Overwatch Hasn't Felt Quite As Toxic Lately

Overwatch

Lately, I've been hearing a lot more "Great ult!" and "Thanks for switching!" in Overwatch than "Get wrecked, you useless piece of s***." After toxicity in Overwatch's competitive mode reached critical saturation last season, this season, which began September 1st, has felt markedly more positive.

Doom and gloom marked Season 5 of Overwatch's competitive mode, thanks to a combination of unforgiving skill ratings (SR) and a reporting system that seemed pretty toothless. For a while, we've known that Overwatch's competitive mode algorithms have placed players in lower rankings than they deserve.

That way, Blizzard figured, that sweet, sweet rush of climbing SR would act as a reward. But the desperation to climb rankings apparently sparked some bad behaviour from those who felt personally offended and self-conscious. From what I saw at the time, players often refused to switch heroes, blamed each other for poor play, insulted teammates or rage-quit.

Playing collaboratively seemed out of the question in these matches, which were poisoned by bad attitudes and, sometimes, straight-up harassment. And when I threatened to report the more egregious of these players, the response was less often fear or regret and, more often, "Make my day!". An opaque reporting system with few clear repercussions was apparently a tacit go-ahead for toxicity. (Only a month ago ago, Blizzard implemented a reporting system for consoles).

Overwatch

Now, it looks like the tides have started to shift. Overwatch fans are making an effort to champion good attitudes. Players I've queued up with in competitive mode have been eager to switch roles for the optimal team composition instead of stubbornly refusing to bend to the majority's chosen strategy.

We congratulate each other on well-thought-out plays, and especially when they're pulled off through coordination. Only one person has been openly rude to me in the many dozen games I've played and that person was swiftly told to shut up and promptly muted by everybody.

It's made grinding for SR way, way more fun, which a wealth of "GG WP" ("good game, well-played") in "All" chat confirms, even after a loss. And it means that I've already made a lot of new friends from solo-queueing this season -- all of whom I bonded with because we were so fed up with last season's toxicity.

I returned after a month and a half harassment-inspired hiatus refreshed and ready to sharpen my skills, and thankfully, I found a community excited to have me. The vibe is good in Overwatch's competitive mode right now, from what I've seen, and it looks like the player base is generally on a path toward improvement. (Blizzard did not respond to a request for comment.)

Overwatch

So, what made Overwatch's competitive mode slightly less of a bubbling cesspool of gamer-rage and more of a lovely little pond of good vibes? A few things. First of all, Blizzard rejiggered Overwatch's competitive mode so it's a little less ruthless.

In August, Overwatch game director Jeff Kaplan explained that, now, competitive placement matches rank players at just about where they should be -- not hundreds of SR lower, where their egos wilt. Also, players are receiving more SR per win.

That means they won't while away the whole season struggling to redeem their former competitive ranking. So, there's been a lot less desperate rage in team voice chat.

Less tangible, but perhaps still effective, were bold statements and well-communicated actions by Blizzard meant to drain toxicity from the community. The reporting system is now harsher and its effects are more felt.

Over 20,000 players received emails confirming that people they had reported had been punished as of a few weeks ago, according to a recent developer update video. Blizzard also said they'd start banning players permanently who had been repeatedly banned for multiple seasons of competitive mode (good riddance!).

In September, Jeff Kaplan appeared in a video to deride the crueler members of Overwatch's community, but also, to issue a threat that might appeal to the more antisocial type of gamer: "We want to make new maps, we want to make new heroes, we want to make animated shorts," Kaplan said.

"But we've been put in this weird position where we're spending a tremendous amount of time and resources punishing people and trying to make people behave better."

For those less persuaded by good-will and completely reasonable requests to have some base-level empathy, perhaps a bid to their love of cool new Overwatch features could curb harassment.

As a solution, Kaplan suggested not being an arsehole. It sounds trite. But then, Kotaku reporter Nathan Grayson noticed on /r/Overwatch that one player decided to listen to Kaplan's plea and "be nice": "I started to be nice. Really nice. Overly nice," wrote the fan on Reddit. He later reported, in response, that "other people started being nice, too! It cut through the salt like water."

I wonder how widespread this simple realisation was and am trying not to trip over how pathetic it is that so many people didn't think to compliment teammates.

All over Overwatch forums, players are poking their heads out of the SR grind to ask, "Am I the only person who hasn't played a toxic game this season?". Cautiously optimistic, these players are slowly realising that they are not alone in their desire for friendly online gaming experiences.

Lately, the social pressure against being a shitty person in Overwatch has helped form small clusters of like-minded regulars who are more vocally resistant to toxic behaviour. Because of that, we friend each other and play together, always expanding to include others who are, at base, not shitty to strangers.

I've received many, many more friend requests this season, and whenever I ask why someone decided to friend me, they say it's because they too enjoy being a positive force in Overwatch's competitive mode -- and they love the game.


Comments

    is this excluding the fact that every game has a Hanzo on both sides firing his impossibly ridiculous scatter arrows. Who needs skill or be a troll when you can just choose Hanzo. Every single one of them tilts me beyond measure.

    You clearly don't play on console.

    Xbox One is still a toxic cesspool, even worse now that it's school holidays.

    And it doesn't matter if you were placed where you're supposed to be when you get throwers/griefers/quitters/smurfs in almost every single game making it almost impossible to go up in rank.

    I placed around 2850 and am currently sitting around the 2350 mark thanks to the aforementioned problems.

    Smurfs, especially, are a huge problem on console. Almost every game has 2 if not more, despite the fact that Blizzard's own reporting system defines cheating as anything that gives an unfair advantage which is exactly what playing on a smurf account does.

      What is a smurf account?

        High level player playing on a lower ranked account for kicks.

      Smurfing is not cheating. As much as you might not like it Smurfing has never been against the rules. No one has ever been banned for smurfing. Valve does not take action against smurfers on CSGO, Why would blizzard.

      You have an ignore list for a reason.

        As I mentioned above, playing on a smurf account gives you an unfair advantage.

        According to Blizzard's own in game reporting system, that's cheating.

          Being legitimately better than someone is not an unfair advantage. I dont get banned from Overwatch because i get a higher score than someone. Smurfing is not and never will be a bannable offense. You just want it to be.

          Instead of sooking because someone is better than you. Add them to your ignore list. People smurf all the time in World of Warcraft. No one has ever been banned for smurfing since WoW rated PVP was introduced. Same thing with Counter Strike.

            I'm not talking about WoW or CounterStrike. I'm talking about Overwatch and what it defines as cheating.

            And it's not what I want it to be; it's what the game says it is. Playing on a smurf account falls under its definition of cheating.

              It falls under YOUR definition of cheating.

              No one has been banned for smurfing on overwatch. So therefore its not cheating.

                Again, it's not my definition. It's what Blizzard deems as cheating.

                And so far as I'm aware, there have been bans for smurfing in the past.

                  No, Thats you interpreting their rules to define it as cheating. Being better than someone due to natural skill at the game is not cheating. Cheating is using external programs to gain an advantage. You being salty because someone is better than you does not make them a cheater. Grow up.

                  People smurf on WoW all the time. Not a single person has ever been banned for doing it. Get over it.

    Also, I find it hard to believe that the team that designs heroes and maps is the same team that deals with reports, as Mr Kaplan intimated.

    Arcade is; whenever I want to just do a short game I do 3v3 elimination and always end up with a duo premade that is simultaneously unproductive (split up all the time or play silly class comps) or are just straight up useless. I decided long ago it was better to just ignore chat and play as essentially as if the game were 1v3. It makes the game much more bearable and I also happen to lose less often now.

    Gm is such a lovely place to be these days. On my smurf account which is in diamond people still are toxic as hell because everyone thinks they are better than they are. Your a diamond player deal with it. Not every one is Gm material and that is ok. Master and below is still just garbage. I don't even want to finish placements on my alt even if it is to play with friends in a lower skill bracket because Jesus it's just awful. 77% win rate on hanzo but nope I'm a troll and they are all reporting me for throwing...

    At least in Gm people understand you are going to pick the best player you are able to play with the current comp. and they play around team comp instead of against it. Got a torn main? No problem let's make it work. Even if I have to battle 5 mins queue just to get on us servers I would rather do that then venture in the cesspool of masters and below.

      Wow.

      Elitist much?

        Facts are facts. Bronze players think hey are gold players. Silver players think they are play players and everyone from gold up think they deserve to be in Gm. That's what breeds toxicity. People can't accept the rank they are at is the rank they deserve so they take their fruatration out on everyone around them.

          You're aware that, according to the in game reporting system, anything that affords an unfair advantage is considered cheating.

          You're supposedly a GM with a smurf account in diamond. That affords you an unfair advantage. So you're cheating.

            Being legitimately better than someone is not an unfair advantage. Stop being a salty child. If the person is not using external programs or hacks, They are not cheating. Stop sooking.

              If you're GM playing on a smurf account in diamond, then of course you're better than the people you're playing against!

              You have GM level sense of gameplay, team composition, map layouts, positioning, countering, etc, and then you go take all that knowledge and experience into diamond rank games on your smurf account where players don't have the same knowledge and experience as you.

              How is that not an unfair advantage to you?

              Cue another toxicity-laden response from you trying (and failing) to claim your innocence.

                The person is still legitimately better than you. Stop sooking you child. Literally no one at all has been banned for smurfing on overwatch. Contact the gamemasters. They will tell you the same. You are literally the world's biggest sook. Grow up.

                  The issue isn't whether someone is better than someone else.

                  Get over yourself and stop with the toxicity already.

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