: Xbox Live gamer suspended for saying he lives in Fort Gay   Thu Sep 09, 2010 9:54 am


It's not easy being a gay gamer — and apparently that holds true even if you aren't actually homosexual.

Microsoft recently banned a 26-year-old gamer from Xbox Live, accusing him of violating the online gaming service's code of conduct by publicly declaring that he's from the town of Fort Gay.

A customer service rep from the company told Josh Moore, an unemployed factory worker, that the town's name was considered offensive.

But Microsoft now finds itself having to issue an apology not only to Moore but to the entire town of Fort Gay, West Virginia. Yeah…turns out it's a real place.

It also turns out "gay" isn't an offensive word. But we knew that already, right?

Certainly the word gay has been an ongoing problem for Microsoft as well as the proprietors of other online gaming services, who find themselves trying to walk a fine line between letting gamers express important information about themselves while also trying to prevent other bigoted and hateful gamers from harassing those that do express themselves. (Msnbc.com is a joint venture of Microsoft and NBC Universal.)

The fact of the matter is, it can be an ugly, ugly gaming world out there, with all manner of homosexual slurs routinely being hurled about in online multiplayer matches as both insults and attempts at intimidation. (By the way, you Neanderthals that do this kind of thing: You are the pond scum that lives beneath the pond scum.)

Last year, Microsoft used a hammer to try and solve the problem — that is they tried to stem the use of homosexual slurs by banning all expressions of sexuality in any way in Gamertags and gamer profiles on Xbox Live. But that only created another problem — gamers who are, in fact, gay and want to identify themselves as such in their online information or in conversation, found themselves booted from the service for simply discussing an issue central to their lives and their identities.

A player named Teresa found herself embroiled in controversy after she identified herself as a lesbian in her profile. Not only was she horribly harassed and even stalked by hateful players, Microsoft went on to remove her from Xbox Live.

But earlier this year, Microsoft nixed that policy. The new policy stated:

"You may use the following terms to express your relationship orientation in your profile or Gamertag: Lesbian, Gay, Bi, Transgender, Straight. Other terms regarding relationship orientation are not allowed. In addition you may not use these terms or any other terms regarding relationship orientation to insult, harass, or any other pejorative use against other users."

Needless to say, Fort Gay gamer Moore was surprised to find himself caught up in that tangled mess – perhaps especially since he's not actually gay himself.

Moore enjoys playing games like "Medal of Honor," "Call of Duty" and "Ghost Recon" with other players via Xbox Live. But problems arose when he added the name of his home town to his Xbox Live profile. (Fort Gay is a community of about 800 in Wayne County, along West Virginia's western border with Kentucky.)

Microsoft suspended his gaming privileges leaving Moore desperately trying to convince customer service that the location wasn't a joke or a slur.

"I was mad ... It makes me feel like they hate gay people," Moore told the Associated Press. "I'm not even gay, and it makes me feel like they were discriminating."

Angry and incredulous, Moore contacted customer service.

"I figured, I'll explain to them, 'Look in my account. Fort Gay is a real place,'" Moore said. But he claims the employee was unreceptive, warning him that if he put Fort Gay back in his profile, Xbox Live would cancel his account and keep his monthly membership fee, which he'd paid in advance.

"I told him, Google it — 25514!" Moore said, offering up the town's ZIP code. "He said, 'I can't help you.'"

Fort Gay Mayor David Thompson also tried to intervene, but with little success. Thompson told television station WSAZ, which first reported the dispute, that he was informed the city's name didn't matter. The word "gay," he was told, was inappropriate in any context.

Stephen Toulouse, director of policy and enforcement for Xbox Live, has since told the AP that it's all been a big miscommunication. As their new Xbox Live policy states, using the word gay as part of a gamer's identity is no longer a banning offense.

He said Xbox Live received a complaint, which was directed to an agent for review.

"Someone took the phrase 'fort gay WV' and believed that the individual who had that was trying to offend, or trying to use it in a pejorative manner," Toulouse said. "Unfortunately, one of my people agreed with that. When it was brought to my attention, we did revoke the suspension."

Complaints, he notes, come to agents with no contextual information, including who the suspected offender is or what games they play. The agent simply looks at the language and determines whether it complies with policy.

Toulouse contends his team rarely makes mistakes but acknowledged, "Absolutely, a mistake was made here, and we've updated our training to account for that."

Toulouse said he will contact Moore and apologize.

"In this very, very specific case, a mistake was made," he said, "and we're going to make it right."

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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psycho
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PostSubject: Re: Xbox Live gamer suspended for saying he lives in Fort Gay   Thu Sep 09, 2010 10:13 am

wow. that's lame. I can't believe Microsoft didn't research it before banning him. Plus why the hell wouldn't it recognize the zip code?

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