Modulate at GamesBeat Summit 2023: Online safety regulations & toxicity in video games

The GamesBeat Summit 2023 was a two-day event that brought together gaming industry leaders, innovators, and visionaries to explore, according to Dean Takahashi’s opening speech, “The Next Level, which is all about rising above the turbulence.” The event, which was the fifteenth Summit that GamesBeat has hosted, took place on May 22-23 in Los Angeles and May 24 online, featuring a whopping 137 speakers across 52 sessions, plus roundtables, awards, and other special programs.

Modulate was out in full force at the Summit, including presenting our panel, “How to do trust and safety right before you’re forced to do so.”  The panel was moderated by our own Hank Howie, and featured Richard Warren of Windwalk, Eve Crevoshay of Take This, and David Hoppe of Gamma Law. The four of them discussed the state of Trust & Safety, how to design communities to encourage positive behavior, and some of the looming regulations that are going to affect game studios’ approach to player safety. 

Why Game Studios Need to Prioritize Trust & Safety 

Trust and safety issues in online gaming communities are becoming more urgent and complex, as gaming becomes more mainstream, social, and diverse. Trust and safety issues include harmful or illegal behaviors, such as harassment, hate speech, fraud, abuse, and extremism, that can affect the well-being, retention, and engagement of players and developers. These issues can also damage the reputation and revenue of game companies, as well as expose them to legal risks and sanctions. 

We see evidence that kids are learning toxic behaviors because the environment is filled with it. It’s a real concern, and people are frozen out of games because they don’t feel comfortable in them. So we know it’s a real limiting factor in the business.

- Eve Crevoshay, Executive Director, Take This

Online safety also involves the respect of players’ privacy, data, and identity – an increasingly important risk vector as more games incorporate online features and multiplayer capabilities. Online safety is not only a moral imperative for game companies, but also an opportunity to create more positive and inclusive gaming experiences for their users and increase player satisfaction, loyalty, and revenue.

Taking a Proactive Approach to Online Safety

Game companies can benefit from adopting a holistic and proactive approach to trust and safety, by designing games with safety in mind, implementing effective moderation and reporting systems, fostering a positive and inclusive gaming culture, and collaborating with other stakeholders. Designing games with safety in mind means creating games that minimize the potential for harm, by implementing effective content moderation, providing user-customizable content filters, and enabling parental controls. 

At the community level, it’s really important to set standards - how people interact with one another.

- Richard Warren, Partner, Windwalk

Implementing effective moderation and reporting systems means providing tools and resources for studios to prevent toxicity and enforce their community standards as well as for players to report and block abusive behaviors based on their own preferences. Fostering a positive and inclusive gaming culture means promoting values and norms that encourage respect, diversity, and collaboration among players. For the benefit of the industry as a whole, studios and platforms should prioritize collaborating with other game companies, platforms, regulators, researchers, advocates, and users to share best practices, insights, and solutions for trust and safety.

Regulations Will Force Studios to Focus on Trust & Safety

Fast-approaching new online safety regulations will affect game studios’ operations and responsibilities, such as the EU Digital Services Act and the UK Online Safety Bill. These regulations will require game companies to take more proactive and transparent measures to prevent, detect, and remove harmful or illegal content and activity on their platforms. 

“The days of anything goes and turning a blind eye — that’s not going to fly, even in the United States, anymore.”

- David Hoppe, Managing Partner, Gamma Law

These regulations will also impose new obligations and standards for game companies, such as providing clear terms and conditions, ensuring effective complaint mechanisms, providing transparency reports, and cooperating with authorities. Game companies need to be aware of these regulations and prepare for their implementation, as they will have significant implications for their business models and practices.

Other Highlights and Takeaways from GamesBeat Summit 2023:

  • GenZ consumers are the next generation of gamers who are shaping the future of gaming and the metaverse. GenZ consumers are digital natives who are creative, social, and activist. They expect games to be immersive, interactive, and meaningful. They also want games to reflect their values and identities, as well as to empower them to make a positive impact on the world.
  • Hollywood and games are influencing each other and creating new opportunities for storytelling and entertainment. Hollywood and games can leverage each other’s strengths and audiences to create cross-media franchises that span multiple platforms and formats. Hollywood and games can also collaborate to create original IP that can appeal to both mainstream and niche markets.
  • The metaverse is still alive and kicking, though its buzziness in the games industry has been overshadowed by the white-hot category of generative AI. Multiple sessions and panels discussed the promise - and potential pitfalls - of using artificial intelligence to create assets, write stories, and even compose music for games. There was widespread agreement that these tools can be a boon for studios, but need to be implemented carefully and ethically to ensure the industry remains lively.

For more about GamesBeat Summit 2023, check out the official event website, or read GamesBeat’s two summaries of our panel. Sign up for our Trust & Safety Lately newsletter to get the latest on all things online trust and safety, from upcoming regulation to best practices for community managers.