Tech companies want to tackle harassment in games

Competitive CounterStrike: Global Offensive Player Adam Bahriz will likely kill you in the game. He’s so talented that he’s landed a contract with Team Envy, an esports organization that’s home to some of North America’s top-ranked competitive esports players. Bahriz is also deaf and legally blind, with a condition known as HSAN 8.

“What do you guys wanna do?” Have you just released A? I can buy smoke ”, Bahriz says. His teammates immediately jumped on him to make fun of him and silenced him. “You’re just going to be blocked,” said one of them. “We know you are trolling,” said another. “So boring.” “You are already muted. “

“OK, I won’t speak, sorry,” he said resignedly.

Bahriz goes the rest of the game in silence and even begins to cry, revealing the very real and powerful effects that bullying has on players who experience it. That’s all that’s wrong with the toxic gambling culture, where slurs are free, bullying happens on a regular basis, and everything from racism, misogyny, homophobia, transphobia, ableism, and more, is a fair game. “This incident made me feel very depressed,” Bahriz tells me. “I just want to have fun playing a game, but a speech impediment beyond my control makes it difficult. Bahriz says that eventually toxic teammates kicked him out of the game, and although “most of the time people are toxic, it’s rare to get kicked out of the game. That’s why it was so upsetting. You can silence toxic people, but you can’t stop your whole team from regrouping to kick you for no other reason than a speech problem.

In 2017, a Twitch streamer, Nicole smith, recorded the verbal abuse she received while playing Overwatch.

“Go back to the kitchen,” said a teammate.
“This is the reason why girls shouldn’t be doing anything,” added another.
“Can you really go and die?” “

Much like Bahriz, Smith faced an avalanche of insults, harassment and, in her case, misogynistic comments. The abuse Smith has to endure just to play video games is reminiscent of GamerGate, where women in games and gaming journalism (as well as all who have spoken up in their defense) have endured weeks, months and, in some cases, years of harassment, including death threats, doxing and stalking. This has led to changes in the gaming industry’s response to online harassment, with some game developers and publishers rolling out their own initiatives to address in-game toxicity, and much criticism of many. of those same publishers and developers for waiting for people’s lives to be in danger. take harassment seriously.

A Anti-Defamation League 2020 survey found that 81% of U.S. adults were harassed in online multiplayer games, up from 74% in 2019, while 70% were called offensive names in online multiplayer games and 60% were targeted for trolling or trolling. “Deliberate and malicious attempts to provoke [other gamers] react negatively. Overall there was a 7% increase from 2019 to 2020.

For Bahriz, he doesn’t get as much abuse as he used to, but when he does, he usually mutes it and does his best “not to let toxicity mentally distract the game,” he says. For others, however, simple mute doesn’t work, even though it’s available in the game they’re playing. In 2019, another ADL survey found that 22% of American adults harassed in online multiplayer games had quit playing certain games altogether because of the harassment.

Game developers want to fight back but on their terms

In 2017, Activision Blizzard, Epic, Intel, Microsoft, Twitch and over 200 other companies formed the Fair play alliance for, as its website says, “to encourage fair play and healthy communities”. In 2018, Blizzard publicly appointed 180 Monitoring players banned for toxic behavior, including abuse in audio conversations and deliberately launching games. Not bad for a game that didn’t even have the option to report abusive players when it was released in 2016. In 2019, Ubisoft released half-hour bans for Rainbow Six Siege players if the company detected insults in the text chat. Ubisoft code of conduct says this includes “any language or content deemed illegal, dangerous, threatening, abusive, obscene, vulgar, defamatory, hateful, racist, sexist, ethically offensive or constituting harassment.” Also that year, Electronic Arts created a Player Council with an inaugural summit at Gamescom in Cologne, Germany.

Riot Games, a company that made the news at the same time for internal toxicity as well as as toxicity in his games, is also trying to solve the problem. In 2012, he introduced the court system in League of Legends, where players were given temporary bans based on their actions and offenses deemed unacceptable by other players. (The court system no longer exists.) In 2016, he published a report in American scientist who concluded that, on the basis of his toxicity study, adding in-game guidance (among other things) reduced in-game toxicity by 25%, both among abusive players in lobbies and in matches containing abuse. Even as late as April 2021, Riot changed its privacy policy to allow the capture and evaluation of a player’s voice communications when a report has been submitted on their behavior, in an effort to reduce toxicity. voice communications as well as game prompts.

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