Activision Blizzard’s Johanna Faries highlights the company’s emerging ‘anti-tox’ strategy • TechCrunch
At TechCrunch Disrupt today, Activision Blizzard General Manager Johanna Faries elaborated on the company’s plans to clean up some of the worst behavior in the franchise’s community, even as new lawsuits and allegations about its own culture continue to emerge.
Last month, Activision Blizzard released a formal code of conduct for the Call of Duty community, which encompasses its broad consumer player base and the competitive scene. While the policy is pretty basic — no harassment, hate or cheating — it’s something the company can point to when it enforces the rules.
“I’m happy to say, especially since you know the time that I’ve been in the chair, we’ve really raised the bar in terms of paying attention to ‘what does an anti-tox strategy need to look like? What does creating fair play environments, safe play environments look like?’” Faries said. “We just released for example — and it started in the beta — a first-ever franchise-wide code of conduct, which I know may sound like table stakes, and in many ways it probably is — but it’s here now.
Faries noted that Activision Blizzard has teams “focused 24/7” on anti-toxicity, weaving together automated machine learning solutions with human moderation. The goal is to make it easier for players to quickly report bad behavior but also to incentivize the kind of good behavior that should serve as a model for the community.
The crackdown on toxic behavior — which often disproportionately impacts marginalized players who still struggle for representation in streaming and gaming — goes hand in hand with weeding out players who cheat, according to Faries.
“So there’s more to come on this, but I was really proud to see in addition to Ricochet [anti-cheating tech] and a lot of our anti-cheat anti-hacking initiatives that we’ve rolled out as well… our anti-toxicity focus is one that is a masthead going into this upcoming launch and for years to come,” Faries said. “We’re putting the best systems in place to make sure that players have the tools, but also have again the incentives, to continue to raise the bar of what it means to play fair to play with respect for everyone to play with integrity.”
Over the weekend, Activision seemed to put its money where its mouth was, allegedly banning top competitor Doug “Censor” Martin from competing in the Fortune’s Keep tournament, citing his interactions with Call of Duty streamer Nadia Amine. Martin previously filmed a joke marriage proposal to the female player, who has faced a firestorm of sexism and baseless accusations that she’s somehow cheating at the game.
In a tweet, Martin said that Activision “blocked him from competing” in the tournament over harassing Amine, though Activision Blizzard hasn’t yet confirmed the claim. If the company did indeed dole out an event ban over directing unwanted attention at a fellow player, it would track with its new emphasis on cleaning up behavior in the notoriously toxic Call of Duty scene.