Category Archives: Gaming

Riot Explored Toxic In-Game Behavior and Workplace Toxicity



Riot Games LogoRiot Games is the creator of League of Legends, a game nearly 30 million players log into every day. While it is possible for any online game to attract some players who are verbally abusive to other players, League of Legends has developed a reputation for attracting quite a lot of those kinds of toxic players. Riot wondered if there was a correlation between highly toxic in-game play and workplace toxicity.

Riot’s hypothesis was that if a Rioter (a description given to people who work for Riot Games) received a lot of in-game complaints, that person would have friction with workplace teammates too. Was there a correlation between in-game toxicity and real-world behavior?

Everyone who works at Riot Games plays League of Legends. As such, Riot was able to look at the preceding 12 months of gameplay of every employee. They determined that 25% of Riot employees who had been let go in the previous year were players with unusually high in-game toxicity.

Some examples of toxic behaviors include homophobia, racism, sexism, and other forms of hate speech. Among the Rioters who had been let go in the past 12 months, the most common bad in-game behaviors included passive aggression (snarky comments), the use of authoritative language and sometimes misusing their authority as a Riot employee to intimidate or threaten others.

Riot identified the 30 most toxic employees and categorized them as either someone who needed a stern warning or as someone who should leave Riot. Those who received a warning were presented with their in-game chat logs in which they were exhibiting especially bad behavior. Apparently, some of those Rioters apologized and promised to change their ways.

Riot is trying to figure out how to use what they learned about the correlation between toxic in-game behavior and workplace toxicity to help them in the hiring process. Riot asks applicants for their in-game handle during the application process and can review that person’s gameplay. They are considering using an applicant tracking system that flags toxic players so that a recruiter or hiring manager can quickly see how an applicant behaves in League of Legends.

I’ve read through some of the comment sections of articles that discussed this topic. One one hand, people feel that Riot Games has the right to refuse to hire people who have been especially toxic while playing the company’s League of Legends game. It reflects on how that person would represent the company and the game itself. Others feel that looking at an applicant’s in-game chat is too intrusive.


Screams in Video Games are Killing Actor’s Voices



SAG-AFTRA logoWhen your character dies in a video game, he or she may let out a dramatic, blood-curdling, scream. You might be screaming as well, out of frustration. Chances are, you don’t spend a lot of time screaming at your video games. That’s good, because it turns out that all that screaming is causing harm to the voices of the actors who bring your character to life.

The national executive director of the Screen Actors Guild-American Federation of Television and Radio Artists (SAG-AFTRA), David White, sent a letter to California’s Division of Occupational Safety and Health (Cal/OSHA) on May 25, 2016. The union wants the state of California to open an investigation into the allegedly unsafe vocal recording sessions that some companies in the video game industry are requiring voice actors to do.

Voice actors who work in the video game industry are asked to work long hours. Those hours are spent recording loud and strenuous noises (including violent screaming). Some may be asked to use their voices to make noises for characters that are not human. Keep in mind that a voice actor rarely gets the line perfect on the first try. It is common for them to have to do many retakes of the same line, over and over again.

The letter from SAG-AFTRA states that the voice actor union members were not given enough time to properly warm up their voices. Some members have experienced cysts, polyps, and cord hemorrhaging as a result of their working conditions. SAG-AFTRA points out that this could result in changes in vocal quality or complete vocal cord paralysis. Obviously, that could end a voice actor’s career.

The next time your character dies, listen closely to the sound. Spare a thought for the voice actor or actress who had to stress their vocal cords by making that scream.


Blizzard and Facebook Team Up to Empower Streamers



Blizzard Entertainment logoBlizzard announced that it is working together with Facebook to give gamers new ways to connect and share their gaming experiences, and to bring more high-demand content to Facebook’s global platform.

The collaboration between the two companies will begin later this month with the integration of Facebook Login in Blizzard’s PC games. (The console games are unaffected by this collaboration). The integration of the Facebook login will enable players to sign up for and log into Blizzard’s games – including World of Warcraft, Heroes of the Storm, Hearthstone, Diablo III, StarCraft II and Overwatch – using their Facebook accounts.

What do these two companies get from this collaboration? Blizzard gets a way to add new social functionality in their games. Facebook gets a means to highlight its platform for sharing, viewing, and discussing AAA game content.

Blizzard is in the process of incorporating Facebook’s Live API in order to create its own “Go Live” streaming functionality for its games. When that functionality is implemented, players will for the first time be able to livestream their Blizzard-gaming sessions directly through their Facebook timelines. The player’s Facebook friends will be able to subscribe and be notified when the player’s new streams are available.


Blizzard is Banning Cheaters from Overwatch



Overwatch logoBlizzard wasn’t kidding when it said it would ban players who cheat from being able to play Overwatch. The game launched on May 24, 2016. Already, there is indication that the bans have begun.

PC Gamer appears to be the first to report about the bans. They mention that one player got banned, bought the game again, and found that doing so was not a way to get around the ban. He still couldn’t play Overwatch.

To me, this is a sign that Blizzard’s ban on cheaters who play Overwatch is being done differently than how they have banned cheating players from some of their other games. It has been said (on forums I will not link to because they discuss things that are definitely against Blizzard’s terms of service) that cheaters who got banned from Diablo III were able to play the game again if they purchased a new copy.

Blizzard posted a list of 1,572 players who are in China, who have cheated, and who got banned from Overwatch as a result. (Some of the battletag names on that list are in English, and several are NSFW). So far, I haven’t seen a similar “name and shame” list of banned Overwatch players in other regions, but China is not the only region in which cheating players have been banned.

Blizzard was absolutely serious when they stated, on May 13, 2016, that they would ban players who cheat in Overwatch. Their original post warned: “If a player is found to be cheating -or using hacks, bots, or third-party software that provides any sort of unfair advantage – that player will be permanently banned from the game. Full stop.” I’d like to see Blizzard do that same ban on the players who cheat in their other games, too.

There is at least one Overwatch player who is very happy about the bans on players who were cheating. This player is thankful that Blizzard is keeping a zero-tolerance policy on cheating in Overwatch. He also feels that the way the bans were implemented could discourage other players from cheating.


The Sims 4 Expands Gender Customization Options



Sims 4 logoThe Sims 4 has a new update that features an expanded Create A Sim with new gender customization options. For the first time ever, players can customize their Sims without the gender boundaries that were previously set in place.

It is now possible to create a Sim of any physique, walk style, and tone of voice. Over 700 pieces of content that were previously only available to male Sims, or only available to female Sims, has now been made available to all Sims – regardless of gender. This includes clothing, hair, jewelry, and more.

The announcement on the Sims 4 website says:

The Sims is made by a diverse team for a diverse audience, and it’s really important to us that players are able to be creative and express themselves through our games. We want to make sure players can create characters they can identify with or relate to through powerful tools that give them influence over a Sims gender, age, ethnicity, body type and more.

In order to make use of this new Sims 4 update, a person must have an internet connection and all of the Sims 4 game updates. If you have all of those things, then the new update is free. The update includes content from The Sims 4 base game and previously launched packs.


Xbox Will Release One Million Recycled Gamertags



Xbox logoThose of you who thought up the perfect Gamertag, and who were frustrated to learn that someone else had already claimed it, could be in luck. Xbox is about to release nearly one million Gamertags that have gone dormant.

The release of the Gamertags “back into the wild” will begin on Wednesday, May 18th at 2:00 p.m. ET / 11:00 a.m. PT. The Gamertags will be released over a 24-hour period in order to give Xbox fans in various countries an equal chance to get one.

It is worth knowing that the recycled Gamertags aren’t going to be released to all Xbox users. Xbox says that it will release the Gamertags “to our valued Xbox Live Gold members with active subscriptions and at least 1 year of cumulative Xbox Live Gold tenure”.

The Gamertags that Xbox is about to release are from accounts abandoned from the original Xbox era. These accounts never migrated over to Xbox 360 and, as a result, have been inactive for quite some time.  Xbox won’t share the actual list of recycled Gamertags, but they have posted the categories that many of the Gamertags fall into:

* Proper Names

* Pop culture references (Entertainment, sports, gaming)

* Types of Food

* Geography and Travel

* Science and Technology

* Math and Numbers

* Animals

* Some of the greatest inventions of all time

Xbox points out that changing your Gamertag won’t impact your Gamerscore, Achievements, or your Friends list. In other words, you won’t lose anything by attempting to obtain the Gamertag that you’ve always wanted.


Blizzard Will Ban Cheaters in Overwatch



Overwatch logoOverwatch is already an incredibly popular game, despite the fact that it hasn’t even been released yet. The open beta has ended, and there are many players who are anxiously awaiting their opportunity to play Overwatch (after the game is released). Hopefully, they will be smart enough to play the game without cheating, because Blizzard will be banning cheaters in Overwatch.

The open beta for Overwatch recently ended. A total of 9.7 million players participated. The game can be played on XBox One, PS4, or PC. (Overwatch cannot be played on a Mac – which is disappointing, but not unusual when you consider how many video games aren’t Mac compatible). Overwatch will be released on May 24, 2016, and is available for pre-purchase now.

In an official post on the Overwatch website, Community Manager Lylirra (Stephanie Johnson) made it clear that Blizzard will not tolerate cheating in Overwatch.

We’ve always taken cheating in Blizzard games very seriously, and that stance is no different for Overwatch. “Play nice; play fair” is one of our core values as a company, and its something we’ve taken to heart not only when designing the game, but also as we’ve developed our plans to support it and our players after launch.

What does this mean for Overwatch? If a player is found to be cheating – or using hacks, bots, or third-party software that provides any sort of unfair advantage – that player will be permanently banned from the game. Full stop.

The same post gives honest players some ways to report cheaters. Overwatch will have an option “to report players for potential cheating” directly through the game client. In addition, players who believe that another player is cheating, or who have “information pertaining to the use of hacks, bots, or unauthorized third-party software in Overwatch” can contact hacks@blizzard.com and make a report.


Activision Blizzard Launched an ESports Broadcast Network



Activision Blizzard logoActivision Blizzard Media Networks (ABMN) has announced the launch of new content, broadcast experiences, and distribution partners for its MLG.tv streaming platform. It will deliver live eSports tournament coverage both through MLG.tv and also through Facebook.

This announcement was made at the IAB Digital Content NewFronts 2016 event. MLG.tv debuted its Enhanced Viewing Experience (EVE) at the event. EVE is a high-definition video stream with a built-in algorithmic system that provides viewers with match statistics, up-to-the-minute leaderboards, and situational insights based on the competition they are watching.

Activision acquired Major League Gaming, one of the biggest eSports leagues, in January of 2016. The mission of MLG.tv is to promote eSports through premier competition and to deliver premium gaming content to viewers anytime, anywhere, through the MGT.tv global streaming platform.

To start, ABMN will launch eSports content during MLG Anaheim Open, which is a two-day Call of Duty: Black Ops III tournament that will start on June 10, 2016. The event will also be the inaugural event as part of a deeper collaboration between ABMN and Facebook. The collaboration will allow MLG.tv to broadcast live competitions and deliver ESR content to the 1.6 billion people on Facebook.

Activision is the creator of the Call of Duty series of games. Blizzard is the creator of StarCraft, Hearthstone, Heroes of the Storm, and the very popular Overwatch (which is currently in beta). All of these games are ideal for eSports.


Disney Discontinues Production of Disney Infinity



Disney Infinity logoThere is something ironic about hearing that a video game system with the word “infinity” in it’s name is about to end. Disney has decided to discontinue production of Disney Infinity. This will likely be sad news for kids (and adults, for that matter) who were having fun playing the games and collecting the figures.

Disney Infinityfor those who are unaware, was a video game series that included interactive action figures. The latest version, Disney Infinity 3.0, was a video game disc that was needed for a person to play with all of their 3.0 figures, play sets, power discs, and Toy Box Expansion games. (It also allowed people to use their 1.0 and 2.0 figures and power discs).

In short, Disney Infinity was a video game system that incorporated figures into the game. Players needed to purchase a physical figure so that they could play as that Disney character in the game. It was also possible to buy play sets. Some have referred to this type of video gameplay as “toys-to-life”.

The Disney Interactive website has an update about Disney Infinity. It was written by SPV & GM of Disney Infinity, John Blackburn. The first sentence is probably the most informative: “By now you may have heard the news that we have made the difficult decision to discontinue production of Disney Infinity.”

The update also notes that there are two final retail releases coming, including three new characters from Alice Through the Looking Glass later this month, and the Finding Dory Play Set that will be launched in June.

Game Informer reported that Disney is also shuttering Infinity studio Avalanche, Disney’s internal studio that developed the Disney Infinity game. The implication seems to be that Disney is pulling out of the video game publishing arena.  Ars Technica pointed out that Disney Infinity launched in 2013 to compete with Activision’s Skylanders, which was another toys-to-life video game.

 


Windows 10 Update takes down professional gamer live on Twitch



Microsoft logoA lot has been made about Microsoft’s latest operating system Windows 10. Many people prefer it over the operating system it replaced, though that isn’t necessarily saying much. The big problem people have with this latest platform is how much Microsoft is pushing it, and doing so hard.

The latest problem that Microsoft’s relentless pushing has caused happened to professional gamer Erik Flom, and it was live on the game streaming site Twitch.

This isn’t the first time such an incident has occurred, we recently saw during a TV news broadcast when the weather map was suddenly overlaid by a prompt to upgrade to Windows 10. While that incident was taken good-naturedly by the meteorologist, this one did not meet with the same reaction. There was cursing involved and video of the whole incident has gone viral thanks to Reddit.

In this case, it was not a message prompting the upgrade, Flom already was using the OS. But getting it doesn’t solve the problem of Microsoft inserting itself into people’s lives. Updates to Windows 10 can also be forced. There’s an obvious reason for that — security vulnerabilities.

But as security firm Sophos points out “Unfortunately, cyberattackers don’t need to rely on zero-days, where a security patch isn’t available, because so many users remain unprotected against security bugs with fixes that are available – and have been for weeks, months, or even years”.

While Microsoft pushing these updates can be looked at as a good thing, perhaps there could be a better way, such as doing so when a PC is inactive.