What you need to know
- A Halo Infinite player was temporarily banned from the game's Forge mode without warning for over three months because they included custom-made props that resembled marijuana in their map.
- The use of the prop violated the official Xbox Community Standards, which are enforced by Microsoft.
- The suspension was lifted following an appeal, but many still felt that the ban was too harsh since it was issued without any kind of a warning.
- Notably, the "always online" nature of Halo Infinite's Forge means that banned players can't access or play any part of the mode while they're suspended.
It's been about a month and a half since Halo Infinite's Forge mode officially became available to players as part of the game's Winter Update, and ever since, fans across the Xbox and Windows PC platforms have been using the map-making tool to craft a variety of fantastic creations. Everything from beautifully detailed and carefully designed arena maps to silly party game stages with custom modes have been built and published by talented community members, giving players an ocean of user-generated content to enjoy.
One of these creators is Loaf Lord, a Forger that recently released a map called Juju's Room that faithfully recreates their real life bedroom. The map impressed many community members with its intricate details and clever design, but there was one issue: the map contained custom-made props that resembled both marijuana and the joints typically used to smoke it. And once Microsoft and developer 343 Industries caught wind of this, the map was taken down and Loaf Lord was issued a temporary ban from Halo Infinite Forge, with the suspension set to last until March 2023.
The reason why the map was considered inappropriate is clear, as the official Xbox Community Standards state that Microsoft has to "respect local laws and remove content or behavior that advocates or promotes illegal activities." However, what caught many by surprise was the fact that the map's author was immediately given a ban without any kind of warning.
After I shared this map, 343 Industries removed the map file from Halo Infinite and suspended the creator (@ItsLoafLord) from Forge until Season 3 because of the “marijuana” objects. The image below is the ban message they received. (Part 2 below)#HaloInfiniteForge https://t.co/cAwLIQDr3E pic.twitter.com/yXfQPDRfEiDecember 20, 2022
On one hand, I do think it's pretty harsh of the developers to suspend a player for an issue like this without issuing them a warning of some kind first. On the other, though, I can see where Microsoft and 343 Industries are coming from. The Entertainment Software Ratings Board (ESRB) is very strict when it comes to rating game content, and there's a chance that references to drug use like this could lead to Halo Infinite getting a Mature "M" rating instead of the Teen "T" one that it currently has. And regardless of whether or not you think Halo should have an M rating like it did in the old days, Microsoft and 343 Industries clearly believe that aiming for a T rating is the right call.
There's also the "always online" nature of Halo Infinite's Forge to consider in this situation as well. While the reasons why Forge is online only make sense — it's necessary for security and also allows continued play even if session host disconnects — one of the downsides is that suspended players are completely unable to access any part of the mode. Compared to previous Halo titles in which Forge could at least be used offline in scenarios like this, Halo Infinite cuts players off completely.
It's worth noting that while the developers were quick to ban Loaf Lord, the suspension has been lifted following an appeal as I write this, with 343 Industries' Forge Lead Designer Michael Schorr responding to the player personally. "Here is the relevant passage from the Xbox Community Standards," Schorr wrote in a Tweet, citing the "Keep it legal" section of the document. "And please remember that Halo Infinite is live in many countries where marijuana is illegal."
Ultimately, it's good to see that Microsoft and 343 Industries are receptive to appeals in first offense cases like this. Still, you should make sure you avoid adding cheeky references to drug use in your Forge maps, especially since you won't be able to play Forge at all until your ban lifts if you end up getting suspended.
Despite its issues, there's plenty to like about Halo Infinite. The core multiplayer gameplay is great, and since it's free-to-play, there's no barrier to entry. The campaign is fantastic, too, as it features an excellent story, fun open world gameplay, and plenty of action-packed levels to play through.
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