The Overwatch Player Who Keeps Getting Reported For Playing Widowmaker

Snipers have a bad reputation: The class is infamous for standing back and picking off kills, all without contributing to the match objective. In Overwatch, that sniper stigma means that players consider heroes like Widowmaker and Hanzo to be nonviable competitively. For some players, straying from that norm often turns ugly.

Illustration by Angelica Alzona

For weeks now, I've been hearing stories from people who say that picking Widowmaker in Overwatch matches opens them up to harassment from teammates, even if they're just playing for funsies. I've had people complain to me about the constant insults and slurs that they get for picking Widowmaker, and one reader even admitted that they can't see Widowmaker on attack without immediately messaging that player to urge them to switch characters. Social etiquette has emboldened Overwatch players to constantly monitor and micromanage heroes picked by the friendly team, and the experience can be awful for everyone involved.

One player, Jean Fauquenot, is constantly battling against the negative perception that his go-to character picks are destructive for his team. The current accepted meta is the "triple tank" strategy, where heroes like Reinhardt and Ana are popular selections, whereas snipers like Hanzo and Widowmaker are never used by pro players during tournaments — a preference that filters down and influences what people expect to see within normal Overwatch matches. If you're not picking the predetermined "good" characters who historically win matches, it is easy for your teammates to blame you for sabotaging the efforts of your team.

According to stat-tracking website Overbuff, Widowmaker is Fauquenot's most-played hero, though he notes that he does switch to characters like Mei if he feels that the enemy team counters him effectively enough. With that strategy, Fauquenot currently has a 45 per cent win rate — which is average. During the latest competitive season, Fauquenot has gotten close to "Master" rank on PC. Along the way, Fauquenot has gotten chat banned by teammates five separate times over the last year, and he claims the disagreements all stem from his hero picks, rather than actual toxic discussions.

Within Overwatch, all players have the ability to report one another using a set menu of choices:

If enough players report the same person, Overwatch will automatically punish the perpetrator, regardless of merit. It is a system that places the burden of judgement on Overwatch players, who are free to interpret infractions however they see fit. As you'll note above, the very first option is "abusive chat", and annoyed players will often select that off-the-bat, regardless of what the actual problem is. Chat banned players, as the name implies, lose the ability to speak during matches, and with each chat ban "strike", the length of the ban doubles from 24 hours, to 48 hours and so on. The entire thing seems counterproductive in encouraging a teammate to switch characters — coordinating with your team requires communication, after all.

"Any pick of Bastion, Junkrat, Symmetra, Hanzo, Torjborn, Pharah, Widowmaker, Mercy, Sombra is considered a 'troll pick',"Fauquenot said. "I don't like that. I don't like that at all."

Overwatch is heavily marketed as a game that requires hero switching depending on the needs of your team. Players expect flexibility, and Blizzard encourages people to change things up as needed. The reality of Overwatch is a bit more complicated than that, of course.

People have preferences, characters that they're more comfortable with than others. Sometimes, common sense will tell you that your team "needs" a particular hero to attack or defend efficiently, but that may not align with your actual skill. Is it worth switching into a hero you're shitty with, rather than sticking with someone you're guaranteed to do work with? How do you know that the player screaming in your ear that the roster needs to be changed up isn't just lashing out, doling out blame blindly? Even if that person is right, if they're being nasty to you, do you give them the satisfaction of listening to them? If you're proficient in all the heroes, where does your personal enjoyment of the game fit in? To what degree do you sacrifice "fun" for the sake of your team?

Overwatch players are constantly juggling all of these considerations, and while "always be switching" has practically become a mantra among hardcore fans, things don't always work out that way. To wit, we recently got a tip about a top Overwatch player named Necros, who is ranked #58 in his or her region — and Necros predominantly plays Genji. Genji, unlike Widowmaker, is taken as a "productive" pick, and with a win rate of 59 per cent, it seems unlikely that Necros invites as much harassment, despite the similar ultra-narrow hero focus.

"The violent insults are one thing I can deal with but they are often followed, ironically, with griefing behaviour," Fauquenot said. "It is very common to have a Mei blocking my line of sight." As evidence, Fauquenot provided an Imgur link full of exchanges where people shit on him for playing Widowmaker, including screenshots of players idling in defiance toward him:

As far as players are concerned, Fauquenot absolutely deserves the chat bans. In a forum thread where Fauquenot complained about his situation, one stranger who kept getting matched with Fauquenot chimed in, saying:

I remember losing so much MMR back when I was Diamond because I kept getting matched with you. Hopefully that was countered a bit by the times I got matched against you too. /salt

But seriously the issue isn't even your lvl of play as Widow (which frankly is surprisingly low given all your hours with her, last time i checked i believe your winrate in competitive was 47%), it's the fact that you will never swap away from her for any reason. You're not a team player, you go into competitive expecting others to tank and heal for you and won't adapt, ever. You've had teams plead you to take something else, we were clearly losing and we all made swaps to try a different strategy but you alone will never swap away from Widowmaker. The truth is that you're not the kind of person people want to be matched with, that's why you keep getting reported.

It would not surprise me if many people feel the same way; the issue is complicated. But even if Fauquenot is in the wrong here, even if he's deluded himself into believing that his teammates, not his penchant for Widowmaker, are the problem, something is still amiss. Even Blizzard can't decide whether Fauquenot's bans are valid or not.

Blizzard has overturned a couple of Fauquenot's chat bans, because he's technically not being abusive in chat:

Blizzard has, at other points, decided that the bans are warranted:

Blizzard's citing of the code of conduct, meanwhile, only mentions the need for communication, appropriate names and lack of cheating. The closest thing that encapsulates the problem is "toxicity", which, while a very real problem in multiplayer games, is currently too vaguely defined to be useful. What of the immediate toxicity against Widowmaker, does that not count? If players are expected to forgo "toxicity", why is it more of an unspoken rule, rather than an official one that players must actively understand and adhere to before playing? Couldn't all of this social drama be avoided if Widowmaker were designed better, so that players don't hate her existence outright? Blizzard, for its part, told Kotaku that it has no updates regarding potential Widowmaker revamps. A Blizzard rep told us that they do, however, have plans to improve the experience:

While we're not going to go into detail on how we determine when someone is violating our policies, we can say we're constantly working to improve our reporting systems and banning procedures to ensure we're treating everyone as fairly as possible. As part of this ongoing process, we've been working on some updates that should give players better, more robust reporting options as well as allow us to provide more tailored penalties (based on the violation), and we're looking forward to rolling them out soon.

"This kind of issue is not new," Fauquenot said. "League of Legends has been dealing with it for years and tried to find the right equilibrium. They recently divided their ranking games in twice. One queue for solo/duo in which players pick a role they want to play so that the team end up following a meta composition and one 'flex' queue made for players playing in group where they are free to pick any role... and if Blizzard has an opinion when it comes to picks, if they believe some picks deserve a ban, then it should be implemented in-game."

Fauquenot also noted that Overwatch could use incentives to actively promote good behaviour, especially since chat bans in particular are obviously not solving the problem. Once again using League of Legends as an example, Fauquenot noted that the MOBA has an honour system that players can use to reward people for being skilled, cooperating and being polite. At the very least, Fauquenot would love it if punitive measures had some sort of warning attached to them, rather than outright bringing the hammer down on people who have been reported enough.

"[Measures like these] did not seem necessary at first because the community was very nice and tolerant but as soon as the competitive play appeared the toxicity of the community raised like crazy. And that was to be expected, as players find themselves under pressure," Fauquenot said.

"I understand why many people do not like to play with me," Fauquenot said. "For most people the perfect teammate is the one who adapt his pick to his team and never play what he wants, listen to all the orders of his teammates and always stay nice and focused... I never insult anyone, I always focus on my game, I communicate, mostly to call the kill I made so my team know how to react. But I play both what I like and believe to be appropriate even when it is not a popular opinion, and it's never a popular opinion."


    The other side is you also get abused if you play a character you don't know how to play well.
    So I can see why some people would stick to the same character over and over again.

    Gotta say, I'm on Fauquenot's side and fuck those assholes reporting him on chat bans when he hasn't been doing anything wrong in chat at all. What's next? Reporting players as being abusive in chat because they're terrible at the class they're playing? Fuck that. Why not report players for picking a skin you don't like? Fashion crimes are worth a report, right?

    If I were with Blizz, I'd be overturning those bans and punishing everyone who submitted the false reports as abusing the system.

      People can't really control how bad they are at the game. But they can control their hero pick. And if you don't pick your hero based on what's best for the team then you're the one sucks.

        Players aren't mind readers, there's no way to know what hero is 'best for the team'. Understanding what is considered a hard counter is basically the simplest attempt at this and without true coordination with your team mates has no guarantee for success. Players may be control of their hero pick, but they're not in control of all those assholes who'll flame them for losing anyway.

          You don't have to be a mind reader, you just have to listen to your goddam teammates.

            Are you voluteering to be the full-time filter for making sure only the team mates that actually know what they're talking about and actually conduct themselves with good sportsmanship are the ones heard? Because that's what this article is about, some petty assholes who get way too upset over another player specifically not listening to THEM, because if he just listened to THAT ONE GUY and just ignored 1/23rd of the game they hate but he loves, then they'd clearly win all the time, every time and there would be no problem.

            I'll listen to them if they're polite, if I respect their advice and actually consider them to be right, rather than just making an emotional guess based on their dislike of that hero.

            Last edited 25/01/17 12:03 am

    I make a point of not instantly dismissing any hero pick as long as we have a decent class balance (a guy picked Sombra a few days ago. The team gave him s**t for it but he said "give me a chance". He was awesome and totally carried the team). But if you don't perform in your role and then refuse to switch up then you're at fault. If you're playing the game just for "funsies" the don't play comp. Comp is only fun when the team works well together. I genuinely don't mind losing as long as it was because we weren't as good as the other team. But nothing makes me lose my s**t faster than a teammate who refuses to play as a team.

    Why does he have the right to ruin the game for others because he refuses to play the game as intended?

      Because he ruined nothing. There is no metric that available to players apart from stupendously vague global statistics that give everyone their concept of the current 'winning meta'. That's nowhere near useful enough for all instances and if it is then, ta-da, the games busted and in need of balancing.

      You can't quantify this shit. There's no proof that 'someone not playing as a team' could reliably win if replaced by one that does. The opponents could be straight up better than you, or could straight up be suffering poor team dynamics themselves. Nobody playing by the rules is ruining the game for anybody and the quicker that concept leaves, then the more we can all get on with our lives.

        As I said I don't mind losing when our opponents are better, but I hate losing because someone refuses to switch it up. It's not even an issue of "winning meta", good team comp and hero selection is the fundamental basis of the game. Blizzard understands this - the removal of hero stacking is a prime example.

        RE: metrics, even without hard rankings it's pretty easy to tell if a hero isn't working. If your Roadhog keeps getting melted by, say, Zenyatta, it means Widow isn't doing her job. If Soldier doesn't take care of Pharah, then he isn't doing his job.

          the removal of hero stacking is a prime example.

          The removal of that functions most pertinent effect was to play true to their games offer of variety. Having a team of all the same character is boring. If anything the removal of stacking goes against the idea that hero selection is vital in the extreme because it removes the players choice to pick only the heroes that are considered effective. Instead the new rule forces only a max of one of any of the valuable heroes on a team, leaving the rest to pick someone that could interact in more varied and less predictable ways.

          If your Roadhog keeps getting melted by, say, Zenyatta, it means Widow isn't doing her job. If Soldier doesn't take care of Pharah, then he isn't doing his job.

          That's only for you to evaluate for your own hero picks. Without a massive paradigm shift in player coordination (like a pre-formed team/clan) I'll have NO idea how effective my team mates are being in serving my own interests. I mean seriously, you really want to play a game where if you're losing you should jump to the conclusion that your team mates are incompetent? That just promotes a toxic atmosphere where everything is someone else's fault, where somebody else picking a better character is really the only solution, not switching yourself, or playing better yourself, or not relying on playing with randoms who more than likely have a completely different reason and attitude in playing. That kind of play style is predicated on nothing but a knee-jerk band-aid solution action, a "My team is losing, oh what can we do?!!! I know people should just switch and the meta will sort it out!"

          Last edited 24/01/17 11:56 pm

    300+ hour master hanzo main here, and I consistently have >50% win rate as hanzo (usually around 53/54%)

    I just got chat banned for the second time and I'm starting to get pretty pissed off. Not only does silencing me not fix the problem, but it makes it 10x worse. If I play while chat banned I cannot communicate with my team at all, so I can't properly sync ults, and I can't call out low health targets. Because of this, my rank dropped from 3200 to 2700 in just one night, and the lower i get the more toxic (plat) players I run in to.

    I can hear my teammates but they can't hear me and they assume I'm trolling even more because of my silence, so I won't be surprised if I get chat banned a third time, when will it end? It's clear to me that blizzard doesn't care about players that play outside of the "meta" and only care about popular opinion.

      I don't understand the hate towards Hanzo. He's a solid pick on pretty much any map. I play with my cousin who's a Hanzo main and he often carries the team.

    If i see this player and they Widowmaker expecting me to play around their selfish actions im definitely reporting

    I recently started playing Overwatch and got just got to where I could play in competitive matches. I like playing Widowmaker but when I took her into a match I got met with the most hate that I have ever seen. I had the most eliminations and highest damage in a match but that didn't seem good enough. We ended up losing and it was blamed completely on me. I've worked in prisons for a few years and I have never heard such vile things as I have from the competitive community.

    If I was playing Widowmaker and was getting countered badly or was just having an off day I would gladly change heroes to something more effective but if I'm the best dps on the team, why should I have to change just because my team doesn't like my choice? I just don't understand the way people think towards Widow.

    I play as Symmetra a lot when on DEFENSE, and I'd guess an easy 70% of those competitive matches there's almost instantly, usually, someone on my same team telling me to switch; before they've even had the chance to see me play. It's interesting because I'm very good with Symmetra. I've memorized where to place turrets effectively on every map, where to place teleporters for the best advantage, and I know when/where to place the shield booster depending on what point in the match we're at. BUT, no matter what there's always at least 1 person telling me to switch. I hate to say it too, but if I don't give in, and change characters then that chatter USUALLY turns into something "toxic" even if I am doing a good job. Even if we're winning. I'm not a "solo" hero type of player either, there's quite a few characters I'm proficient in. I just think it's a little sad if you're playing competitive, and you can see that I've placed in that same range as you then you should have a LITTLE faith I might know how to play who I pick, or that I'll adapt, and change strategies as the game progresses, and I've been given the opportunity to see the other team in action? Also, why START OFF with the negative chatter? If someone does worse than you in competitive, i.e. gets an all-around worse score then they WILL get a worse penalty, and you don't have to play with them again! There's never a need for unsportsmanlike conduct. Now, at the SAME time I'm not saying you shouldn't give/get penalized for giving constructive criticism. It's perfectly fine to give pointers, and advice to your teammates. In fact it's great! If you see a way to counter a hero on the other team, or some other opportunity that isn't being taken advantage of then it's perfectly acceptable to speak up, and in the same instance not be degraded with hate speech as if you were not being a "team player". In such an instance of just starting a round though remember there is a difference between including everyone on the team in a strategy session, and just coming on chat, and demanding someone switch. You might not be using any "hate speech", or be "toxic", but people who are just meeting you for the first time don't really see that as teamwork either. It'll most likely setup a rift between you, and other players as well. Which is not great, especially at the start of a match haha. Overwatch is an amazing game in that it combines all the great qualities of team sports, and all the horrid anonymity provided by the internet. There's crazies, and mean people everywhere. So, it's up to us to keep the "Good luck! Have fun!" spirit going! So.............. GOOD LUCK! HAVE FUN! ;D

    Overwatch = HoN......PvP game suck anyways....let pop bitxh all they like, you play how you want's YOUR game....

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