Become a better Overwatch player with this one neat trick: Being nice. You'll get results almost instantly!
"Think about all the times somebody's said something negative to you in the game and imagine now if somebody had said something positive to you instead," Overwatch director Jeff Kaplan said in a recent video. Some (myself included) derided that comment as an overly simplistic view of the situation, especially in light of Blizzard's glacial response to the game's increasingly toxic community. One player, though, said they decided to give Kaplan's "be nice" strategy a try, and it worked out well for them.
"I started to be nice. Really nice. Overly nice," wrote a player named DigitallyBorn on Reddit. "Not sarcastically, but severely nice. I started to compliment my teammates and (gulp) even the enemy team. I congratulated them on their wins with a 'We'll get you next time. :D' I thanked people and called out good plays (by both teams). I wished everybody good luck and fun times. And then, it happened: other people started being nice, too! It cut through the salt like water."
This, obviously, is not a revelation — something that DigitallyBorn even acknowledged after a few people responded sarcastically to the breathless initial post. Their thread, though, got more than 8000 upvotes, meaning that it struck a chord with a portion of Overwatch's community. In competitive games, it's easy to get mad and displace that anger onto the people you're playing with. It's a cliche, but being nice takes effort. Overwatch doesn't seem like a game that attracts the biggest jerks to begin with, but it sounds like DigitallyBorn's approach still worked.
The thing about obvious stuff is, it's easy to take it for granted. Taking things for granted can lead to forgetting them altogether. Kaplan and his team have their work cut out for them when it comes to de-toxifying Overwatch's community, but his message is a good one. Perhaps there's a place for this kind of messaging in the game, rather than in a weirdly defensive one-off developer video.
Getting people to not indulge their worst selves in online environments, though, is complicated. Tearing down the veil of anonymity isn't a silver bullet (or even necessarily the right way to go about things), nor are simple aphorisms such as "play nice." Those things can, under very specific circumstances, help, but people need social incentives and structures — reasons to be nice. The sad thing about DigitallyBorn's popular thread is that it was an exception to the rule. If Blizzard, or any game company, would really prioritise turning these types of interactions into social norms from day one of games' existence, we'd all be better off.