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The Arcade: your one-stop-shop for this week’s quirkiest gaming news

Welcome, fellow netizens, to the Arcade: a space for you to soak in all the quirkiness and intrigue the world of video games has to offer. Why don’t you take a seat, save your progress, and download the latest gaming news with us? Oh, and enjoy your stay while you’re at it!

1. Gendered language is removed from the character creation screen of ‘World of Warcraft’

The alpha test of World of Warcraft’s newest expansion, Dragonflight, has removed gendered language from its character creation screen. According to Wowhead, “Where it previously gave players the option to select Male or Female body types, it now simply refers to them as Body 1 and Body 2 respectively.”

While this is only a minor text change and is considered pretty low-impact where the game is concerned, it keeps up with its developer’s views on inclusivity.

However, it seems that more involved changes are on the way. Data miners have discovered that World of Warcraft players will be able to eventually pick their own pronouns—she/her, he/him and they/them—as well as select their preferred voice. Sadly, there has been no information as of yet on how this will be implemented.

2. An ‘Elden Ring’ player has beaten the game in 2.5 hours without taking a single hit or levelling up

The world of From Software’s Elden Ring is a scary one at the best of times, even when you’re at a high level and have all the best weapons and armour. But one mad lad going by the alias Ainrun managed to beat the game without getting hit or gaining a single level, all in two and a half hours.

What makes this insane run so unique is that normally, most no-hit run attempts skip bosses or even entire areas to make it easier. But not Ainrun. The streamer—who has been doing challenge runs of From Software games since 2020—even decided to take on the Grafted Scion boss, one that forces you to jump off a cliff and die to continue. I personally feel like [skipping the Grafted Scion] breaks a sequence that the developers intended you to go through to progress with the game, so I opt to do the fight,” Ainrun told Kotaku.

“In my opinion, a ‘challenge’ run like what I’ve done is supposed to be challenging, [so] using shortcuts doesn’t really make sense.” he added.

The secret to Ainrun’s success was his character build, which focused on staggering the enemy, letting him keep at a safe distance and do massive damage once his foe was successfully staggered.

3. Sexual orientation options are being added to the ‘Sims 4’ in a free update

The next big update for the Sims 4 will allow players to choose the sexual orientation of their characters. This includes support for straight, gay and bisexual Sims, as well as aromantic and asexual options. Lead designer Jessica Croft said in a blog post that the new update is very much “a version 1.0.”

The new feature adds the choices in the Create-a-Sim part of the game. There are three new options to choose from: whether they are romantically attracted to men, women or both; whether they are interested to “Mess Around” with men, women or both; and whether the Sim is “exploring romantically.” So, apart from being a relaxing game to play, this new level of inclusivity means more people will feel at home in the Sims.

Previous updates for the Sims 4 added in pronouns, but this new feature only adds the gender binary, something that Croft mentioned and explained is due to “technical limitations.”

“As stated above, mechanically, non binary Sims don’t yet exist in the Sims 4. You still have to make a binary gender selection for your Sim when creating them, regardless of the pronoun settings,” Croft wrote. “The Sims 4 is eight years old at this point, and reliant on systems that were originally architected with a gender binary in mind. In the intervening years, we’ve taken important steps such as Gender Customization, Pronouns and now Sexual Orientation. It’s a journey still in progress, with many more steps to go. Proper mechanical systems to fully support non binary Sims is another step in that journey.”

This free update will be released on 28 July 2022 alongside the High School Years expansion pack.

4. New feline adventure game ‘Stray’ is helping save cats’ lives

Causing much hype after its initial unveiling in 2020, Stray sees you take on the role of a cat who falls into a mysterious world inhabited by curious robots and attempts to make its way back home. 

If this adorable sounding game hasn’t enticed you already, then maybe this will. Publisher Annapurna Interactive is teaming up with different animal charities in order to promote the game and raise money to help vulnerable cats around the world.

Nebraska Humane Society is one such charity, which has game codes to win by donating $5. Similarly, Cat’s Protection in the UK is giving out codes if you sign up to become a ‘Pawsome Player’, which means livestreaming to raise awareness and funds for stray cats. As always, Annapurna is doing its bit as a top indie game publisher and this kind of marketing is as clever as it is heartwarming.

5. A dedicated ‘Pokémon’ fan has crafted a cartridge that turns the Gameboy into a working Pokédex

Ever fancied owning your own fully-functioning Pokédex? Well, thanks to Pokémon super fan QueenL3fah on Reddit, now you can.

Using a modified Gameboy cartridge, QeenL3fah showcased the device—which is also hooked up to the internet—and proceeded to input “Bulbasaur” and bring up the Pokémon’s dex entry, albeit from Wikipedia. Despite it being a very barebones concept, it’s still very impressive.

Made a Wi-Fi enabled gameboy cartridge - a Pokédex of some sort! from pokemon

Many intrigued Pokémon fans asked QueenL3fah if they would be willing to improve the device and put it up for sale. However, they didn’t seem keen to do so, mainly due to the difficulty and cost of producing the device.

They were, however, very forthcoming with their knowledge of tinkering with the tech, and plan to make a document detailing how you can recreate the device yourself. It will be extremely interesting to see what others do with this knowledge, and perhaps we will see a new and improved version somewhere along the horizon.

6. UK government weighs in on the use of loot boxes in video games

Loot boxes have made headlines a few times in recent years, with kids accidentally racking up absurd amounts on their parent’s credit cards trying to get super rare character skins and in-game items, but recently, the UK government has weighed in on the matter.

For those who don’t know, a loot box is a purchasable item—usually with real money—in a video game that gives the player a chance of obtaining items of varying rarity. Much like gambling, you aren’t guaranteed to hit the jackpot, so it may be quite some time before you get that rare item you’ve been looking for.

There have been calls to regulate or even ban loot boxes as it exposes children to gambling-like behaviours, and as of 17 July 2022, the UK government has said that the games industry should self-regulate.

In a statement by UK culture secretary Nadine Dorries of the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport, the following was announced: “Games companies and platforms need to do more to ensure that controls and age restrictions are applied.”

7. ‘Elden Ring’ legend Let Me Solo Her given epic gift from Bandai in recognition of their achievements

For those of you who have been living under a rock since Elden Ring’s release, a player named Let Me Solo Her has been making waves in the community for helping players defeat one of the game’s hardest bosses by himself.

YouTuber and streamer Klein Tsuboi, who pilots the infamous character, has helped over 1,000 players defeat Malenia, Blade of Miquella and their exploits have not gone unnoticed.

In a recent Twitter post, Tsuboi showed off a sweet care package they received from Elden Ring publisher Bandai Namco, congratulating them on their achievements, which you can see below:

In the package, Tsuboi received a piece of custom artwork of their character Let Me Solo Her, a wooden lithograph, a coat and a full-length sword.

Tsuboi’s post read: “Thank you Bandai Namco and Elden Ring for giving me this gift and congratulating me for being Let Me Solo Her […] I can still remember my first experience with the Soulsborne series and almost quitting because of Iudex Gundyr in Dark Souls 3.”

“I’m glad I persisted and went on to enjoy the game, because this community is one of the most passionate and dedicated I’ve ever seen in a game, and I’m proud to be a part of it,” they continued.

8. ‘Bayonetta 3’ will feature a ‘naive angel mode’ for those who don’t wish to see nudity

After a long, long wait—eight years to be exact—Bayonetta 3 is finally being released later this year. Everyone’s favourite sexy, British witch is back, and with her comes the series’ signature sexual and suggestive content.

However, this time around, Platinum Games have opted to include what they call a “naive angel mode” for players who do not wish to see the 18+ content. This new filter will censor side boob, cover up legs and generally give Bayonetta a more ‘modest’ look.

Valorant thinks it can fix its toxicity and abuse problem by monitoring voice chats, but players disagree

Over the years, there have been many popular online multiplayer games, from Call of Duty: Warzone to Overwatch. Players love the draw of team-based games and with the explosion of esports and esports teams—whose players make a tidy sum if they win events—the appeal has never been stronger. But like with many other things in life, not everything is sunshine and rainbows.

Currently, one of the most popular multiplayer games out there is Valorant. Unfortunately, its success is almost counterbalanced by the toxicity that plagued its community—one that has only been seen once before in League of Legends, but that’s a story for another time. First of all, let’s take a look at what Valorant actually is.

What is ‘Valorant’?

Valorant is a free-to-play (F2P) five versus five (5v5) first-person shooter (FPS) developed by Riot Games (ironically, the same company behind League of Legends). The main game mode is called ‘Search and Destroy’, a common match type in many FPS games—but this version comes with a twist. Players need to plant a bomb (called a ‘spike’) in the opposing team’s base. Games consist of 25 rounds of 100 seconds where the first team that wins 13 rounds, wins the match. It’s worth noting that if all of your team is wiped out before a round is over, you will automatically lose.

At the beginning of each round, players have 30 seconds to buy weapons and armour, but if they die, they’re then forced to wait until the next round to respawn. They also have to choose one of the many playable characters, called Agents, at the beginning of every round, each equipped with a multitude of abilities such as healing or making a protective wall appear from thin air. Valorant additionally has different Acts—essentially big updates to the game which introduce new Agents, maps and modes.

With a fun twist on the FPS genre and incorporating some multiplayer online battle arena (MOBA) mechanics—which Riot Games is well known for—Valorant looks like a fun and interesting game to dive into. But it’s only when you dive in that the real problems begin to surface.

Toxicity and abuse within the community

Toxicity in video games isn’t a new thing. From the verbal abuse seen in League of Legends to the Fortnite streamer Ninja’s obscene outbursts and arguably even the practice of teabagging, online gaming is rife with immaturity and poor taste.

To get a better understanding of what is going on in the Valorant scene, SCREENSHOT spoke to Twitch streamer Cloutchazerr about her experiences with toxicity on the platform. As an up-and-coming content creator, Clout streams a lot of Valorant and is an active part of the game’s community. Unfortunately, she has also been subject to a tirade of abuse while playing.

“There are some people who don’t care, who are creepy because they know I’m a girl, and ask if I’m a little boy or a girl since I usually don’t have like an ‘uwu’ anime girl voice, you know? And some [players] are just straight up toxic, sexist and even racist when they know I’m Chinese,” she shared.

It seems that the abuse Clout receives isn’t even about her performance in the game, and is mostly in the form of personal attacks which is extremely concerning to see. She did admit to being agitated herself, but never to the extent of the abuse she receives. “Sometimes I get heated when people are genuinely bad at the game but I’ve been banned so many times just by saying shit to my harasser. Who doesn’t get a little angry at people doing bad, you know? Like baiting, not shooting, not trading etc.”

The abuse has gotten so bad that Clout even considered leaving the game at one point. “Oh yeah, I’ve been talking about leaving but I can’t cause I’ve already spent too much on Valorant,” she joked. But despite the toxicity, she still can’t bring herself to leave. “Valorant is great when you actually play it for fun and with friends because it’s a socialising game too.”

Valorant has two tiers of game you can play. You can jump into unrated matches which are casual affairs, or you can participate in ranked matches which are more serious and very competitive. It’s here that Clout noted most of the toxicity lies. “There are some mad people on ‘unrated’ too, but I’d like to say 80 per cent are on ‘ranked’. Because it’s more serious, I guess.”

Throughout the interview, there was a common theme that kept cropping up: as a woman and a POC, Clout felt like she was targeted far more than her male counterparts. “I’m not saying for other genders and for other people but tremendously being a woman in Valorant, we get treated so differently. My girlfriends that are my mods are mostly 13 to 15 [year-olds] and they get asked a lot if they are ‘boys’ and people always think that there are only two genders,” she explained.

“I feel like the ‘girls can’t game better than guys’ stereotype still applies heavily on Valorant, especially on the Singaporean server,” Clout continued. “It’s just normal to get shat on and cursed at, people being sexist, racist, toxic, etc. So when we get ‘good’ or non-toxic teammates, it’s just very surprising. Toxicity, racism and sexism is so normalised [in Valorant] that it’s sad to see honestly.”

Curb your tongue

It has been announced that on 13 July 2022, Riot Games will begin collecting data from voice chats in Valorant games in North America to combat the disruptive and despicable behaviour within the game. They will be using this data to get its AI model “in a good enough place for a beta launch later this year,” as per the company’s statement.

“This is brand new tech and there will for sure be growing pains,” Riot Games wrote. “But the promise of a safer and more inclusive environment for everyone who chooses to play is worth it.” When asked whether or not she thought this would work, Clout told SCREENSHOT, “The thing that I hate about not having a mod for voice chat is that when people say the n-word, slurs, sexist or toxic things in general, it won’t be detected as fast as text chat because voice chat is usually a ‘he said/she said’ moment.”

“I think it’s better?” she continued. “I’m not sure though, I’d have to experience it myself, but for the most part, it is good. Good to monitor the ‘he said/she said’ situation.”

While Riot Games is actively and publicly working on making its game a safer and more pleasant place for people to socialise and game together, it seems that it will take a while before the fruits of its labour are seen. The sexist and racist abuse documented by Clout, and no doubt experienced by many other women and POCs throughout the community, is quite alarming—and even with the technology being developed to combat this kind of behaviour, there is a long, long way to go before online gaming spaces are as inclusive and as safe as we’d like them to be.