I’m coining the word “xbroglio” as of today. It means, “any incidents occurring as a result of Microsoft assuming players to be heterosexual dudebros”. It’s quite a flexible concept, too – in fact, I’d argue it’s characterised most of the Xbox One’s life thus far, considering the previous discussion we’ve had over whether or not the Xbox One requires an always-on connection, what’s going on with its policy on used games, the shoddy treatment of trans folk at corporate events for it, not to mention that rape joke at E3, how anti-consumer Microsoft’s policies about it seem, and how ambivalent most of the folk here at GayGamer felt about it - none of which seem to register as issues for a lot of hetero dudebros, it seems.
Well, today’s contribution to the continuing imbroglio can be found over on the site for the Xbox One – in the form of the “We Got Your Back” email template provided courtesy of Microsoft, replete with mad-libs style fields where you can customise a desperate e-plea for an Xbox One to a co-habiting human being and email it off. Which sounds fairly innocuous – if a little obnoxious – were it not for the weirdly gendered and heteronormative format of the entire letter itself.
Each of the underlined green words can be replaced with others from a pre-defined list, and there’s some obvious usefulness to this – being able to specify which games you’re looking forward to, for example, or being able to say what you think your honey (sweetie, love of your life, partner, Mom, Dad, Grandma…) would get out of it. And although most of the mad-libs fields don’t have explicit gendered options, it’s pretty clear from the structure of the template that this is intended to be a cry from a long-suffering, henpecked gamer-bro to his girlfriend (who just doesn’t understand games).
Heck, the default template includes the lines:
- “I know, I know. You’d rather knit than watch me slay zombies, but hear me out on this. Xbox One is actually for both of us. Seriously.” (How dare women be content to pursue stereotypically femme-activities instead of basking in the aura of the almighty alpha male!)
- “Maybe you don’t LOVE games like I do, but there’s really something for everyone.” (Because, as we all know, women don’t LOVE games like men do – even though, y’know, women over the age of thirty-five outnumber men when it comes to playing games).
- “p.s. Did I mention how beautiful you are? And how I really appreciate that you love me more than anything? (When in doubt, comment on her appearance! Women definitely, categorically love when that’s used as emotional blackmail).
The problem here is this dogged insistence that the Default Gamer is the aforementioned hetero dudebro, and his partner just isn’t that into it (hint: because she’s a woman, apparently). The fact that there was apparently no way to structure this letter so that this weirdly specific and specious image of a heteronormative relationship wasn’t a) the default or b) actually written into the unchangeable portion of the text, seems pretty dubious and lazy. It’s brilliant to co-opt – I’m sure as hell going to send a whining, wheedling Microsoft-headed email to my longtime-Xbox-hating, just-as-much-a-gamer boyfriend for some laughs – but on its own, it feels like a joke that’s fallen flat.
If we’re to assume that Microsoft has actually learned anything from the ongoing xbroglio, surely by now they’d refrain from addressing their customers as though this was at all relevant or representative of them and their relationships, rather than relying on a lazy trope that is meant to titillate the only crowd they’re interested in (straight male gamers) and provide some hackneyed, tacked-on options for all the other folks they include as an afterthought.