Dear Sony: Please Let Me Filter Who I Play With

Dear Sony,

How are you? Things seem to be looking a little better now that Metal Gear Solid 4 is out. Sorry to hear about your firmware problems, I’m sure you’ll get it sorted out soon. Is Microsoft still bullying you about the NPD numbers?

I know I haven’t written you in a while, but I have a request and I feel it’s important. Can you give me tools to filter who I play with? Not like Microsoft’s Gamer Zones, but more direct and community-driven. Playing in the Family Zone might be a good way to dodge the racists, and playing in the Pro Zone might keep you away from teamkillers, but in that scheme, I can only choose one or the other; either I’m getting knifed in the back for "stealing" someone’s vehicle or I get to hear a lot about members of the Jewish faith.

Now don’t get me wrong; Xbox Live handles this hairy problem much better than the Playstation Network does. In fact, I haven’t seen any way in which you handle the problem, Sony. Sure, there’s a block list, but all that does is prevent them from hate spamming you; they could very well be in your next Bad Company match, putting gnifes in ur bak.

Do developers have a way of accessing a player’s PSN block list? I know they can access friends lists and send messages, so I can only assume that there’s a complete API developers can use. Have any developers taken advantage of this, either in matchmaking or audio settings? For some people on my block list, I have no problems playing with them, but I don’t wanna have to worry about racial slurs popping out of my speakers at the beginning of a match while a young child listens on. For others, I’d rather not see them at all.

Why not create a social bookmarking system of sorts? Sites like Digg and Reddit operate almost entirely on user input, giving them the power to up- and downvote news items based on whatever criteria they have. Sure, the user experience on such sites is largely dependent on popular opinion, but couldn’t that also be a boon for the PSN?

Consider my most recent additions to my block list: a pair of teamkillers who were angry that I grabbed a helicopter in Bad Company before they did. Now that you’ve made the XMB active during gameplay (thank you, by the way!), wouldn’t it be great if I could go to my PSN tab, browse through the list of player I recently played with, and add them to my block list with tags like "Teamkillers?" Developers could then filter matchmaking to lower my chances of playing in another match with them, and if no other games could be found without a "Teamkiller" tag, warn me that I would be entering a game with someone I need to watch my back around.

What if I played a match in Warhawk with a really good player, one that worked well with me, but refused to stop singing like an American Idol reject? Well, you could add another tag that developers can use to automatically mute while the level loads, but doesn’t prevent you from playing with them.

Better yet, let people vote on their fellow players. If they vote positively for someone, give them a list of possible tags ("Funny," "Leet," "Nice"), and give them the same options when they vote negatively ("Teamkiller," "Annoying," "Noob"). Let players filter based on these tags (I don’t mind playing with noobs if they’re at least funny). Promote good play by offering awards (maybe Trophies?) to those who consistently get voted as "Nice."

I know what you’re thinking. "Gamer are smart people," you say, "that can find creative ways of bending the system to their will. They could vote-bomb members of opposing clans, or get their friends to vote them as ‘Nice.’" If that’s what you’re thinking, you’re probably right. But hey, you’re a major worldwide corporation, with a multitude of smart people at your disposal and the freedom to experiment on a large scale (10 million PSN subscribers, right?). All it really takes is a stumbling step in the right direction, just like the way Microsoft’s Gamer Zones and Nintendo’s use of Friend Codes are imperfect but positive changes to the online play space.

Your friend,
Brandon Hess

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