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Jett from Valorant Image: Riot Games

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Riot will record Valorant voice chat to fight toxicity

If players don’t opt in, they can’t use voice chat

Nicole Carpenter is a senior reporter specializing in investigative features about labor issues in the game industry, as well as the business and culture of games.

Riot Games is going to start recording in-game voice communication in Valorant, with the intention of evaluating and moderating toxic behavior in its first-person shooter. The League of Legends developer announced the new policy Friday in a letter to players.

Valorant is the only game in which Riot will record and review voice chat right now, despite the policy applying to all Riot games, including Teamfight Tactics and League of Legends. Riot said it will listen to and review voice logs only if a player is reported. Players who don’t want their voice chat recorded will have the option to turn off voice chat entirely; otherwise, by using chat functionality on Valorant, your communication will be recorded and moderated.

The new policy is a step in Riot’s attempts to make Valorant a game that’s “safe and inclusive for everyone,” the company said.

This problem isn’t unique to Valorant, nor is it the first time Riot has tried to moderate toxic behavior in its game communities; League of Legends is notorious for this. And so it was no surprise when players — and Riot developers — reported sexism, racism, and harassment in Valorant. Soon after, Riot made a promise to players that it would work to combat this sort of behavior in the game. The company started the Social and Player Dynamics team, led by producer Sara Dadafshar, to work on all social features in Valorant.

“Our goal — our full-on endeavor — is not just to reduce toxicity, but to bring players together as well,” Dadafshar told Polygon.

Dadafshar and the Social and Player Dynamics team have already begun implementing some changes to Valorant that players may have noticed, like detection systems for AFK players and new reporting tools. Voice-chat moderation — beginning with recording player chat — is the next step in moderating toxic Valorant players.

In 2020, Sony was criticized for implementing an unannounced feature that gave the company the ability to record voice chat audio for “moderation review.” The problem wasn’t necessarily that Sony was recording voice chat, but rather that the system wasn’t clearly explained. Players raised privacy concerns, with some worried that Sony was actively monitoring voice chat at all times. Later, Sony clarified that voice chat recordings would only be used to review complaints.

Riot appears to be anticipating similar concerns and is addressing that directly; after all, the company has already been dealing with players questioning Vanguard, the Valorant anti-cheat system.

“Ultimately, it makes sense that we’re doing this,” Dadafshar said. “I hope that players will see that and understand we can’t moderate without moderating. I hope [players] see the bigger picture of it all.”

As part of its announcement, Riot addressed data privacy, too:

We believe we should collect the absolute minimum data to effectively run our games and continuously improve your experience. When we collect data, we’ll be transparent, we’ll keep it for only as long as necessary, and we’ll protect it as if it were our own.

We know collecting voice data is a concern for many of you, but be assured that we would never ship anything if we weren’t comfortable having our own data treated the same way. And if you prefer to not have your voice chat captured, you may turn off voice chat.

Riot also clarified to Polygon that it’s not monitoring all voice activity coming into the computer — just voice communications using Valorant’s official channels. Voice chat evaluations won’t start to happen immediately, Riot said. The new behavior system tools are still in development; players won’t notice much happening right away. According to Dadafshar, the tool in development will work “kind of like Amazon Alexa,” in that it “responds and reacts” to player chat using “contextual clues of natural language” to “moderate in real time.”

“But the end road for this is to actually moderate what is being said,” Dadafshar said. “When someone starts to say something bad, we can be like, ‘no, you can’t do that.’ Obviously we’re a little bit away from that, but this is definitely the first step. That sort of catch is happening right now with text — we just launched that. Now, the next step is to not only make text [moderation] better, but voice as well.”

Riot will continue to update Valorant with new features, including ones that address player behavior. Dadafshar pointed to features like player reputation and honor tools, like in League of Legends. But Riot also wants to create tools to bring like-minded players together, like a search feature for people looking for groups to play with.

“We have a long journey ahead of us,” Dadafshar said. “And I want to fix that for not only just the players, but for myself.”