Overwatch game director Jeff Kaplan appeared on the game’s official YouTube channel to talk about in-game toxicity, and what Blizzard is trying to do to reduce it. He explained that Blizzard has already “taken disciplinary action against over 480,000 accounts.”
Having to dedicate resources to tracking down and punishing offending players, is slowing down the production of new Overwatch updates and content. Kaplan explained that “a tremendous amount of time and resources [are used up] to [punish] people, and trying to make people behave better.”
He went on to explain that it’s not just Blizzard who’s responsible for creating a pleasant gaming space, stating that the community, too, needs to create a fun environment to play.
“I really do believe that, as much as we’re doing at Blizzard to improve the situation, the community needs to take a deep look inward, … There’s a way to spread positivity that I don’t think is really prevalent right now. Sure, we can try to build game systems to encourage that more – and we will – but we need the community to own up to their part in the accountability they have for really creating a great game space.”
You can watch the full seven-minute talk below:
Over on Battle.net, Jeff detailed the short, medium, and long-term plans for combating the growing levels of toxicity amongst players:
“We have short, medium and long term plans and we haven’t done a great job in communicating all of these things to you. In the short term we are re-evaluating every punishment and are in the process of converting silences over to suspensions. We’re also increasing the length of suspensions. Pretty soon, we hope for silences to go away all together and only have suspensions and bans for punishments (with a few exceptions like forced BattleTag changes for naming violations). Also in the short term, we’ve been testing an email notification system to let you know when someone you’ve reported has been actioned. We cannot provide a lot of detail in these emails but they only go out if an action has taken place (meaning your report contributed to someone getting suspended). The other short term thing we just did was ban a number of accounts for boosting in Season 5. These accounts were actioned either yesterday or are in the process of being actioned. They will lose all Season 5 rewards.
“In the medium term, we’re looking to completely ban repeated Competitive offenders meaning if you’ve been banned for more than X seasons, we will ban you from ever playing competitive again. We also want to increase the email notification system to other forms of reporting as well as work on an in-game notification system to let you know that your reports are doing something (this will edge more into the long term section — the in game part). For Season 6, we’re going to be way more aggressive with boosting/throwing or any sort of SR manipulation. We have some very smart people who are getting very good at detecting this behavior and we are actively building systems (and punishments) around SR abuse. Also in the medium term, we have a new series of punishments we’re going to try that escalates much more quickly (so you don’t have egregious cases like the one you’re referencing). Basically, extreme offenders will “strike out” of the game much quicker. As part of these increasing punishments, we’re looking to make it so that offenders get blocked from Competitive play much sooner — more details on this as we get closer.
“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. We will do this as it is our responsibility but we’d like to spend more time rewarding good players rather than having to focus on poor sportsmanship and unacceptable bad behavior so much. Like it or not, this is an “us, the OW community problem” and not just an “OW team problem”. For better or for worse, we’re in this together.”
It’s a shame that some gamers have to take things so far, taking pleasure in harming others. Here’s hoping Blizzard finds a solution that works, without taking up too much of their time.