Let’s talk a little bit about the Jenny Haniver story. For those of you who don’t know about it, here’s a quick rundown: A girl, while playing Call of Duty, was on the receiving end of some pretty foul trash talk. “I'm gonna impregnate you with triplets and make you have a very late-term abortion. Straight mental abuse,” was the shining gem of this particular bout of trolling. As anyone would expect, Haniver was mortified and reported the user, who went by the name PHATDOG, to the Xbox team.
The thing that makes this story so prominent in gamer news is the failure of Microsoft to do anything about it. Haniver never received a response to the mail she sent in. She then went on to tweet Microsoft along with sending several more emails to Xbox Customer Support, and finally, PHATDOG was banned.
And rightfully so! PHATDOG was an incredible douche and deserved to get banned for his actions of knowingly trying to mentally abuse someone. (Yes, it was definitely done knowingly: He SAID mental abuse in his troll message.)
While my sympathies go out to Jenny and my rage goes out to PHATDOG, this really does go farther than simply being one instance of one troll making one person feel bad. Jenny had the ability to make her voice known, but there are thousands of users on Xbox Live every day that aren’t being heard. Tons of gamers, male and female alike, are being abused in some pretty horrible ways for taking a headshot or two, and they aren’t getting media coverage to help spread the news of their woes. I can personally attest to this, as I have had some particularly bad experiences with opponents that have, by their own admission, attempted to get me and other gamers to commit suicide. While these gamers were reported, their accounts were never banned.
Perhaps even more depressing is the fact that shit like this happens daily. Haniver was lucky in that her story was picked up by mainstream news, and that finally put enough pressure on Microsoft to cause the company to do something about it, yet Microsoft only acted AFTER her story went viral. Make no mistake, this doesn’t make Haniver special. It just makes her one of the thousands upon thousands of gamers encountering mental abuse on Xbox Live every day, and if it takes a sexism scandal to spur on action, then most of these gamers are going to end up passed over.
Perhaps Jenny hit the nail on the head when she said, "In short, their customer service is pretty shit in this respect." She went on to say, "I've been gaming on Xbox Live for almost six years now, and I'm sick of feeling like the legitimate complaints I file are ultimately kind of pointless."
There are many out there that are treating PHATDOG’s banning as a victory, but it really isn’t. It’s proof that Microsoft’s current system is not doing its job. Microsoft has since announced that the Xbox One will make use of a Reputation system that will allow users to self-govern themselves, but even that will be able to be exploited. Without a more structured way to respond to events like this, it’s inevitable that people will be lost in the ocean of complaints and paperwork.
And while I feel bad for Jenny, I do not feel any worse for her than I feel for the many other gamers that encounter this kind of abuse regularly. Jenny wasn’t a particularly important or noteworthy target, and PHATDOG didn’t say anything more extreme than what most of the trolls on Xbox Live say every day. Jenny’s story isn’t special. It’s common. In fact, the only thing that makes it uncommon is the fact that Microsoft actually did something about it. Perhaps that is what really makes this story depressing and shameful.
Former Contributing Writer