“This is why I can’t solo.”
Riot’s new team-based shooter Valorant is still only in beta, but it sure didn’t take long for the toxicity to creep in. Even the game’s developers are reporting having experienced in-game sexist harassment, with one now avoiding the solo queue.
The discussion began when Riot UX designer “Greenily” posted an example of some of the behaviour she’d experienced while playing Valorant, noting that she muted the player for his comments – but this wouldn’t be enough to stop him harassing someone else in another game.
“I want to live in a world where this guy doesn’t go and ruin other peoples’ games. Where people feel safe to speak up. But reality is that in general voice comms land, for a ton of females, their safety mechanism is identifying [people] like this early and remaining silent or muting.”
In response to the thread, Valorant executive producer Anna Donlon called the behaviour “creepy as hell” and remarked that even she was avoiding Valorant’s solo queue due to the toxic behaviour. “We’re absolutely looking into long-term solutions for making it safe to play Valorant – even solo queue,” Donlon added.
Gross, this is creepy as hell. This is why I can’t solo. I’m so sorry. We’re absolutely looking into long-term solutions for making it safe to play VALORANT – even solo queue!
— Anna Donlon (@RiotSuperCakes) April 24, 2020
When interviewed by Chris Tapsell for Eurogamer, Valorant game director Joe Ziegler said Riot was “definitely trying to get ahead” of the sort of toxicity seen in League of Legends, explaining that the company was trying to centralise its efforts and “draw from that as we go”. He did note, however, that Valorant presented a unique set of issues due to its gameplay, which would require “specific salves around certain features”.
Toxicity is a problem in many online multiplayer games, with developers continually looking for different ways to tackle the problem. Rainbow Six Siege introduced an automated ban system for those who use slurs, Overwatch developed an endorsement system to encourage better behaviour, and Apex Legends’ ping system makes it possible to communicate without the need for voice comms. Riot is yet to detail the specific measures it’s taking to reduce toxicity in Valorant, but it certainly won’t be an easy task.
Outside of Valorant, Riot is still dealing with the aftermath of allegations of sexism and toxicity within the company, as unveiled in a 2018 Kotaku report. In February, new legal counsel took over the class action lawsuit seeking compensation for the women of Riot, who could be entitled up to $400m according to one state regulator (via Gamesindustry.biz).