Call of Duty: Modern Warfare developer Infinity Ward will take more steps to find and ban players using racial slurs in their in-game display names, as well as other measures to keep racist language out of its game, it said today.
Since the launch of Call of Duty: Modern Warfare last year, players have been able to input customised names for themselves that display in place of a traditional gamertag. Many players have reported seeing slurs such as the n-word used quite often in these names.
The Call of Duty community got louder about the issue in the wake of publisher Activision Blizzard making statements of support for the ongoing Black Lives Matter protests currently taking place in all 50 states, with members of the community including the news site Modern Warzone calling on the publisher to put its words into action and scrub its games of the racial slurs that some players use in their handles.
— Infinity Ward (@InfinityWard) June 3, 2020
Infinity Ward has since responded. “There is no place for racist content in our game,” says a tweet outlining the efforts being made to clean up Modern Warfare. The developer said it will devote additional resources to monitor and identify racist content, add additional in-game reporting systems, add filters and more restrictions to name changes, and increase the number of permanent bans for repeat offenders.
Activision recently made the appropriate decision to postpone the upcoming seasons of content for Modern Warfare, Warzone, and Call of Duty: Mobile, framing its support specifically with protestors’ push for racial justice.
“Right now it’s time for those speaking up for equality, justice and change to be seen and heard,” reads the official Call of Duty statement. “ We stand alongside you.”
“Today, and always, we support all those who stand against racism and inequality. There is no place for it in our society—or any society. Black lives matter,” reads a statement put out by the wider Activision Blizzard organisation.
When asked for comment on these statements earlier today by Kotaku, Activision Blizzard did not respond with any specifics about what supportive actions it planned to take. The Call of Duty community quickly zeroed in on something it thought the publisher could do, which is to address the issue of racial slurs appearing in Modern Warfare.
Instead of having their Xbox Gamertag or PSN ID displayed during a match, Modern Warfare and Warzone accounts are able to input their own custom names. This is made easy due to Modern Warfare’s cross-play capabilities, which require players to register an Activision account on the Call of Duty website.
The Activision IDs that are then shown in the game are composed of a hashtag and unique series of numbers. But these can be hidden, and anything can be typed in front of the numbers to serve as the player’s in-game name, which does not need to be unique—many players can use the same name.
I play Modern Warfare pretty much every night. Some nights, I don’t see anything racial show up in lobbies, but others I’ve seen entire parties of players all teamed up with racial slurs either in their display names or in the five-letter clan tags that sit in front of the player’s name.
In these past months, I have personally observed players with the display names of “I hate n*ggers,” “N*gger Slayer,” and the barely-disguised “KneeGearSlayer69,” with the clan tag “Noose.” (The words were not censored in the game.)
By no means are disgusting displays of racism new to the Call of Duty online experience. Both Black Ops 1 & Black Ops 2 were often filled with swastikas and Klan themes via the games’ custom emblem creator.
Call of Duty news and leak site Modern Warzone has been tweeting efforts, using the hashtag #EndCODracism, to elevate the voices looking for Activision to implement a stricter profanity filter. You can read more stories of slurs being used in the game in Modern Warzone’s tweet thread. Kotaku cannot verify the validity of each of the screenshots, but they are in line with my own experience.
Some players are looking to counter the hate by changing their clan tags to #BLM. Cleaning house on the abundant use of the n-word and other slurs should be the absolute least Activision Blizzard can do, given its stated support for standing against racism. Hopefully, Infinity Ward’s actions will make Call of Duty’s statement feel like more than empty words.