Overwatch's Confusing Reporting System Is Making Trolling Worse

When a player reports an abusive teammate in Overwatch, the most common response is rarely fear, regret, or even an apology. It's "go ahead!" Overwatch's reporting system is opaque, like any game's, but word on the street is that it's toothless.

Overwatch

As someone who spends roughly 10 hours a week playing Overwatch, I've seen toxicity increase since the game installed its new reporting system in March. As more and more players come around to the idea that Overwatch's reporting function is ineffective, fewer apparently fear the usual repercussions of trolling.

A story: The other night on PC Overwatch, my competitive team desperately needed a tank. We were a sad mix of squishy heroes. Unless we picked up a sturdy body to absorb enemy attacks up front, preferably with a shield, we'd get mowed. I'll do it, I said on voice chat, switching to Reinhardt. But two tanks are better than one.

That simple hero choice provoked a comment that I'll assume was meant to be friendly: "Oh, I didn't know girls play Reinhardt." Well, mister, here I am. I put my mouse on the big shield dude and clicked that right click! I laughed into my headset and silently walked over to the map's choke point. After the game started, another teammate said, "I hate women." I laughed into my headset. After another pause, he continued: "I hate feminazis."

I laughed again. "My dad taught me to hate women." A stream-of-consciousness of distracting trolling kept us company from the first choke point to the enemy team's eventual victory. "And that's how you got reported!" I concluded. He said, "Fine. Go ahead. Overwatch's reporting system is bullshit, anyway."

Overwatch

I use Overwatch's report function a lot. Nearly three times a week, somebody goes on some racist tangent, yells slurs at some Hanzo main, throws the game, or, on one particularly confusing occasion, scream-shouts the entirety of "All Star" by Smash Mouth in voice chat. I report them because I want to feel like I'm contributing to a better Overwatch community, and so I do my part to yank out the toxic weeds.

It's also a self-defence mechanism — somebody's tilted me, I'm mad, I'm playing worse and leaking SR [skill rating], and so I'd prefer it if they vanished into the abyss. I tell people when I'm reporting them, too. And consistently, I hear in response: "Whatever!"

It's a pretty lax attitude to take under the threat of account suspension or a ban; but that's because, for a lot of Overwatch players, that threat doesn't seem to exist. Players are pretty clueless about how Overwatch's reporting function works. Forum posts and conversations with players indicate that a lot of people think reporting in Overwatch is more of a placebo than an management system for harassment.

I've had rude teammates beg me to report them. And console players don't even have a report function, although publisher Blizzard says they're working on one.

Shortly after Overwatch's release, game director Jeff Kaplan told Kotaku reporter Nathan Grayson that toxicity is "a big concern for us." He added that Overwatch's "Report" function has to be a little inscrutable so nobody exploits it. A big drama earlier this year ballooned after players started reporting teammates who wouldn't switch off commonly-disliked heroes. A few months later, Blizzard instituted Overwatch's new system, which lets players report each other for "spam", "abusive chat", "cheating", "griefing", "inactivity", "bad Battletag" and "poor teamwork".

"Abusive chat" doesn't have the same weight as "bad teamwork." Having to deal with a crap Widowmaker on your team doesn't really compare to someone making you feel unwelcome in a community you are attached to.

Overwatch

Because so many players are baffled by Overwatch's "Report" system, a few rag-tag fans have been conducting experiments on it. On /r/Overwatch, player TheOverwatchInt explained how, over a period of two days, he asked teammates in 50 Quick Play games to report him for abusive chat.

A few days later, he received an email from Blizzard notifying him that his account would be muted for a week. TheOverwatchInt concluded that the "Report" system works and estimates that he was reported a few dozen times. In the comments under his findings, fans noted that it took too long for Blizzard to react.

When asked by Kotaku this week how their reporting system works, Blizzard declined to explain, but added that they do have a team "that actively monitors and acts on player reporting. We are constantly working on improving the system, as we take toxicity and player reporting very seriously."

Last month, Kaplan said on the Battle.net forums that the Overwatch team was "reviewing our punishment policies with an eye towards getting more aggressive on toxicity and throwing and other bad behaviours."

Overwatch's reporting system is still young, but as of today it's failed to create the one thing that it needs most: a culture of fear. When you threaten to report a teammate, his or her first reaction shouldn't be "go ahead." Teammates should know when a player has been kicked for "abusive chat." People who report others should hear what happened next. That way, Overwatch won't feel like the wild west of rude teenagers it is right now.


Comments

    Play on console Cecilia, you will hear no words ever. You'll only get stock responses which you then have to figure out if they're sarcastic or not.

    "Thank you" looks nice on paper but it really means "see you in hell" if they say it after death.

    "Understood"? Almost always bad. They "understand" that you lost the first point. They "understand" that no one needs to touch the payload.

      You clearly haven't gone team chat then. The toxicity on consoles is abhorrent.

        I use a mic and I play comp and quick.

        People are silent most of the time. I introduce myself and the people in chat say nothing, happens all the time. It's most annoying in comp for obvious reasons.

          Yeah there's a lot of silence in comp matches but there's also a lot of toxicity, especially because there's no in game report system thus no in game repercussions for rudeness/abuse/toxicity/throwing.

    Strangely personal abusive trolling doesn't get to me (when it's directed at me). Listening to vile racism, sexism and use of gay slurs, however is just so common place. It makes me not want to play the game or carrying on living in this reality.

    For those things I refuse to stay silent. Even if it means I am the one to cop the hate. There is a line that has to be drawn and for me that is it. They are rubbish things to deal with in real life, I am certainly not going to listen to them in a game. Especially a game that at its core (tries) represent diversity in the context of the whole world.

      It's definitely incredibly disappointing that quite a lot of people choose to vent their frustrations in such a negative and hurtful way. However, I feel those people still aren't the majority and it's easy to forget that there are a lot of nice people online too. Especially when you get game after game with the negative sort.

      If you feel like it's getting too much, just remember there's always single-player games or other activities that can give you a break.

    Frankly I don't mind toxic chat, provided they actually use it effectively on occasion. For me it's much better than no-mic, pro Hanzos that make effective teamwork impossible.

    You must be new to online competitive fps games. Allow me to explain that no report system has ever worked ever and that the only way anything happens is when you have servers with admins monitoring it, which is a thing of the past.

    Toxicity like this is not an exclusive problem to overwatch but almost every first person shooter. My advice: get that mute button handy and don't give me horse shit about how you shouldn't have to mute people. It's 2017 and people are c*nts.

    At least you HAVE a reporting system on PC.

    Consoles are still stuck with the native reporting systems which are next to useless since they're not policed by Blizzard but by Microsoft/Sony.

    On Xbox its even worse because the reporting/reputation system is easily exploitable to the point where you can get someone effectively banned from playing Overwatch.

    Overwatch's reporting system is still young, but as of today it's failed to create the one thing that it needs most: a culture of fear. When you threaten to report a teammate, his or her first reaction shouldn't be "go ahead."
    So you can wield it like a weapon whenever you're having a bad game and want someone to do what you say, or else?

    It's one thing to use it to report actual shitty behavior, etc, but you apparently also use the threat of reports whenever you've having a bad game for any reason.

    It's also a self-defence mechanism — somebody's tilted me, I'm mad, I'm playing worse and leaking SR [skill rating], and so I'd prefer it if they vanished into the abyss.
    That alone makes you a massive part of the problem with reporting systems in general, the fact that so many reports are fake makes it a problem finding the people who should actually be banned, suspended, etc.

    Maybe it's an Australia thing, but when I play I see almost no chatting at all.

      What rank are you. Masters and GM is toxic as hell. I have been dominating on widow of late and just got silenced for poor teamwork.

      I have no evidence of what that actually means but I would assume that people are reporting me for my pick. And it's not like I am not contributing. I create shit tonnes of space for our other 2 dps and healers. 65% win rate also. But poor teamwork.

      Welcome to the overwatch reporting system. It doesn't work. Guilty people roam free and innocent people suffer. If they just made servers like the old counter strike days with admins that monitor it. There would be no problems.

        Ah well maybe because all I've ever played is QP?

        "Poor teamwork" is such an obviously subjective thing. It's absurd. I get called out all the time for being the cause of the team's woes when I'm healing but when the team are spread out across the map or a winston's being allowed to chew me up and spit me out I'm not going to do a good job. If you're fighting 1v6 it ain't the healers fault you die.

        People are really bad at being objective when they're salty.

          Like I said in a previous comment. It's 2017 and people are c*nts.

            I just meant that the "poor teamwork" section is likely to be unreliable and shouldn't be included. The other thing I don't know about. People have the potential to be c*nts but more often than not they're fantastic

    My gamertag is "feminist". I will go through periods of no trouble, but then I'll usually have a number of matches in a row ranging from smart-arse comments to outright abuse all over a name. I've had teammates throw matches, support characters deliberately not heal me and generally receive incredibly sexist comments (they assume I'm female until I use voice chat).

    Strangely though, my experience has been the opposite - I've had far less abuse recently than I did when I first started using the tag a few months ago. I've even had the occasional supportive comment (from both male and female players).

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