Google Chrome update causes havoc with browser games

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An update Google applied to its Chrome browser, intended to silence annoying autoplay adverts, has broken the audio in countless browser-based games. 

In the comments section of Google’s announcement of the update’s changes, many games developers have complained that the audio on their games will no longer autoplay, often completely negating the appeal of those games. Al Zebian, for example, said: “This is a very bad policy for HTML5 games. We have a bunch of users complaining today that their game has no sound playback.” Steven Savoie added: “Well, thanks for ruining javascript game development. Instead of giving people a browser mute button, you’ve instead forced people to unmute every single thing they want to hear.”

The problem has been compounded by the fact that, although Google trailed the audio autoplay policy change in September 2017, it made no mention of the implications for browser-based games, instead  editing them later – as web game developer mcc pointed out on Twitter

The new rules mean that users now have to make a gesture to restart audio objects when they launch a game. But many developers have weighed in to point out that not everybody has the time or resources to rewrite their browser-based games. In Google’s policy update comments thread, for example, Matthew Gatland said: “I am sad that this change breaks existing websites. I thought web standards were a promise to stop doing this. Many websites will never be updated for this change. Many creators have moved on to other projects and don’t have time. Some creators have passed away and their websites will never be updated again. I think your goals could be achieved in a way that is more respectful of the existing web.”

No doubt Google and the development community will work towards a solution, and there are, of course, plenty of browsers other than Chrome out there. But it’s a shame that, in laudably attempting to address the problem of intrusive ads, Google has inadvertently broken hundreds of web games, alienating both users and its developer community.

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Steve Boxer
Steve Boxer has been writing about videogames since the early 1990s. His first console was an Atari VCS, and he misspent most of his youth in the 1980s in the arcades. As well as for Green Man Gaming, he can be found writing for The Guardian, Empire, TechRadar and Pocket-Lint. He’s currently having trouble deciding whether his favourite console is his Xbox One X or his Switch, and plays a wide range of games, but especially RPGs (he loves a good JRPG) action-adventure titles, shooters of all descriptions and driving games. Follow him here.