Blizzard explains how it’s dealing with toxicity in Overwatch

Anyone who’s played an online multiplayer game knows that other players’ bad behaviour often ruins the experience for those who are simply looking to have a good time. Maybe it’s the usual boor who jumped into a Call of Duty game to berate others instead of having fun, and there’s always the kind that spouts comments of a sexist or racist nature in multiplayer, something which obviously isn’t big or clever.

Sadly, this sort of behaviour is also commonplace in Overwatch, which is not so strange taking into account that Blizzard’s arena shooter is one of the most-played online games in the world right now.

And in a recent YouTube video Jeff Kaplan (Overwatch’s game director) addressed this issue, discussing what Blizzard is currently doing to put an end (or at least attempt to do so) to toxicity in Overwatch.

Amongst the measures taken by Blizzard are letting console players report others who are acting like jerks online, something that was only possible on PC until now. Also, those guilty of bad behaviour now receive a warning if Blizzard is going to take any action soon, which includes banning, suspending or silencing the culprit.

Those who have reported others’ ugly behaviours now get a message in-game telling them if Blizzard took any action against the offender as well, something that might actually convince those who took the trouble to report someone that their efforts were not in vain.

According to Kaplan, this measures have so far produced great results. “In competitive play since those features went live incidents of abusive chat are now down 17 percent”, said Overwatch’s game director, while Kaplan also claims that player reporting “is now up 20 percent” since these new features went live.

However, one of the measures Blizzard is taking to deal with Overwatch jerks has sparked controversy, with some accusing the US company of playing Big Brother as one Forbes contributor pointed out.

This is due to Blizzard’s more proactive approach when it comes to dealing with abusers, as Kaplan explains in the latest developer video. According to Kaplan, Blizzard is now proactively searching sites like YouTube and viewing Overwatch videos, looking for bad behaviour in order to take action themselves before any player reporting takes place.

“We proactively seek out social media sites like YouTube for example and look for incidents of very toxic behaviour and track down the accounts that are participating in those and action them, often times before anybody’s even reported them or they’ve shown up in any other place”, said Kaplan.

But no matter how well-meaning Blizzard’s intentions could be, I think the game publisher might be crossing the line here, and a self-policing system based on player reporting might be a better bet instead of attempting to play Big Brother and end up generating resentment amongst its fans.

However, as long as the US company sticks to seeking out the worst cases by itself and leaves the rest to players, everything will likely be fine in the end. So hopefully there will be few incidents of bad player behaviour in 2018, and the millions of people who still enjoy Overwatch will have as much fun playing the game this year as they did the last.

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