Riot will start recording voice chat in Valorant for the purpose of moderation, the company announced (opens in new tab) today. There won't be a way to opt-out other than not using voice chat.
"We know disruptive behavior using our voice chat is a concern for a lot of players, and we’re committed to addressing it more effectively," the developer said. "In order for us to take action against players who use voice comms to harass others, use hate speech, or otherwise disrupt your experience, we need to know what those players are saying."
It's no secret that multiplayer games can be nasty spaces. Toxicity is a constant in every multiplayer shooter I play, and Valorant is one of the worst. During its pre-release beta, a Riot UX designer tweeted a video (opens in new tab) of the harassment she'd been receiving in Valorant. Replying to the tweet, Valorant executive producer Anna Donlon committed to finding "long-term solutions" to help curb toxicity.
Today's🍵: It's like this MOST of the time on solo queue voice comms REGARDLESS of the game I'm playing. I usually don't give in to this like in the video; I'm silent in an attempt to not incite more. Inevitably you get to a point where you have to mute them. More perspective: pic.twitter.com/7ruWcI78tLApril 24, 2020
That was a year ago. Today, Donlon addressed the new voice chat recording policy in a series of tweets (opens in new tab).
"There is a major problem in competitive gaming 'culture' right now when it comes to voice comms," she wrote. "If you don’t know that, then you likely haven’t suffered the type of abuse in-game that many people suffer. Or, you just don’t care.
"I read and listen to the behaviors people report. I hear it myself in games. Stop telling me to 'just mute.' How about the abusers 'just mute' themselves? This is a meaningful step, one of many we'll all need to take."
Riot says it will not "actively monitor" voice comms, but will record and play back voice logs in response to reports of voice abuse. You can technically opt-out of being recorded, but you'll have to turn off voice chat altogether to do that (not something you want to do in a team-based FPS that demands coordination to win). If Riot does act on a report against you and reviews your voice logs, that data will be made available to you and then deleted after the report has been closed, similar to how the company currently handles text chat.
Recording voice chat is uncommon in videogames. Every major multiplayer game logs text chat, but voice chat has typically been unregulated (and can become a real cesspool for it). Considering the PlayStation 5 can also record and moderate party voice chat (opens in new tab), the practice may become increasingly common.
It has always stuck out to me that, for as much lip service as developers pay to punishing toxicity in its games, voice chat has been left alone despite potentially being more harmful than text chat. Until now, game operators have effectively been monitoring only half of the ways that players can abuse each other. Knowing that Riot is recording my voice doesn't feel all that different from the expectation I already have that anyone can be recording my multiplayer match (and my voice) at any time.
So far, the response from players has been positive from what I've seen. Along with this major change, Riot says it's exploring "other approaches" that it believes will improve in-game interactions.
If people haven't heard this story: I had to quit playing VALORANT because of voice chat. 3+ yrs of being a female shotcaller in Overwatch did not prepare me for the absolute vile trash that sits in that game. Maybe this'll get me back. Not gonna lie.April 30, 2021