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Is voice recording in games a bad thing?

Riot Games branched out from League of Legends in 2020, launching the card game Legends of Runeterra and the tactical shooter VALORANT, the latter of which features team voice chat.

This feature is not rare among shooters, as other popular games like CS:GO, Call of Duty, and Halo also employ this method of communication with teammates. But with games that are competitive or feature PvP content, there is one thing that is sadly inescapable; toxicity.

Anyone who has played video games in the last 20 years has probably had their fair share of abuse over a microphone, stereotypically regarding committing sexual acts to one’s mother. However, companies such as Riot Games, who we will focus on primarily here as an example, have started considering the idea of recording the voice chat to properly punish toxic players, and this has caused mixed reactions from fans and critics. There are a variety of pros and cons to it.

First and foremost, we need to establish the fact that Riot Games have already made efforts to double-down on toxic players in their games. League of Legends is notorious for the toxicity of its player base, and it was gravely made apparent when pro player Voyboy made a heartfelt video on the subject of Ranked Queues, and criticised the company’s ineffective policing system. Riot have since become more active in trying to combat this behaviour, and only time will tell how effective they are. But VALORANT is a different story.

It is possible to mute the toxic players in the game. Unfortunately, the team chat in VALORANT is somewhat of a necessity in that communication is one of the key aspects in winning the game. But that invites flame wars when things don’t go the right way. Everyone is guilty of trash talk in one way or another, and mind games are an effective tactic to utilise as well, but a lot of the time it’s just straight up abuse.

Racism, homophobia, misogyny and misandry, and threatening behaviour is extremely present in the community. This was very much apparent when leaks of optional playercards showing different colours of the Pride flag were met with extreme prejudice from some players, and many people in the community said that it just made it easier for the abusers to find out which slurs to use. It’s endemic, and for a company that is known for strong communication and positive interaction with its players, something had to be done about it.

How can you hate on something so pretty?

Thus, the idea of recording voice chat was proposed. If someone was abusive over comms, then you could report them. What happens then is that someone, presumably a Rioter, would listen to the recording of VC, and decide whether the offending player deserves a punishment. Pretty straightforward, and the process can be effective should it go ahead.

People get the idea that being abusive to their teammates does not go unpunished, and those individuals receive bans from playing games. Ideally, it would be an IP ban so they can’t just set up another account, but that’s a different issue entirely. It’s not some Orwellian plot to control the thoughts of players, it’s just preventing toxic communications negatively impacting others.

Better not be being toxic in there?

However, some people have brought up privacy concerns and how the audio is used. Theoretically, unless you’re giving out your credit card details or your address to a stranger, you should be fine. But data leaks have happened in the past with other companies such as Sony, so IP addresses may end up in the wrong hands should a leak occur.

The simplest remedy to this would be to just dispose of the audio as soon as the “adjudication” process has concluded. As they operate with consumers in the EU, then they’d have to operate using GDPR regardless, and audio would have to be deleted on request.

There are fair arguments on both sides, and whether Riot goes ahead with it or not is yet to be seen. Regardless, these are things to consider when spitballing ideas about it.

What do you think, let us know in the comments?

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