It's no secret anymore. Online gaming is here to stay.
‘How do we know?’ Easy.
In November 2011, Riot Games revealed that its flagship MOBA game, League of Legends had gained over 11.5 million active monthly users. Fast forward nine years into the future, that number now stands at 115 million. And rising.
Incredible, isn't it? But do you know what stats are even more shocking?
The frequency at which player harassment is reported. A recent survey released by the MOBA publisher showed that 79% of LoL players had been harassed at least once, with 46% reporting they had been victims on multiple occasions.
Regular players of League of Legends can agree that it is near impossible to go into a match and not witness at least one instance of griefing, sexual harassment, or even death threats. With raw data supporting the rise of toxicity in the industry and with hundreds of gamers throwing in the towel on games they love for this singular reason, one question becomes so vivid that it cannot be ignored any longer:
Is online gaming a lost cause?
Perhaps not. Aside from game publishers, there exist several platforms that are actively clamping down on the growing negative trend in the gaming community. Street Cred is one of the few. In a recent chat with the CEO, Tom Hundley revealed exactly how he and his team intended to help gamers all over the world tackle toxicity.
Let’s start with the name ‘Street Cred’. What led you to pick something so… unusual?
There was no fancy reason for the name. We just thought it made sense. I was on a phone call with the rest of my team and we were bouncing ideas off each other. Then somebody suggested Street Cred and that's what it became.
With all your active social media campaigns, it’s hard to not have gained a brief glimpse into your mission. But could you explain what Street Cred is all about? What are some of the goals you hope to achieve with this platform?
Street Cred’s primary goal is to combat toxicity in gaming. It’s common knowledge that there’s a lot of toxicity among gamers, especially against women, and we're trying to help fight that. So in our little attempt to bring more positivity into the gaming community, we’ve provided a platform where gamers can rate and review their experiences with other gamer personas.
Don’t you think it’s somewhat offensive to rate people?
It absolutely is! Our current tagline “Rate the Gamer” probably isn’t 100% accurate and we’re honestly thinking about changing it. But if you noticed, I mentioned that our mission was to help people review their experiences with gamer personas. The keywords here are ‘experience’ and ‘persona’. That includes ‘characters’, gamer tags, handles, and alter egos. Street Cred’s intent isn’t to review people. It never has and never will be.
Could you shed more light on these reviews you keep mentioning?
Basically, a Street Cred review has four components to it: a star rating, commendations, reprimands, and a text review.
The star rating is like the everyday rating system you see on apps like Uber. It ranges from half a star to five stars. Commendations highlight the positive traits of gamers. These traits could range from gaming skills to overall behavior online. On the other hand, reprimands are for undesired behavior. They are a medium to notify a gamer of whatever toxic traits they may exhibit during a match.
Text reviews are coming later. We’re toying with ways to keep them valuable and high quality. We’re considering making them a premium/paid feature as a line of defense against trolling.
How exactly would a Street Cred user take advantage of these functionalities?
Well, it’s quite simple. Let’s say you play World of Warcraft and that you are amazing at being a tactician. Let’s also assume you are so great at being one that you get 500 commendations on Street Cred as a tactician. Now, if you're trying to convince a raiding Guild that you're the best tactician there is, you could easily pull up your Street Cred profile and show the 500 commendations that prove you are an exceptional tactician.
On the flip side, let’s imagine you were playing League of Legends and you see someone on your team has 200 reprimands for profanity. If you’re the kind of gamer that’s easily offended by profanity, you could easily mute them right away. That way, you avoid the salty language before it even starts.
It’s the same for someone who has 300, maybe even 400 reprimands for griefing. Because you probably don’t want to listen to that kind of toxicity, you’d probably want to mute the offender right away and save yourself the mental strain. One of the features on Street Cred’s roadmap is Auto-Mute. When activated, gamers with a specified number of reprimands - like profanity or griefing - can be automatically muted when they join a game.
So basically, commendations are positive and reprimands are negative. Is there any kind of penalty for gamers who get too many reprimands?
Well, we don’t want our users to see reprimands as ‘negative’ per se. Our intention is for gamers to use reprimands as a form of constructive criticism, especially for undesirable practices they may not know about.
For example, our lead developer for the front end was really big into a game called Smite. He was on a competitive team for some time but after a while, he got kicked off the team. Now, this guy is the nicest guy you'll ever meet in your life. He's super polite and all, but when he’s gaming, he gets very competitive and resorts to a lot of trash talk.
When he was given the boot, he approached his former teammates and asked what he did wrong. Everyone unanimously said that they were tired of his trash talk. And that feedback somewhat blindsided him. He had no idea that he was doing all that. With Street Cred, if a gamer like this starts getting a lot of reprimands for griefing, they can say, 'Wait a minute. I'm not trying to be like that.' And immediately begin to use this feedback to correct their unwholesome habits.
That said, we also plan on providing our API to game publishers. At that point, whatever is done with the reprimands issued in-game would be up to these publishers.
What about performance? Can reprimands be used in relation to a user’s gaming skills?
Reprimands are not about performance. We can’t emphasize that enough. No one can go into someone’s profile and write, ‘You're a bad tank,’ or ‘You suck at top lane.’ The algorithm won’t permit that. Street Cred users can only issue a reprimand for undesirable behavior. And that could be for profanity, griefing, or even for being AFK a lot.
From your explanation, it sounds like it’ll be easy for anyone to log in to Street Cred and leave reprimands on any profile they find.
We anticipated that possibility. That’s why we designed Street Cred in such a way that users can only leave reviews for gamers they have either spectated or played with. The integrity of the reviews is important, so we have taken great measures to protect it.
We also understand that there might be the temptation to go on a reprimand-giving rampage. We have taken precautions against that as well. For instance, all first reviews on Street Cred must be positive. Users must maintain an average star rating given of a 3.0 or higher. You can’t just spam negative reviews. Our goal is to highlight the positive traits of gamers, and we intend to do just that.
Apart from commendations and reprimands, does Street Cred have any other features?
It does! There’s a feature we call LFG. It’s short for ‘Looking For Gamer’. The functionality allows you to search for Street Cred players that have the exact commendations you're looking for. So if you wanted to play League of Legends for the first time, you’d probably want to be paired with players that are helpful and friendly. With LFG, you can easily zero in on these gamers and request to play with them.
You can use LFG in so many other ways as well. If you’re the competitive type and you need a strong top laner to join your squad, or a skillful jungler or healer, you can easily find one using the Looking For Gamer functionality.
With all these features, won’t Street Cred be complex to use?
Not at all. Our engineers have made sure the UI is easy to understand and clutter-free. It’s a straight line to follow. After installing Overwolf on your PC, you do the same for Street Cred. Then if you’re up for a League of Legends game, you head into the lobby and log into your Street Cred account. There you can look at your profile, search for other gamers, and perform other activities.
When a match starts, a window pops up and shows the Street Cred of your teammates and those on the opposing team. In the same manner, when a match is over, you are automatically taken to a window where you can leave reviews for each of the gamers that participated in that match.
When do you launch?
Street Cred launches on November 16th. The initial date was November 1st but we had to push it back for quality control.
With what games will Street Cred be compatible?
We’ll be pitching our tent with League of Legends first. Then we are also making moves to integrate Street Cred with DOTA 2. We have our eye on World of Warcraft and CS:GO as well but we’d have to see where the road takes us.