Tracer Overwatch

Overwatch, like any big online gaming community, has its fair share of toxicity. Blizzard has announced it will be implementing some new systems to combat inexcusable behavior, but that's coming at a cost. In short, policing the community means fewer resources are going toward things like maps, modes, and new characters.

To help combat this, Blizzard is updating some of their policies and procedures, which Director Jeff Kaplan has explained in a recent video update called "Play nice, play fair." One of the big bullet points from this breakdown is that, if the team didn't have to worry about horrible people being constantly horrible, they'd be able to focus on more exciting ways to improve the game and its community. As Kaplan says...

We've been put in this weird position where we're spending a tremendous amount of time and resources punishing people and trying to make people behave better. I wish we could take the time we put into putting reporting on console and have put them towards a match history system or a replay system instead. It was the exact same people who had to work on both who got re-routed to work on the other.

Ask any Overwatch fan and they've likely got some nasty war stories to share about toxic behavior online. From flinging obscenities around to shouting hate speech into the mic for all to hear, some players are quite literally ruining the experience for everybody else.

Obviously, that translates to a lot of players reporting unsavory behavior. Working through those reports, separating them from the fake reports, and determining the appropriate course of action takes manpower. And if someone (or multiple someones, more likely) on the team is spending their time digging through all of those reports, then they aren't spending that time working on new features for the game or improving it in some other fashion. Of course, the answer is not for folks to stop reporting wrongdoings. The answer is to create better systems to address these trouble players. And, again, that takes resources that could have been funneled elsewhere if there wasn't a portion of the community doing their best to ruin the game for everyone else.

Kaplan further addressed this situation in the Overwatch forums, where a frustrated player vented their frustrations with the current reporting system. They brought up a player who is apparently one of the worst offenders, earning an average of four reports against them per day. Despite that fact, they've simply been put on temporarily probations from the game a number of times, with one of their most recent offenses earning them nothing more than a seven-day suspension.

Kaplan responds by saying that the Overwatch team has made reporting and punishment a prime focus. The plan is to reevaluate current systems and potentially shifting silences (can't use voice chat for a period of time) to suspensions (can't play the game for a period of time). Those suspensions will also be greater, and hopefully compounded for multiple offenders. These actions will be taken against not just folks spewing vile language online, but also people found to be "boosting" or otherwise cheating the system.

Unfortunately, it sounds like part of the "medium-term" plan only includes the potential banning of repeat offenders from competitive play; which means the folks who just want to play casually to unwind will be more likely to come across these toxic players.

Maybe a flat-out ban with a hair trigger isn't the right way to approach these situations, but it's really starting to feel like the only reasonable course of action. In the end, Blizzard is responsible for their Overwatch community. We're happy to see them taking steps to right the ship. We just hope these measures will be enough.

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