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Konvoy Ventures is a thesis driven venture capital firm focused on the video gaming industry. We invest in infrastructure technology, tools, and platforms.

The Identity Problem

Anonymity and the prevalence of toxicity in gaming

The Identity Problem

Online multiplayer games have historically been a place of anonymity. The gamer tag not only is a masked identifier to access your account and play games, for some it is an online alter ego. Anonymity provides an escape for people on the internet and in multiplayer games. Unfortunately, anonymity enables toxicity (across the internet) and cheating (specifically in gaming). Social contracts fade away when people in forums and game lobbies no longer know each other.

Game developers and publishers have been battling toxicity and cheating for years. Valve has Valve Anti Cheat, Epic has Easy Anti-Cheat, and a few independent solutions exist (including our portfolio company EQU8) to combat cheating. Dealing with toxicity has been more difficult, mostly because it’s technologically harder to address and partly because some gaming communities enjoy and embrace toxic behavior. Most games today rely on user input and help to address toxicity; there are honor systems and social features to recoup some of the lost social contract, as well as reporting mechanisms and auto muting for repeat offenders. Moderating toxic behavior and language is technically difficult because it requires some level of machine learning and automated natural language processing systems. Though not a scalable solution, large platforms outside of gaming like Facebook and Youtube employ thousands of content moderators. These platforms and the larger gaming companies have also been building in-house automated AI/ML moderation tools. For smaller game developers that cannot afford teams of content moderators and building out in-house ML tools there are some generalized content moderation solutions, such as Two Hat or Hive Moderation.

These solutions are useful and improving every day, but they are treating symptoms (toxicity, cheating) and not the root cause (anonymity). If gamers were uniquely identifiable to the platforms but also to the communities they play with the social contracts that protect users from toxicity would reemerge. Platforms might collect an email address and a credit card, but users can always create burner accounts to game the system. What’s needed is a unique verifiable human identity. Today, this comes from the government in the form of identification such as driver licences, passports, and social security numbers. But no gaming company is going to ask for government issued ID verification; their signup dropoff rate would skyrocket. So how do you ultimately verify without a state issued ID?

Another industry thinking about this problem is the blockchain and crypto space. Many bright minds are working on the identity problem: how do you have a unique verifiable human identity without relying on a centralized source (in this case the government)? A couple interesting solutions include BrightID and Atala Prism from Input Output. brightID attempts to prove uniqueness through a social identity graph; if a group of people know each other and verify that they know each other, then a new link to the social graph can safely assume that each verified person is real (BrightID whitepaper). Atala Prism is an identity management system on top of the Cardano blockchain that enables people to manage their own identity data and interact with organizations. To prove their unique identity users may still need to upload government identification, but third party organizations would trust the Atala Prism network that the unique document exists and not necessarily need to see and verify the actual document itself. If an identity system of this nature became pervasive, proving identity would not be such an arduous task for new users joining gaming platforms.

To a certain extent, single sign on (SSO) and universal logins from Facebook, Twitter, Google, and Apple are already solving for this. In the gaming industry, we also have the platform accounts from Microsoft Xbox, Playstation, Steam, and others. These SSO solutions help game companies better guarantee unique users in their games, but they are still centralized and not readily available to off platform games.

One company in the venn-diagram of gaming and blockchain companies attacking the identity problem is Crucible. They are building an interesting solution with a master identity and sub profiles to interface with different applications and other people without revealing the master identity. It’s an attempt at solving for unique identity verification while retaining anonymity for users.