Blizzard’s Overwatch Community is So Toxic, It’s Slowing Patch Updates
Blizzard’s Overwatch has been a smash hit since it launched in 2016, but as with any multiplayer game, trolling and poor player conduct is a concern. Apparently it’s such a concern that Overwatch lead designer and Blizzard VP Jeff Kaplan took to YouTube to explain why new features for the game have been delayed: It’s because Blizzard is spending a non-trivial amount of resources dealing with online trolling.
Kaplan notes that Blizzard is working on improving its responsiveness, and notifying players when those they’ve reported have been banned or penalized. Right now, the community generally treats reports as worthless because it’s hard to tell when something has happened to toxic players that are wrecking the game for everyone.
Kaplan has also written about Blizzard’s long-term plans for its reporting system. Instead of silencing players as a first step, the company is converting this to suspensions in most cases, with permanent bans for the worst and most toxic players. The company is also planning to ban repeated offenders from competitive play altogether once they hit a certain threshold. If you get banned from X number of seasons, you’ll be banned from playing Competitive at all.
In the long term, we really want to work on systems that encourage positive behavior and reward good players. It really bums us out to spend so much time punishing people for being bad sports. We like making cool, fun game systems — that’s what we do for a living. But because people seem to lack self-control or because people like to abuse anonymity and free speech we’re put in a position of spending a tremendous amount of our time and resources policing the community.
This is generally the approach that Blizzard has taken in other games, though the discussion of toxic online communities surprises me a bit. I’ve never played Overwatch, but as a WoW player going back to 2004, there’s really no excuse for not knowing you needed a plan to deal with toxic players. Communities do not self-regulate, absent any tools to do so. Guilds can help with certain issues in certain games, but the structure of Overwatch and FPS games in general make this more difficult (and even in an MMO, guilds can’t prevent other players from doing crappy things in areas open to the general public).
We’re glad to see Blizzard pushing to improve Overwatch toxicity and deal with bad apples, but there’s really no reason the game should’ve launched without these features. Blizzard isn’t exactly new to PC gaming and has been building titles with online communities for 20 years. Overwatch may be its first FPS, but it’s not like FPS players are more toxic than those in other genres.