Stephen Toulouse obituary: Game industry remembers Xbox Live’s crusader against abuse
Stephen Toulouse, a popular member of the gaming community, passed away on Thursday. He was fondly remembered as “Stepto” and sometimes as “Banhammer” for his tenure as the Xbox Live policy executive, when he sought to make the online community more civil.
Toulouse’s brother, Jeff Toulouse, tweeted about his passing yesterday.
It is with heavy hearts that we announce the loss of our brother, Stephen Toulouse, @Stepto, this morning. Beloved son, brother and uncle.
— Jeff Toulouse (@toulouto) October 27, 2017
Stephen Toulouse was only 45. Two years ago, he had a brush with death as he fell into a deep coma related to an infection. But he pulled out of it and survived.
Stephen was a Microsoft employee for nearly 18 years, joining Microsoft in 1994. He became the director of Xbox Live policy and enforcement until 2012. In that role, he stood out for fighting online harassment in the gaming and tech communities, and he was commended for handling the tasks with a sense of humor and authority. Ben Smith, a friend, called Stephen “one of the brand’s strongest community ambassadors.”
“And he loved it. His passion was infectious,” Smith wrote on Facebook. “He loved gamers because they loved gaming. No judgement. No exclusion. Just a pure love of gaming.”
Ryan Macklin, a friend, wrote, “We hoped for him, and some pre-ourned when it looked grim. We rejoiced when he came to, and pulled together to help with his family’s expenses. You know what Stepto did with that experience? Turn it into a performance he used to uplift and inspire others. That man was an orator and storyteller par excellence, with a magnificent heart and soul.”
In 2010, he recited on a panel at PAX his “law” of Xbox Live ban protests: “The more convoluted, overwrought and lengthy the protest of innocence, the probability of it being bullshit approaches one.” He frequently spoke on behalf of Microsoft and Xbox Live, and he was a guest multiple times on Larry Hryb’s “Major Nelson Radio” podcasts.
Toulouse was from Dallas, Texas, and went to school at Southwest Texas State, where he studied English and philosophy. Since leaving Microsoft in 2012, he worked at places such as Hacker On, HBO, and the Leviathan Security Group. He also served as a consultant, and became a contract senior security advisor for Electronic Arts earlier this year.
He was remembered in numerous posts on Twitter and Facebook.
— Eric Neustadter (e) (@thevowel) October 27, 2017
— John Scalzi (@scalzi) October 27, 2017
I just found out @stepto passed, and I’m emotionally shocked. He was one of the first people working for online harassment, long before me.
— Brianna Wu (@Spacekatgal) October 27, 2017
I can’t even imagine how many of us there are honestly. Few people have had such a huge, positive impact on the world.
— ℤoë “🌠𝕊𝔻ℂℂ🌠” ℚuinn (@UnburntWitch) October 27, 2017
Only a small but crucial part of Stepto's work at MS with Xbox Live policy. pic.twitter.com/V3FqoFba5r
— Ponza / Gordon (@PonzaLT) October 27, 2017
RIP. After his previous brush with death, Toulouse wrote:
I stand before you, so much more to say, but now extra special because I’m .001% metal now thanks to my shunt. The twist in my M. Night story is that I made it, with no brain damage, through something that no one thought I would. My super power is suddenly and without reason fall into a coma at will. Useful during torture or to escape certain situations:
“Do you know how fast you were going sir?”
I view what happened to me with humor but humble. I’m getting that chance to finish the level before bed.
I have no idea what the future will bring, and the debt I owe to those of you who enjoy my work or supported me during this is immeasurable. There but for the grace of Morgan Freeman playing God in a movie went I, and emerged changed and not.