In competitive games, a handful of bad eggs can stink up the whole basket. Even Overwatch, a shooter designed with teamwork and a degree of positivity in mind, can't dump them directly into the bin fast enough. Blizzard's solution? Better tools.
During an interview last year, Overwatch game director Jeff Kaplan told me that toxicity is "a big concern" for the team, but he conceded that the report system — though "aggressively" monitored by Blizzard's banhammer squad — could use some work. Since then, it's received minor tweaks, but nothing huge. That, however, is about to change. There's now a new report system on the PTR, and it has a lot going on.
Clip courtesy of Arsenal2454.
The new system allows you to report people for the following reasons:
- Abusive Chat
- Bad Battletag
- Poor Teamwork
Now, you might look at these options and see an anti-abuse system ripe for, well, abuse. Blizzard, though, has included very specific descriptions of what each category is and is not. "Poor teamwork", for instance, is avoiding objectives and being verbally abusive to teammates. It's not "playing a hero that is not considered optimal by the community or staying silent in voice chat". Other categories are similarly strict. So presumably, if people try to report you for dumb bullshit, their reports will be disregarded and tossed out.
This system seems much more specific than what Overwatch had before, and it will hopefully allow Blizzard to tackle individual reports more efficiently. Will it have a noticeable effect on the game, though? That's a tougher question to answer. Game companies tend to stay quiet when they take action against specific players, in part due to privacy concerns and also because cheaters, hackers, griefers and so on could game the system if they had a wealth of information to go on.
Reporting toxic players, then, can feel like bellowing helplessly into an uncaring void, especially if you just go on to encounter other toxic players down the line. Blizzard, however, insists that they put a lot of effort into cleaning up the community, and the only way they can be truly comprehensive is if players use the report function early and often. So if somebody's making your virtual life hell, think of the report button like karma. It won't give you the immediate and bloody vengeance you desire, but eventually that jerk will get struck by lightning or savaged by (very methodical) wolves for days on end. Also, they might get banned from Overwatch.