Two of gaming's largest developers are combatting online hate together
There’s always been toxicity in gaming, but today two of the industry’s biggest developers, Ubisoft and Riot Games, announced that they were coming together to stop—or at least reduce—the level in which harmful content can be spread in-game.
It’s a noble and much needed mission. Ask any player who’s spent more than a few hours gaming, and they’ll tell you how negative the trash talk can get. Friendly banter is fine, but targeted insults aren’t. We’re hoping the two developers can find a way to reduce the latter.
The project, named ‘Zero Harm in Comms’, has been underway for six months now, and aims to create a shared (but anonymous) database of player chats across both company’s games. This will then be used to train their AI systems to recognize harmful content more effectively. Ubisoft and Riot? That’s a lot of data to learn from.
As things stand, most games have a keyword detector in their text chat as standard. This can prevent people from using obviously racist, sexist, or harmful language, but the two companies are trying to take online detection a step further.
In the official announcement, Ubisoft’s Yves Jacquier explained how the phrase ‘I’m going to take you out’ highlights this nuance. In a shooter game, it’s totally in the clear. But in other circumstances, the context might be more suggestive.
Each company has stressed that they want to be as transparent to the players as possible. “They may not care how it's happening; they just want to know that things are improving, and things are getting better,” Riot’s Wesley Kerr said in the announcement.
While details are broad right now, both Jacquier and Kerr plan to present their findings from the project (and possible next steps) to the games industry at some point next year.
Everyone should feel safe and respected on the internet, that’s a given. In gaming, while some of it is harmless trash talk, this line gets crossed regularly.
The fact that not one but two of the industry’s leaders are addressing this issue really gives the project some weight. The data at their fingertips will be enormous—more than we can fathom—and from that could come some learnings that really benefit the industry.
In the official announcement, the two companies expressed their hope that “more publishers will come aboard to move beyond the keyword model that has proven insufficient for so long.” If they’re open to working with other companies, then it backs up their intentions of being transparent and honest.
The only concern that could come from this news is if it led to players not being able to express themselves, even through harmless text. We’ll have to wait until next year to hear Ubisoft and Riot’s plan in more detail, and to hear the community’s reaction to it.