Back in 2016, it was announced that Microsoft Xbox would give players the chance to choose who they play with. Whether it be through club systems or groups, players would be able to find other gamers with similar interests. Ultimately, the aim was to launch something that focused on every individual person enjoying the games they buy in a more meaningful way.
The Gaming for Everyone programme was created to embrace everyone’s background, whether it be race, country of origin, religion, LGBTQ+ and physical and mental illnesses.
The aim is also to teach developers on how to integrate equality and inclusivity in their video games, ultimately giving the players a game they can truly have fun and connect with. Sea of Thieves, for example, is a game that allows players to style their character to exactly what they want it to be. This increased level of customisation allows them to potentially create a character that closely mirrors their own identity. And at the very least, it gives them a greater freedom of expression.
At X019, Gaming For Everyone hosted an event where people from around the globe talked about the amazing things they were doing for gamers and the industry. We were there to talk about the topic of mental health and its power in games. Specifically, we talked about how some indie titles have managed to convey the feelings of the developers behind them, but more importantly – connecting with gamers through relatable content. Many games today, such as Hellblade: Senua’s Sacrifice, show a journey through mental illness, but also provide ways to seek and reach out for help.
With the recent classification of Gaming Disorder by WHO, Xbox have continued to show a more considered approach to gaming. Vowing to take action to prevent toxic behaviours and ensure that Microsoft platforms are safe for everyone, Xbox have since released their Community Standards for Xbox. These guidelines encourage respectful conduct amongst players, to “be a force for good, even when others aren’t.”
Xbox’s move to nurture a stronger sense of community in gaming – through both relatable content and respectful interaction between players – helps to put mental health at the forefront of player experience. It opens up the potential for gamers with mental health issues to not only identify with narratives and characters, but also with other gamers facing similar struggles. And for some, it could be the road to recovery they’ve been looking for.