No one should have to “grow a thicker skin”: Valorant studio commit to harsh penalties for harassment

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Riot games have committed to a series of new measures to curtail harassment and hate-speech in the Valorant community. In a video entitled ‘Keeping Our Community Healthy // Dev Updates,” studio head Anna Donlon took to Xitter to outline the new measures for the competitive FPS. Below is a graphic detailing the changes, which include new penalties such as hardware bans for offenders, and an expanded role for the game’s Voice Evaluation tech, which monitors chat for bad behaviour. “If you want to make evil statements under the guise of ‘[naughty word SEO doesn’t like being in the first paragraph] talk’, you aren’t welcome here,” writes the official Valorant account.

Image credit: Riot Games

“Player behaviour is a complex problem-space,” Donlon said. Sometimes solutions have to be “painfully manual. Sometimes tech – that has the potential to be a gamechanger – takes longer than you want”. She reiterated that offending community members are in the minority, but added that “unfortunately, there are still people in this world that want to take their insecurity, or their bad day, or their hate, or their whatever, on some stranger through their computer screen.”

“In almost all cases, someone gets hurt in the process of making these systems better,” continued Donlon. Earlier this month, streamer Taylor Morgan went viral with the below post

In the attached video, Morgan shared footage from a stream in which she was subject to sexual harassment and verbal abuse from another player. “I know you hear us,” Morgan wrote. “I know you see us. If this goes unpunished I am taking this as an active act from you that you do not give a single fuck about any of the women and minorities that play your game, and I will rally to boycott.”

It would seem that Riot were paying attention. “When you to tell someone to ‘just mute comms’ to avoid harassment, you are essentially putting the harassed person in a position to not communicate,” said Donlon. “To compromise how they want to play the game to accommodate you.”

“Competitive games need to have room for banter. We believe this, and I do understand the fear that we will sanitise gaming by ‘over-addressing’ these issues,” Donlon continued. “We have no interest in doing that. But we do believe that a person should not have to be in a position to ‘grow a thicker skin’ or whatever other unhelpful suggestions have been thrown out there just to avoid threats of violence or literal hate-speech.” Talk is cheap, of course, but it’s heartening to see a studio so quickly react to something that’s making Valorant a worse place for so many. Riot themselves were the subject of allegations and lawsuits related to an abusive workplace culture a few years ago, and have been careful to position themselves as having learned from the experience.

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