Northumbria Police have joined forces with a North East based global entertainment company in a ground-breaking project to help keep the online gaming community safe.
The Force have been working closely with Ubisoft Entertainment, creators of some of the world’s biggest video games, to develop a partnership that is the first of its kind in the UK.
Officers have delivered training to the company’s Player Support staff based at their global Customer Relationship Centre (CRC) in Newcastle to help them deal with the most severe reports of harmful interactions online and in doing so providing gamers with support.
From there, a new protocol has also been established on how reports should be escalated to police where there is a threat of serious harm.
With Ubisoft’s games enjoyed by millions of people around the globe, officers are able to progress local cases or raise with the relevant force either in this country or oversees.
The new training, developed by specialist Northumbria Police officers in collaboration with Northumbria University, has resulted in a small number of cases being referred each month.
This includes a case where officers then contacted law enforcement in Norway, which resulted in swift safeguarding action being taken.
Chief Superintendent Deborah Alderson, who has led on the project for Northumbria Police, said: “Protecting the vulnerable is at the heart of everything we do – and while we can often physically see when someone is in need there are also people online who need support.
“While we recognise the sheer scale of the worldwide online community presents challenges, we want to play our part in helping keep people safe. Whether this is giving others the tools to deal with negative interactions or in the more serious cases we become involved from a policing perspective.
“It was really important to us to put a clear protocol in place that ensures those serious reports involving threats to life are dealt with quickly and effectively.”
The next part of the project involves Northumbria University developing an online training package which can be accessed by other gaming companies.
Chief Superintendent Alderson added: “We’re working very hard to develop this enhanced training as an online offering for similar entertainment and gaming companies around the world.
“This will help customer support staff within the gaming industry understand when there is a threat of harm to players within their community and know what action to take to effectively help keep them safe.”
Damien Glorieux, General Manager, Ubisoft CRC, added: “Our ultimate aim is to provide an inclusive gaming environment where everyone, anywhere in Ubisoft’s global community can have fun while feeling safe and respected. This collaboration allows us to perform that role more effectively without it infringing on players’ privacy due to strict data controls in place.
“The reporting protocol combined with the training programme developed in partnership with Northumbria University is a great step towards better equipping our Player Support teams when encountering such reports. We’re very proud of the collaboration and hope it will inspire others to follow suit to collectively support our players.”
Northumbria University are key contributors to the partnership and are responsible for developing and future proofing the training.
Professor Gavin Oxburgh, Department of Social Sciences, who was involved with the development and delivery of the training together with Dr Phil Anderson, Department of Computer and Information Sciences, said: “We have collaborated with Northumbria Police on many projects for a number of years now and helping staff at Ubisoft understand and deal with vulnerable persons is absolutely vital.
“The collaborations we have made is key to ongoing work with other organisations around the world. We are delighted to be involved in such an innovative project.”