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EA's New Positive Play Charter Explained

Electronic Arts (EA) is a name that's bound to stir up a room. EA is a titan in the video games industry, and is the name behind a lot of dearly beloved franchises including Mass Effect, Dragon Age, and Titanfall. On the other hand, it is possibly the single most hated company in gaming, mainly due to very shaky customer support and a tendency to milk its customers with DLC and egregious microtransactions.

However, EA has also become infamous for toxic players in its games and lobbies. The company recently announced that it was working to update tools and filters for hurtful and racist language, a long-overdue step as players continue to find loopholes and new language that the existing filters don't catch.

Now the two-time "winner" of The Consumerist's "Golden Poo" award has made a move to address a much broader set of topics. EA recently unveiled its Positive Play Charter, which provides a list of rules and guidelines meant to help everyone enjoy themselves while playing EA's games. The charter has four different sections, each focused on a different aspect of Positive Play.

The first section is a little spin on the old golden rule: treat others as they would like to be treated. This section tells players, in essence, to be kind and respectful to each other. EA also warns people not to impersonate anyone else or abuse reporting tools, and it invokes a kid-friendly version of Wheaton's Law by saying, "Don't be a jerk." There are several bullet points giving examples of what not to do, including — but not limited to — bullying, hate speech, and stalking. This first section encourages players to report anyone who is not following those guidelines.

The second section is much more concrete, saying to "Keep Things Fair." That is: play by the rules, don't use outside software and mods, don't interfere with someone else's playing, and don't buy or sell EA accounts. In essence, don't cheat or help others to cheat.

The third section is titled Share Clean Content, though what it really means is "don't share dirty content." This covers not only sexually explicit things, but also pirated content and even excessive swearing (including self-censoring with asterisks). This section ties directly into EA's earlier pledge to tackle toxic behavior and language, though it's much broader than that initial statement was.

Finally, the last section is Follow Local Laws, which really shouldn't need to be said in a public statement. This is the shortest section of all, basically consisting of "obey the law" and "don't break the law." It's pretty self-explanatory, though it does specifically mention swatting, a very dangerous and illegal "prank" where viewers try to get local SWAT teams to storm a streamer's house. Swatting has resulted in deaths before, so it's not surprising that EA wanted to say very clearly and visibly that it's unacceptable.

Violating the Positive Play Charter or EA's User Agreements can result in temporary bans or restrictions for minor violations, essentially a time-out for the offending player. Severe or repeat offenders may face heavier consequences, up to and including having all of their EA accounts deleted.

It was a nice enough gesture, but the question is: what does this actually do? Most of what's in there is (or should be) common sense. Plus, everything laid out in the Positive Play Charter was already included in the User Agreements, making this more of a very public finger-wagging than any sort of real action.

It could be targeted at younger gamers who might need the reminder, and who almost certainly didn't read through the User Agreement before accepting it. Maybe the Charter will be a helpful nudge in the right direction, and it could be a go-to document when EA's customer support needs to deal with angry people wondering why they're locked out of their accounts. However, on its own it doesn't seem to carry much weight.

With that said, the Charter came out in the days leading up to EA Play Live 2020. It seems likely that the company will use that event to expand on its pledge to tackle hurtful behavior and promote positive gaming. Hopefully we'll get some concrete news about the new and updated tools to keep toxic players in check, as well as more specifics about what the company intends to do if and when those rules are violated.

Until then, the Charter stands as a reminder that there are real people behind computer screens who deserve to be respected, and who deserve to have fun and feel safe playing games. Unless EA gives it some real teeth, though, that's all it is: a performative statement from a company that has been called out for allowing hurtful and toxic behavior for much too long.