When Nintendo on Sunday announced its Miiverse social network for its upcoming Wii U game console, skeptics immediately started wondering how long it would take before griefers would overrun the feeds with profanity — or worse. Given that users will be able to post drawings and scribbles they create on the Wii U’s GamePad touch screen controller, keeping things clean would seem to be an especially challenging matter.
Although the Japanese game company didn’t address that issue in its announcement, it turns out that Nintendo’s chief executive, Satoru Iwata, has already given the matter some thought. That’s not surprising given Nintendo’s heritage as a platform for kids.
“Nintendo is deeply concerned about secure communications,” said JC Fletcher, managing editor of Joystiq, a site for game news and reviews. “Whatever they do, it will be severely content restricted.”
Fletcher is correct. In an interview at the E3 conference in Los Angeles on Tuesday, Iwata said Nintendo planned to use a three-prong approach to combat misbehavior.
The first is content filtering, which can be done with software that can scan for naughty words. That, of course, isn’t foolproof because gamers can be a deviously creative bunch when it comes to alternative spellings.
That’s why Iwata said the company was also planning to use a second method — “human resources.” Nintendo plans to hire people to monitor content on Miiverse.
The filtering will be done before the posts are published, Iwata said. With software, that can take a few seconds. But humans need a lot more time to manually sift through content.
As a result, there will probably be a delay between the time a user creates a post and when it appears in the Miiverse feed. How long depends on how many posts are created and how many people Nintendo has to do the work.
“The attraction of a social network is the immediacy of the feedback,” Iwata said. On the other hand, it’s absolutely essential that parents need to feel comfortable with Miiverse as a safe place for their children, he added.
That raises the question: What is an acceptable time lag that satisfies both requirements? Is it 30 minutes? Or three hours?
Iwata said that the company will monitor feedback from its users when the service launches to answer that question. “But personally, I think 30 minutes should be acceptable,” he said.
The third technique that Nintendo will employ will be the community itself, as users can flag inappropriate content. But that’s not ideal because it means that some people will almost certainly have seen an offending post before it is taken down.
Fletcher of Joystiq suggested another idea — a friend list for kids below 13. Parents, for example, could set the console to show only posts from people their children know.
“And, hopefully their friends aren’t creeps,” Fletcher said. But that’s another topic.
— Alex Pham
RECENT AND RELATED: