Racist abuse in online gaming is nothing new—it's so common that in 2018 we did a roundup of the consequences for saying something racist in popular online games. Developers have struggled against it, usually with mixed results. Call of Duty: Modern Warfare studio Infinity Ward today committed to increasing resources to monitor and remove racist names and comments in the game, and apologized for not doing a better job of it already.
"There is no place for racist content in our game. This is an effort we began with launch and we need to do a better job," the studio said in a message shared on Twitter. "We're issuing thousands of daily bans of racist and hate-oriented names. But we know we have to do more."
To accomplish that, Infinity Ward said it will:
- Add additional resources to monitor and ID racist content
- Add additional in-game reporting systems to increase the number of bans by hour
- Add filters and greater restrictions on name changes
- Evaluate in-game improvements to make it easier to report offenses
- Increase permanent bans to root out repeat offenders.
Tools are important, but bringing about meaningful changes to player behavior has proven a tougher nut to crack. An NPR report in 2010 warned about "Concerns of Racism in Multiplayer Videogames" (coincidentally citing Modern Warfare 2 as one of the most popular of the day), and more recently Mordhau developer Triternion caused a controversy when it suggested that it might let players toggle off female and non-white characters. The growth of Chinese audiences has also resulted in racist clashes with Western gamers.
Infinity Ward is taking some heat for not having these measure in place right from the start: Vlambeer co-founder Rami Ismail, for instance, said the changes came "way too late" and that the timing seems "a little cynical," although he added that they're still good moves to make overall. And Infinity Ward appeared to acknowledge that it's dropped the ball so far.
"We apologize to our players," the post concluded. "This is our commitment to you, our fans, thank you."
I've reached out to Activision for more information on how these changes will be implemented, and when we can expect them to go live, and will update if I receive a reply.