Month: July 2013

Dota 2, communication reports and the word "rape"

I have run out of reports in Dota 2.

It’s a problem you run into every now and again because you only get a limited number per week. They’re used to flag things like verbal abuse and bad conduct in other players.

The Dota 2 community is, speaking from my experience, a fairly positive environment. Some people are encouraging, friendly or offer advice, most keep to themselves, and a handful of others are offensive and awful. However, after the first time I hit the report cap and found myself unable to flag up some truly reprehensible behaviour from someone on my own team because I’d already reported something more minor, I started to view reports as a more valuable commodity.

From that point onwards it was a case of “Is this douchecanoe swearing and capslocking from another corner of the internet worthy of my report?” and “What if an even bigger jackass arrives in the next match?”

But there are a few words which send my mind in the direction of the report button quicker than others. One of them is the word “rape”. It’s a word which gets used thankfully rarely (or at least it’s been rare to my experience of Dota 2) but when it does it tends to be in mockery of another player when they’ve just had their ass handed to them in-game and I find that horrible and offensive. Whether I go on to report the incident comes down to context but any mention of “rape” means a report is instantly on the agenda.

Rape is one of the most disempowering crimes imaginable. It’s a horrific violation and an act of violence which trades on one person having power over another. It’s also underreported, hugely traumatic and comes with a hefty dose of social stigma. The disempowering nature of the crime is, I think, why I hate hearing the word thrown casually into conversation. I want the word itself to retain power and meaning. I want “rape” to mean something truly terrible and not get reappropriated for something irksome or trivial.

Those who have experienced sexual assault already have a gauntlet of disbelief and trivialisation to run as they deal with what has happened. It’s part of the reason rape is underreported. “Rape” as a casual term of insult mirrors that same attitude.

I feel like the report button with its tiny text box for a brief explanation allows me to actually do something about the problem when it angers me, no matter how tiny. It’s not as good as discussing the problem calmly and directly, but in the middle of a heated game, calm and direct discussion isn’t always possible.

Keeping the power of the word “rape”, despite the fact it can then be used as part of a nasty threat somewhere like Twitter, is a massively important part of improving how we deal with rape as a society. I want there to be as little excuse as possible for people to dismiss rape and rape threats, to trivialise them, to back away from them and to keep them unreported.

Maia – an interview with Simon Roth

“The chickens are self-immolating at the moment.”

Simon Roth is describing a problematic scenario in his space colony simulation, MaiaMaia is hard science fiction meaning it boasts scientifically accurate systems and ideas rooted in current scientific research. But when you have lots of interacting systems you get some surprising results. In the case of the chickens, they seek out warm, bright places to nest. These places are determined using atmosphere and lighting data. “Problem is,” says Roth, “the lightest, brightest places are usually in the process of being doused liberally in lava or in the innards of a fission reactor!”

The concept of Maia is that you are trying to colonise a primordial Earth-like planet. You arrive with British Army style ration packs and non-showy weaponry and gradually try to tame, or at least utilise the hostile environment so you can build a functioning colony. “Dwarf Fortress in space” is how Roth sums it up.

[Full interview at]

Splinter Cell: Blacklist

At the beginning of Splinter Cell: Blacklist you walk along a corridor littered with dying men, your colleagues finishing them off with occasional bullet fire. The men die and the narrative strides on into a different space. But in that corridor there was a rare, blink-and-you’ll-miss-it twinge of discomfort over the actions onscreen.

I decided to ask Ubisoft Toronto game designer Maxime Béland (who worked on Blacklist as well as three of the Rainbow Six franchise) about how he approaches making a game that involves shooting representations of other human beings.

“I think the number one thing is respect,” said Béland after a taking some time to think. “We’re not giving you $5,000 more if you do a headshot and there’s blood everywhere. We didn’t go in and put blood everywhere. We’re doing it realistically. I think what’s great with our game is that it’s up to the player. When you’re playing Sam [Fisher] if you want to kill no-one you can.”

[Full interview at]