In London, on the evening of Thursday the 21st of November, excitement was high as impatient gamers stood anxious and cold, awaiting the release of the Xbox One. Microsoft executives stood to the side of the stage they’d set up in the country’s capital, watching as a host of performers and presenters pumped up the eager crowd. But during the event, a known misogynist made his way onto the stage, with the strangest thing being that Microsoft paid him to be there.
KSI, YouTube and the Big, Bad, Controversial Wolf
This was no average, run of the mill misogynist however, though I’m sure Microsoft could have found one of those off the streets to do the job for free. No, the person who took to the stage at the London Xbox One launch event was ‘famous’, ‘celebrity’ YouTuber, KSI. Those words are in apostrophes because really what makes a person a famous celebrity?
According to Microsoft, KSI’s celebrity status is solidified by his 4 million YouTube subscribers, otherwise known as the 4 million pairs of willing eyeballs that Microsoft want to get the Xbox One in front of. The problem is, KSI? He’s not the type of guy you’d bring to meet your grandmother, or your mother, or anyone who identifies as female (or anyone of any gender at all really) because he has a penchant for rape jokes as well as partaking in a longstanding past-time for douchebags – sexual harassment.
How Eurogamer’s Most Hated Became an Xbox One Spokesperson
KSI’s past discretions aren’t just hearsay either. While his rape joke videos – in which he made faces ‘as if he were about to rape someone’ – have been removed and he has issued a half-hearted apology since, his other antics at Eurogamer Expo 2012 tell a different story of a man who clearly does not know the limit.
He took to Eurogamer Expo at Earl’s Court, proceeding to harass multiple women. Some were abused verbally: ‘where are your tits?’ he asked one, while he went up to another proceeding to ask if he could motorboat her. Appropriate behaviour? Obviously not, which is exactly why Eurogamer then threw KSI out of the Expo and banned him from all future events.
But still it begs the question: even with his social standing, why on Earth did Microsoft invite him to the party?
Microsoft and the Problem With Not Knowing
KSI is no stranger to the corporate world, having worked with EA and BT (and also IGN) with their video game coverage. This, in turn with his subscriber count (which some people have pointed out isn’t really reflective of how many people Microsoft might actually influence by hiring him) is likely how the Xbox One maker found out about him.
But speaking to Gamesindustry.biz about the controversy surrounding KSI and how he gets his video views (i.e by being a sexist dipshit), Microsoft’s Phil Harrison told them that he “wasn’t familiar with their concerns”. That’s right, Microsoft had no idea about KSI’s background. That’s slightly unusual when they’re paying him to promote the biggest console launch in their entire history, don’t you think?
A simple Google search of ‘KSI controversy’ would have done the trick. It could take you, or I, or anyone with opposable thumbs and the important job or marketing the Xbox One to a group of diverse gamers about 4 seconds to find out why this guy isn’t a good fit for the job, but Microsoft failed to do so, raising even more questions about their practices in the process.
Speak Up, Matt Lees
In the video embedded above, Videogamer’s Matt Lees (mostly) hits the nail on the head about the KSI and Xbox One controversy (warning: he does use a homophobic slur in a relatively non-offensive manner, but if that word bothers you, be prepared) pointing out that it is indeed shady for Microsoft to have employed this marketing tactic, thinking they could fool us all. Lees got it right enough that he offended KSI to the point of (falsely) reporting him for copyright violations, hence the version you see above. Except using clips from KSI’s videos didn’t violate copyright at all, and someone is clearly trying to cover their misogynistic tracks.
However, I don’t quite agree with Lees entirely on the subject of women and I think that Microsoft’s decision to include him is a far bigger issue than just tarnishing their family friendly image. Much more focus should be on the fact that Microsoft (initially) seemed to condone KSI’s past behaviour. At least they did enough not to check up on it whatsoever.
Segregation of the Female Gamer (and Non-Female Gamers Too)
It’s easy to laugh this off as ‘haha silly people getting their girdles in a bunch about something KSI said a while ago, Microsoft won’t be affected by this’, but that’s where the statistics show that people thinking this is nothing are absolutely wrong.
For example, in a financial meeting earlier this year, it was revealed that nearly 40% of Xbox Live users are female. Of course not every Xbox 360 user will be an Xbox Live subscriber but out of those who are, almost half are female and those are paying customers who probably don’t want to be marketed to by a man who thinks that the rape and harassment of their gender is a hilarious.
Even then it’s not just women who KSI is offensive to because non-female gamers have female friends, girlfriends, mothers and sisters, all of whom are the subject of KSI’s inappropriate and offensive jokes. Every genders, not just women, will be looking to purchase the Xbox One this holiday season and so even if Microsoft wanted to save face with consumers (in other words by not offending the veritable shit out of us) and make money from every gaming demographic, this isn’t the way to do it.
Where Do Microsoft Go From Here?
This isn’t the first time Microsoft have offended on their path to the Xbox One’s release as they recently hired someone to represent the console at Eurogamer Expo 2013 who made an entire performance out of mocking a trans gaming writer. It’s little surprise that they’ve continued to show little to no consideration for the gamers they are marketing to or for people’s feelings, but it also shows that they are consistent in failing to screen employees.
However, Microsoft have since made another statement to GI.biz, explaining that “At the Xbox One launch in London last night, KSI performed a song with three other artists, which was one part of a ten-hour event featuring a main stage show, Xbox One gameplay, and a midnight launch for hundreds of our fans. This does not represent Microsoft’s endorsement of KSI’s personal views, and we are not planning on working with KSI in the future.” Which, coming from a spokesperson, is hardly sincere but the fact that they’ve severed all ties with KSI is at least a good way forward. However, we’ll have to see whether they don’t further alienate people from buying their products by conducting more questionable and offensive marketing in the future.
KSI’s rep has spoken in a statement too, simply saying that KSI is young (although it’s been pointed out that his misogyny is still alive and well even as of July this year) and that “Sexism is not something he condones or wants to be associated with”, but from the likes of what we’ve seen, this is clearly untrue. We can only hope that in the future, both he and Microsoft change their ways, even if the damage may have already been done.
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