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Samizdata quote of the day – friends don’t let friends PUG

Call of Duty (CoD), a video game series published by Activision, has jumped into the murky waters of AI-powered censorship after revealing a new partnership with AI voice moderation tool Modulate ToxMod. This will be built-in to the newest CoD game, Modern Warfare 3, which will be released on November 10th this year. Currently, it is being trailed on Modern Warfare 2 and Call of Duty: Warzone. It will be used for flagging ‘foul-mouthed’ players and identifying hate speech, racial or homophobic language, misogyny and any ‘misgendering’. Players do not have the option to prevent the AI listening in.

Jack Watson

The last bit is not strictly true. The way you can prevent the AI listening is simply not use the in-game voice coms at all. Instead use third party voice apps such as Skype, Team Speak, or whatever. This is easily doable if a team is made up of people who already know each other, known as a ‘premade’.

The opposite of a premade is called a PUG (“pick up group”), i.e. a team of random strangers in a multiplayer online game who meet via an in-game match maker system. Typically a premade is vastly more effective than a PUG & usually wins games far more often for reason that should be obvious.

14 comments to Samizdata quote of the day – friends don’t let friends PUG

  • bobby b

    So, Zoe Quinn got a new job?

  • Fraser Orr

    Let me see if I fully understand this: there is a virtual environment where you get together with people to hunt in gangs and blow each other away with seriously dangerous virtual weapons. You chase down other groups of players to destroy them, and see their blood and guts splatted all over your computer screen.

    But they are filtering out your conversation so that you can’t say mean things?

    I wonder if the left is going to start trying to ban computer video games because of the harm it does to people. I mean, just think about the children! Somebody might use the wrong pronoun while blowing you away!

    (I don’t play video games, so forgive me is I mischaracterize Call of Duty.)

  • Steven R

    Did they not remember Gamergate and how it mobilized kids who don’t really care about politics to fight the Left in 2014? If the Great Meme War of 2016 was WW2, then Gamergate was the Spanish Civil War.

  • Rob Fisher

    Well the blood and guts are pretend but the mean things are real. You could view this a bit like the pub landlord kicking you out for swearing, or getting banned from the blog comments section for being tedious.

    A lot depends on what happens if the AI gets it wrong.

  • llamas

    “A lot depends on what happens when the AI gets it wrong.”

    There, FIFY.



  • Ferox

    If they are banning racial epithets, practically every black player on the server will get booted in the first 10 minutes.

    I wonder if that has occurred to them?

  • Here’s hoping Samizdata’s next post will also be about video games, so they can go for the hat-trick.

  • Fraser Orr

    @Rob Fisher
    Well the blood and guts are pretend but the mean things are real. Y

    “Put on your invisibility cloak and cast a fireball spell on those orcs. Here, take this healing potion. I’ll put on my enchanted armor and kill the dragon with my ruby sword”… I’m not really sure the dialog in these games is all that real at all.

    But again, I don’t play, so I don’t know.

  • Kirk

    The moral panic over these things is, as usual, vastly overblown. Yeah, the games are an order of magnitude more realistic than the old media like novels, movies, and comic books, but… The essential problem isn’t the games; it’s the people playing them that are unable to distinguish reality from gamespace. That’s always been a problem, though.

    I used to know a couple of girls who were in the BDSM sphere; aroused by things I found completely “Meh”. One of them played in the realm for a few years, grew bored or grew out of it all, and she went on to lead a very plain and vanilla life, so far as I know. The other one? Lord have mercy… She went off the deep end and never surfaced again. From what I remember, she eventually wound up asphyxiated through what they were never quite sure whether or not she’d done it herself, or had had a partner.

    That was well-separate from gaming, but it’s the same basic principle: An inability to distinguish headspace from realspace. You have that syndrome all over; we were just discussing it in another post, where the point is made that a lot of the leftoid persuasion don’t seem to be able to understand that what’s inside their head ain’t necessarily so out in the real world.

    Same syndrome, different application environment.

    How you cure it, if it is curable? Well, I think you have to have those subject to it meet reality in such a way that they can’t continue to deny it. It’s a form of low-grade schizophrenia, I suspect. I knew a guy who slipped the surly bonds of sanity in his early twenties, and it was really odd how it presented. He would be off in la-la land, come up for air, and be wandering around acting really oddly. Whilst wandering, he’d run up against something and it’d be like “Oh… Hey… I thought you were a figment of my imagination… Sorry… I’ll be more careful…”

    Dude wasn’t a menace or anything, but… Man, was he disconnected from it all. It was odd, too–Before the onset of the disease process, he was a really high-functioning sort of person, very switched-on, absolutely competent and the master of his domain. After? Oh, dear Lord… I lost track of him after his discharge, but I’ve never seen him in the news and have no idea where he wound up.

    It’s odd how many times I’ve run into those same easily identifiable traits of “living in their heads” in other people, generally avowed Marxists or other cult members. No matter how much evidence they’re presented with, the majority can’t make that essential step into recognizing that realspace doesn’t correspond to headspace… At least, my friend who went schizo still could, when I knew him. His was the sort of dissociative nuttiness you identify with Harvey the Rabbit, sort of charming in its presentation. I imagine his family was horrified, given what he’d been prior to the onset.

    That’s the thing, though: The higher the function, the harder the fall into insanity. We’re so tightly tuned that the humans that manifest the highest intelligence are also extremely fragile, prone to neuroses, and all too likely to evince nuttiness beyond the pale.

    I mean, I’m no paragon of sanity, myself… But, I at least am still able to maintain sufficient self-awareness to know when my intellect is “doing too much”, and am somewhat able to rein it in. I mean, I usually can recognize when I’m overthinking something… Usually. Still do it, though.

  • Mr Ed

    Don’t buy those games, or any of that company’s products, end of.

  • bobby b

    While I applaud the ingenuity of a work-around, it bothers me.

    You have to devise a work-around in order to be able to use this commercial product in a manner consistent with freedom of speech, but you still reward the maker by buying that product?

    Seems short-sighted.

  • William O. B'Livion

    The only way to win is not to play.

  • You have to devise a work-around in order to be able to use this commercial product in a manner consistent with freedom of speech, but you still reward the maker by buying that product?

    The reason the work-around will be the approach gamers take is that they basically like the game play. If the game itself gets wokified, only then will gamers look elsewhere for their jollies.

    That said, I suspect openly & aggressively non-woke gaming is absolutely a viable market opportunity.

    Nexus mods is the premier download site for game mods & is going to be the next “Get Woke Go Broke” posterchild, prohibiting mods that do things like edit out Queer Pride flags or prevent games like Starfield from asking what your pronouns are during character creation. People will simply migrate to ModDB or one of the more outré mod download sites.

    Gamers often only shift when an easy kludge doesn’t get them what they want.

  • Paul Marks.

    This is not really about “AI” – it is about censorship, it would make no real difference it it was a human listening.

    The major corporations, as part of the international Progressive Corporate State, wish to discourage “reactionary” opinions – and it seems that people are keen to help the corporations grind them into the dirt, for example people seem happy to take “helpful” devices into their homes (so they can say “Alexia dim lights” or whatever) not understanding that the machine will eventually understand and pass on every word they say.

    The Chief Minister of Scotland (not, as far as I know, an “AI”) is very keen to exterminate freedom of speech even in one’s own home – the corporations are not as blunt as he is (the Chief Minister “says the quiet part out loud”, but they are very much on the same road.

    Remember all these people, officials, politicians and corporate managers, have been “educated” to believe that there is no right to express “reactionary” opinions, and to allow it would be “Repressive Tolerance” that “harms disadvantaged and marginalised groups”.

    The thinking of Herbert Marcuse – in Britain embodied in the Equality Act of 2010 (rightly celebrated by Polly Toynbee as the embodiment of Collectivism) – which is, it appears, supported by Conservative Central Office. All public bodies, national and local, have a duty to push the Frankfurt School totalitarian agenda – it is the law.

    Only six members of the House of Commons voted against the Equality Act in 2010 – and in 13 years of Conservative Party government there has been no move to repeal it.

    It is true that the international Progressive Corporate State is NOT Marxist – but its hated of such things as Freedom of Speech (indeed all liberty) is equal to that of the Marxists.