Riot Games plan to introduce a code of conduct and a system of punishments and rewards, in an attempt to end the scrouge of harassment and toxic behaviour that can plague online gaming.
With the help of a specially created "Central Player Dynamics" team, they plan to research and analysis player behaviour to help establish systems that reward "fair teamplay".
Labelling the issue "priority", Anna Donlon, the executive producer and leader of the Valorant development team, wants to go past offering "tools to self-isolate" and rather take a multi-faceted approach to tackle what she describes as a "hard space".
Riot Games want to stamp out harassment in their games. Picture: Anna Donlon
"I’ll be super real here: harassment and bullying in games is not a status quo I’m comfortable accepting," she said in a blog post.
Speaking of "fears of solo-queuing" in her years of online gaming she laid out the problem:
"We’ve learned to mute others who are harassing us. We’ve learned to mute ourselves in order to keep the peace. And as a result, we have a competitive experience that can feel compromised. We often find ourselves at a disadvantage."
"I'm not alone."
And she is certainly not, misogyny, homophobia, racism, ableism, let's be frank, and very woke here, all the -isms are routinely seen and heard in online games and the examples are countless, most recently Imane "Pokimane" Anys called for an "anonymous mode" after encountering harassment during Valorant matches.
@PlayVALORANT please implement anonymous mode. i've asked since playtesting alpha + am tired of people calling me a skank, thot, or saying other rude and vulgar things EVEN when i don't use my mic. 🥺🙏— pokimane (@pokimanelol) May 1, 2020
Riot is looking to attack this in a two-pronged manner, one with a code of conduct, which is set to be released "soon" with punishments for players that step out of line. The other, a nudging of player behaviour through led by the aforementioned "Crental Player Dynamics" team - which all sounds very Orwellian, but would probably take the form of awarding players points for healing in-game or gifting badges or cosmetics in a commendation system.
Donlon does stress that they understand this is a competitive game and where things get "tense".
"We're not going to ban someone just because they got passionate about winning or losing."
But she is also clear that this can verge "into harassment"
"That's not what we're okay with."
She also makes no bones about how hard the task is at hand, with harassment and toxic behaviour a problem that isn't solely a problem of gaming.
"This is a very hard space to take on. I can’t solve society, and some of these issues are really, really deeply entrenched. But what I can say is that Riot takes this seriously."