Online harassment or abuse in gaming involves some of the most toxic slurs ever slung in cyberspace. For more sensitive gamers, simply saying, “Don’t take it personally,” doesn’t cut it.
No race, creed, ethnicity, gender, nor religious affiliation is exempt from verbal or textual abuse online. Although many gamers see this as just virtual trash-talking and part of the territory, a poll from IGN shows that one in three gamers are actually turned off by online abuse.
“While the use of boastful or insulting speech to intimidate or humiliate can have value as a psychological strategy, when the remarks attack someone for their gender, perceived sexual orientation, or race, many would agree that a line has been crossed,” wrote Kaitlyn Williams, who received a Stanford University Boothe Prize Honorable Mention for her essay When Gaming Goes Bad: An Exploration of Videogame Harassment Towards Female Gamers.
In order to evaluate whether a line has been crossed in online gaming interactions, the team at Spirit AI developed a bot called Ally that makes “in-game player communities, chatrooms and online social platforms safer and more inclusive.”
Using the power of machine learning and predictive analytics, Ally takes a player-centric approach to abuse, asking the player whether or not they are OK with player interactions and learning what situations, language, and individuals are within their “safe zones” or comfort levels.
What’s cool about the player-centric approach is that Spirit AI’s Ally comes in the form of a virtual character that mimic’s the game’s style, so it doesn’t seem out of place.
The Ally checks-in on a potential abuse victim and asks whether or not a user has been offensive, and the software has a customizable interface that allows players to input what is offensive to them.
On the surface this may seem tedious and even overkill on political correctness.
However, the Spirit Triage Manager will decide how the system will respond to each abusive scenario as it is detected, and its context-aware reporting system can create a case file for further analysis by the community team, whether a player proactively reports an instance of abuse or responds to an Ally enquiry.
It’s good to know that there is at least some human element working behind the scenes.
Additionally, as players gain more experience in a game or chat room, or build their own community with whom they feel relaxed, their response to problematic language may change. They’re free to tell Ally whenever their preferences change – or even how they’re feeling on any given day.