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The social implications of AR, VR, and online communities are important to consider. In a roundtable conservation as part of Microsoft’s Alumni Network YouTube channel, former Xbox executives Peter Moore, Robbie Bach, and Ed Fries as well as current 343 Industries studio head Bonnie Ross joined former Nintendo of America president Reggie Fils-Aime for a conversation about Xbox and the future of entertainment.
“I think that when we look at the social responsibility [of new tech]… I do think we as technology holders have a responsibility,” said Ross. “I’m really thinking about that social point and ethics in a way that we never have before, and I think we’re seeing it play out in front of us — what happens when we don’t.”
Anyone deeply engaged in online spaces is no stranger to the kinds of complications that Ross is alluding to. Targeted harassment to elicit reactions for the sake of those reactions is as old as the internet. As online communities have developed and become more robust experiences, so has that kind of activity.
One of the more infamous examples from the last few decades happened in World of Warcraft. In short: in 2006 a player passed away and her guild decided to hold an in-game funeral for her. They announced the funeral on the official World of Warcraft forums. An enemy guild showed up and attacked the funeral. That event is still well known 15 years later.
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It’s an example of how online communities can become more real to the people within them as technology develops. It’s also an example of how the function of that technology can change what is and isn’t socially acceptable. It’s also, arguably, one of the more lighthearted examples.
As technology has progressed the types of online harassment out there have gotten more targeted and more hurtful. Online spaces like Twitter are highly polarized. In 2018 Twitter partnered with academics to find a way to get a handle on hate speech and polarized discourse. Twitter launched in 2006.
“I think oftentimes in our industry we create the experience and then we try to clean up the social implications after the fact,” said Bach.