With millions of gamers inhabiting the Xbox LIVE community, creating a safe and fun environment is paramount. Not to fear: Microsoft has its very own special ops division charged with policing this world. One of the more colorful members of the team is Boris Erickson, whose title is Enforcement Unicorn Ninja. And, yes, we are being completely serious.
All joking aside, Boris holds an important role in helping keep harmony between gamers. He is also responsible for Vulcan, the software that arbitrates complaints from gamers and determines what, if any, corrective actions may be enforced. We caught up with Boris the day before he left for some face time with the gamers at The Penny Arcade Expo (PAX) in Boston.
Ok, Boris: Does your business card actually say, “Enforcement Unicorn Ninja”?
Yes. I was told I needed a new title and asked if I had any requests. I asked if I could work “ninja” in there, and in two days I had this new title. It fits me, and it’s always a good icebreaker.
What are your job responsibilities as the Enforcement Unicorn Ninja for Xbox LIVE?
The primary part of my day is making sure that the toolset I designed—called Vulcan—keeps running. People file complaints on Xbox LIVE, and Vulcan is the conduit through which those complaints come to our enforcement team. The team then reviews the information and takes appropriate action.
It sounds like there is a whole team of ninjas. Do you see yourselves more as police or chaperones?
We do want to be chaperones but we don’t want to be authoritarian. We’re not going to take action on someone for dropping an occasional expletive in a game, like if you get sniped from all the way across the map. We like to think of ourselves as enabling safe, fun experiences for people.
It seems like a fine line to walk. Is it important for the people on the team to come from differing backgrounds?
We think it is important to have a team from all over the map. We value a diverse population in our investigators not just in gaming platforms like Xbox or PC, but diversity in gender, race, and age. Because sometimes we come across content that is super offensive to one of us, but it’s kind of grey area, so we’ll all talk about it.
Does that mean you are responsible for making the community standards for the gamers?
It’s more about reflecting a community standard, because we don’t want to be the arbiters of morality. We want to make sure that the team isn’t getting in people’s private lives, but when you come into the public sphere, into the public arena, that’s when we get involved.
How do the gamers view you then?
Generally most of the public sees the enforcement team as a vital resource for Xbox LIVE for keeping the peace, keeping the rules and keeping people on reasonable behavior. We don’t like to be arbiters of what’s acceptable. We believe in like-minded gamers gaming in like-minded ways.
Mainly, Xbox LIVE Enforcement is there to guide people and help maintain a fun and safe place for gamers to connect.
And clearly that’s what is all about – a fun and safe connection point.
Yes, especially as we try to bring more families into the fold with Kinect and broader entertainment offerings on Xbox LIVE. We want people to have video Kinect chats with their grandma across the country, and creating an attractive environment for everyone is important.
Do you think anyone can find a place within the Xbox LIVE world?
The Xbox LIVE community is as diverse as any community out there. And I believe Xbox LIVE is a greater microcosm of the wider population of the planet than most of the other Microsoft software user demographics.
So yes, I think there is room for everyone on Xbox LIVE. Mostly because the technology is so capable and it’s just going to get more accessible and more multi-purpose as time goes on. As more people come to this forum our job is to sort of help people form communities within the larger community.
And keep the peace?