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What happens when players use Overwatch reports as a weapon?

Stevooo, a dedicated Symmetra player, has found himself as a target of the Overwatch reporting system.

What’s in a main?

The point of Overwatch is to pick one of 26 heroes and team up with your companions to push a payload or secure a point. You can, and arguably should switch heroes at any time. Every team needs tanks, or healers, or to counter a powerful pick on the enemy team. One tricks, or players who only choose one hero, have been a controversial topic for some time now. Blizzard have weighed in; one tricks are not, on their own, a bannable offense... but players should try to switch it up. After all, we should “play nice, play fair”, and wouldn’t it be nicer if someone switched to Mercy or Reinhardt once in a while?

Stevooo, a dedicated Symmetra main and streamer, has found himself in the crosshairs of this debate once again, but this time the anti-one trickers have a powerful weapon: the automated report system. Reports, in theory, should be used after a game where someone has legitimately harassed their team. In practice, Stevooo is doing nothing wrong. On the other hand, his Symmetra pick infuriates teammates enough that they immediately move to report him. “If we get enough reports on him, he’s gonna get banned.” says one player.

Here’s the cauldron of context that makes this such a problem: First, Overwatch is a team game, but your rank is individual. Your performance and rating, which lead to prestige and in-game goodies at the end of the season, are reliant on other players. Losing tanks your progress; even if you’re playing very well. If your team can’t carry their weight, you lose rating, which is seen as the same as losing progress. If you’re in this mindset, you suddenly stop seeing your teammates as teammates and the game as, well, a game.

What complicates things further is that some characters, like Symmetra and Torbjorn, are legitimately much more difficult to play (or less effective). It can be argued that in a “perfect play” scenario, someone shouldn’t play Symmetra on attack, ever. This perception has led to these characters being picked by trolls as a taunt, and someone locking in Symmetra on Offense in many cases could be someone who is relying on her reputation to infuriate their teammates.

This is a good, honest Symmetra.
Blizzard Entertainment

That being said, individual preference plays a major part here. Stevooo has a positive win rate on Symmetra, 57%. In the context of high level ladder play, that’s a sign that he’s successfully climbing and remaining a boon to his team.

That being said, when players see him immediately lock in Symmetra, they’re likely not engaging with Stevooo as a person anymore. He’s a representation of every troll who’s locked in a bad pick and spammed “attack the objective.” These players often feel helpless, like they’re continually locked in a prison with trolls, bad players and those who aren’t seriously engaging in the game, causing them to lose rank. What can they do in a situation like this?

Well, they’ve finally found a tool: the report function.

Why didn’t you build a shield generator? Reported.
Blizzard Entertainment

When players like Stevooo find themselves being mass reported, they have very little recourse. Indeed, Heroes Never Die was contacted by a friend of Stevooo’s hoping that we could shine some light on this case. Blizzard has been clear in how they want the community to conduct themselves: Play nice, play fair. But clearly there’s a problem: Players can’t agree on what play nice, play fair means.

Does it mean that we should continually switch to what the team needs? Should it means that we should respect the unusual character mains and celebrate their choices? Is the point of competitive Overwatch to win, or to have fun and enjoy the game? You’ll get different answers to this question from different players, and when they clash, the report function becomes a handy dandy tool.

Report systems in online games continually struggle with the volume of incoming reports. It’s impossible to manually review, even if you try to entice users to handle it like the League of Legends tribunal. Automated systems are the only real solution... but they can be abused, or loopholes can be found.

Ultimately, while Play Nice, Play Fair is a well-intentioned statement for Overwatch, it’s a foundation statement at best. More work needs to be done to outline what’s an offense and what isn’t. Ultimately, the developers want Overwatch to be fun, and they need the players to pitch in ... but the current infrastructure to ensure all of that happens may not quite be at its final stage yet.