Back in July, Blizzard confirmed that it would be increasing punishments for Overwatch players with bad behaviour. This would also include changes to the game’s reporting system and a reporting system for consoles would finally be introduced.
That announcement was just the start and the developer has now further detailed its plans in an Overwatch developer update video. But these latest comments raise just as many questions as answers.
What is Overwatch Doing to Tackle Toxicity?
Overwatch game director Jeff Kaplan kicked off the latest developer update disclosing what Blizzard has already done to tackle toxicity. 480,000 disciplinary actions have been carried out against players, Kaplan confirmed, with 340,000 of these being a direct result of player reports.
This number is set to grow as Blizzard continues to face up to the responsibility of toxicity and continues to make a gameplay experience as inclusive as the world its game is set in. This includes finally bringing the reporting system to the PS4 and Xbox One versions of the game and there are plans to create an in-game notification so that Overwatch players know that something has been done about their reports.
In a forum post published by Kaplan two weeks prior to this video, the game director also detailed plans to convert chat silences over to suspensions (and to get rid of silences in favour of suspensions and bans.) “In the long term, we really want to work on systems that encourage positive behavior and reward good players,” said Kaplan.
Somewhat ironically, in that same forum post, Kaplan highlighted the fact that Blizzard has done a poor job of communicating these changes to players. The silence to ban conversions, the proposed bans for Competitive offenders, and plans for a “new series of punishments” were not mentioned at all in the developer update video.
Some 18 months after Overwatch was fully released, it’s good that Blizzard is making a start, and I’m not entirely dissatisfied with the company’s efforts. But there are still many questions for Blizzard to answer, not least of all, why it took the company so long to get to this point.
The pilot scheme for email notifications about reports, for example, Kaplan notes that 20,000 have been sent out but it’s unclear what’s stopping that from being expanded and exactly when that will be. And although hundreds of thousands of players have been hit by some sort of restriction, suspension or ban, players will also want to know how quickly it took those punishments to be served.
If I report someone today, will they feel the consequences of their actions tomorrow? Or will it take longer? And exactly what does it take for someone to be banned from the game completely? Kaplan was previously praised for shaming an abusive player on the game’s official forums, but despite the game director calling it one of the worst offending accounts he’d seen, that player had only been suspended from the game and not banned altogether.
Moreover, people will want to know how they themselves are being supported. Explaining that he isn’t looking to “guilt trip” those in the Overwatch community who do play nice and do play fair, Kaplan suggested several times that the toxicity issue is as much a burden on Blizzard’s shoulders as it is on players’. It is up to players to pat each other on the back and to think twice before spouting abuse, as well encouraging others not to be abusive either.
The developer is being realistic about the fact that its reporting systems alone cannot get everyone to change their ways. However, when games like League of Legends asked similar things of its playerbase, it supported that by sending out emails about how the offending player could reform as well as in-game reform cards with that information. I’m not asking for Blizzard to have that system ready immediately, but it’s not unreasonable to ask the developer to be more transparent about its planned measures.
As Kaplan explained, the need to focus on Overwatch toxicity means that the developer has less time to spend on things like new maps or a match history system. But I think I speak for many players when I say that I’d much rather be able to enjoy the content we’ve got currently, without abuse and toxicity, than experience new content where everybody is tilted and miserable.
Like this post? Like J Station X on Facebook.