Xbox GDC 2016 party “unequivocally wrong”, says Spencer

By Brenna Hillier, Monday, 21 March 2016 03:04 GMT

Xbox boss Phil Spencer has handed down a scold to whoever was responsible for a poorly-received Microsoft event at GDC 2016.

Phil Spencer

Xbox hosted a party for developers at GDC 2016 last week, in which scantily-dressed female dancers were hired to entertain the crowd. What’s wrong with scantily-dressed female dancers? Nothing on their own – but there’s certainly a problem with assuming your target demographic is a homogenous batch of horny straight men who enjoy that sort of thing, thereby making everyone else acutely uncomfortable.

While Microsoft hasn’t precisely pointed a finger of blame, in an internal memo published in full on Spencer made it clear that whoever made the decision to hire the dancers made an error.

“It has come to my attention that at Xbox-hosted events at GDC this past week, we represented Xbox and Microsoft in a way that was absolutely not consistent or aligned to our values,” he wrote.

“That was unequivocally wrong and will not be tolerated.”

The matter is being handled internally, so don’t expect to hear who did the deed – but even if it was a third party hired to organise the event, the buck stops with Microsoft.

“How we represent ourselves as individuals, who we hire and partner with and how we engage with others is a direct reflection of our brand and what we stand for,” Spencer said.

“When we do the opposite, and create an environment that alienates or offends any group, we justly deserve the criticism.”

Spencer referenced Microsoft’s recent diversity efforts and reaffirmed his personal commitment to Microsoft and Xbox’s inclusive culture.

“We need to hold ourselves to higher standards and we will do better in the future,” he concluded.

The industry has been slowly pushing back against this painfully narrow we’re-all-horny-straight-men attitude that has so often proved limiting to its growth. Microsoft itself has made admirable attempts at fostering diversity, even hosting a women in games GDC event the very same day – which certainly didn’t make this whole thing any less awkward.

This isn’t the first time this has happened at GDC, either. Industry legend Brenda Romero resigned from the IGDA chair over a similar incident in 2013.

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