Thu. Nov 24th, 2022

At the end of April 2021, Riot Games announced on its blog that it would be listening to what the players of its competitive online shooter Valorant had to say. But not only to the feedback of the players about the game; Instead, Riot announced that they would be recording players’ voice chat so that they could have evidence to consider in case of reports of toxic behavior by any particular person in the game. This feature appeared recently and attracted attention.

While Riot says they won’t actively listen in real time, and players can opt out by disabling voice chat entirely, they might understand something here. Some psychological research suggests that simply telling players that someone is watching (or listening to) them will make them behave better.

In one famous example, researchers in England turned their own teaching room and staff into a small experiment. Drinks were available in the lounge for staff with an honor system in place where people had to put 30p, 50p or 10p in a tea, coffee or milk collection box respectively. The experimenters created various signs to tell the system by alternating between simple flowers (serving as a reference image) and images of eyes positioned so that they seemed to be looking directly at unsuspecting subjects.

Image from one of the posters used by Bateson, Nettle and Roberts (2006).

Result? People followed the rules much more. According to the researchers, “People paid almost three times as much for their drinks when the screen showed eyes rather than a control image.”

Admittedly, this particular study has been criticized, and other researchers have unsuccessfully attempted to replicate its results. But his findings are consistent with other studies and models that argue that antisocial behaviors like stealing occur more frequently when people can ignore or minimize the impact such behaviors will have on their self-esteem. Because the damage to our self-esteem is part of the mental calculus that happens when we decide whether to rob a liquor store, cheat on a test, or use harsh words in Valorant voice chat. And if a person is reminded of his moral standards, he is less likely to participate in such shenanigans. It’s a reminder that I wish I wasn’t that kind of person. There are various ways to make people’s moral standards more visible and easier to remember in the moment, such as reminding them that people can watch or listen to what they are doing.

Riot AI is hard at work.

That’s why Valorant entries can help curb toxic behavior. While Riot isn’t necessarily being listened to live, being reminded that anything said can be heard by many other people and replayed for grumpy players can help them remember that they don’t want to be the people who say terrible things. mean. hurt other people. If they haven’t already done so, Riot should experiment with placing voice recording reminders on loading screens or other parts of the user interface, and then compare the voice chat of these matches with control groups that didn’t have such a reminder. I suspect they will find a difference.

1. Bateson M., Nettle D. & Roberts G. (2006). Clues that you are being watched improve collaboration in a real-life setting. Biology Letters, 2(3), 412–414. https://doi.org/10.1098/rsbl.2006.0509
3. For example, see Carbon, C., Hesslinger, V. (2011). Revisiting the Surveillance Signal Paradigm. Swiss Journal of Psychology, 70(4).