The latest Overwatch developer update is interesting because it doesn’t deal with hero updates, gameplay changes, or an upcoming patch. Instead, it’s entitled “Play Nice, Play Fair”, and it’s dedicated to what Jeff Kaplan calls “the rising tide of toxicity” in Overwatch. The video is split into two sections: the first is about what Blizzard is doing in regards to in-game bad behavior and toxicity, and the second is about what the community can do.
Kaplan states that Blizzard are dedicated to creating an inclusive, fun space in Overwatch. The first step was the recent addition of reporting to console. While he admits the reporting feature isn’t perfect and will be receiving more improvements, Kaplan also states it is one of the most effective tools players currently have at their disposal.
20,000 players have received an email update about a successful report. This pilot program will be increased in scope and frequency, and eventually be integrated into the in-game pilot itself. 480,000 Overwatch accounts have been disciplined, with a massive 340,000 of them were because of player reports.
Upcoming changes will vary in visibility. Some of them will be announced and very visible, others will be under the hood tweaks to punishment thresholds and severity.
According to Kaplan, the highest level of philosophy regarding player behaviour is: “If you are a bad person doing bad things in Overwatch, we don’t want you in Overwatch. We don’t want to create areas for you where just the bad people are in Overwatch—we just don’t want those people in Overwatch. Overwatch should be an inclusive game space. It’s an inclusive, aspirational universe and the gameplay experience should match what Overwatch is hoping to achieve.”
Finally, Kaplan turns to what the community can do. While he suspects the anonymity of the internet is the real problem here, he pleads with the community to assess their own behavior. If everyone is here to have fun, then perhaps players can act in a way that will facilitate that. If that’s not enough of an incentive, Kaplan explains that Blizzard is currently sinking an enormous amount of time and manpower into solving the player behavior problem, and that’s taking away from the things we love about Overwatch: new content, features, and options.
The struggle to control player behavior in online gaming is nothing new. League of Legends notably went through a series of visible experiments and tests to see what methods worked best for controlling in-game toxicity and abuse. Now, Overwatch will face many of the same challenges as they work to clean up their playground.