Last Friday, Xbox Brazil video host Isadora Basile announced that Microsoft had severed ties with her. In a tweet, she said she’d been regularly harassed by members of the local Xbox community since being hired in early September, and that that mistreatment was part of the decision to end her contract.
Kotaku has been in contact with Basile throughout the week to learn more about the situation.
“At the end of the day, it seems I became too much of a problem,” Basile explained to Kotaku via email. She said that she had been supported by Xbox Brazil during some tough times, but understood that her dismissal was partially informed by fan abuse.
Microsoft, after initially not acknowledging the harassment in two statements since last week, was quoted by IGN today as saying that Basile’s firing was “unrelated” to the harassment.
The situation began to blow up publicly on Friday when Basile tweeted that her time at Xbox had come to an end. It had been a challenging assignment, she noted.
“I suffered harassment of all kinds, from people saying that I wasn’t ‘worthy’ of my job to rape and death threats and aggression for exposing tense situations,” Basile wrote on Twitter on Friday evening, according to an independent translation.
“Thanks to all these harassments, Microsoft decided that it was for the best [to] sever ties with me as a host, so I wouldn’t be more exposed to situations like these. I respect the decision made by Microsoft. My love for them will be the same as always.”
Basile told Kotaku this week that she was informed of her contract termination during a call with representatives from her talent agency and Microsoft Brazil. Her work had been contracted through the agency and going well by her estimation, but she was told Microsoft was changing course. She understood that the decision was at least partially driven by an initiative announced in August by the Xbox team at Microsoft’s US headquarters to shift regional communication to the centralised Xbox Wire information channel.
But she said she was also told that Xbox Brazil was looking to do away with presenters altogether, so as to not expose anyone to harassment from the community. It remains unclear at what level this decision was made.
In a statement to Kotaku earlier this week, an Xbox rep sidestepped Basile’s claims, reiterating the company’s plans to consolidate official news on Xbox Wire.
“We made some changes to our original Xbox programming strategy in Brazil, resulting in fewer channels,” the Xbox spokesperson said. “We thank Isadora Basile and the talented crew at the agency who helped produce the Xbox News Show, for their creativity and contributions. Moving forward, Xbox Wire portal will be our single source for news and impactful content. The XboxBR channel will continue to experiment with new ways to delight Brazilian gamers.”
Xbox Brazil issued a similar statement on Twitter in Brazilian Portuguese last Friday night.
— XboxBR (@XboxBR) October 17, 2020
Microsoft had declined to address the situation further with us when pressed, but provided a different and more direct statement published on IGN today.
“We do not tolerate harassment or disrespectful behaviour of any kind and we took action to support Isadora when personal attacks against her were brought to our attention,” an Xbox spokesperson told IGN. “Last week’s programming changes are unrelated. They are the direct result of our ongoing effort to reach more players in more languages with the real-time news and comprehensive information available from our global news outlet, Xbox Wire.”
While Basile’s announcement has rightfully stirred up righteous fury among people upset by her treatment, she also told Kotaku that Xbox Brazil had been supportive previously. For example, when an Xbox fan page on Facebook published a post objectifying her because of her affiliation with the brand, she said that Microsoft quickly had the page taken down. But this only makes the decision to let her go even more confusing.
“I’m grateful for the time that me and Microsoft spent together,” Basile added in a separate email to Kotaku. “It was really a pleasure. There’s a lot of awesome people on the Brazil team and it was awesome to have this time with them.”
This isn’t the first time Microsoft has had to contend with its own toxic fans in Brazil. Back in June, Vice reported that Microsoft officially distanced itself from a group known as “Xbox Mil Grau” after public outcry about Mil Grau’s racist, sexist, and transphobic behaviour online. Despite its reputation, Mil Grau enjoyed a relationship with Microsoft that, according to Brazilian gaming journalist Bruna Penilhas, gave members opportunities to join Xbox head Phil Spencer on stage during an Xbox Brazil presentation and even be flown to E3 2018 by Mixer, the now-defunct Microsoft streaming platform.
Basile’s situation comes as no surprise to anyone who spends any amount of time in the gaming community. The underlying current of bigotry that’s existed in the gaming industry and gaming culture for decades has, in the last few years, exploded into a geyser of unrepentant harassment against minorities of all stripes. An outspoken contingent of video game fans grow feral as soon as a woman becomes involved in the hobby, and massive corporations often fail to effectively leverage their positions as leaders in this space to do something about it.
While the spotlight may be on Brazil right now, this is a truly global problem. It will only continue to fester, pushing out every woman, every Black person, everyone who isn’t a cis, heterosexual, white dude if the culture doesn’t fundamentally change. And that would really suck.