Blizzard Vice President Addresses Abuse In 'Overwatch'

Work to rid toxicity is slowing game development

As toxicity in the Overwatch community rises, Blizzard Vice President Jeff Kaplan offered an update on how the developer-publisher plans to handle such behavior – as well as what he thinks players can do.

The first big change the company is implementing is bringing over the reporting feature, originally only on PC, to Xbox One and PlayStation 4. This allows players feeling they are being abused or attacked maliciously by other players to report this behavior, letting Blizzard handle the repercussions. While Kaplan says this system isn't perfect, he does stress a lot of improvements will be coming soon.

"We want to to start giving you more feedback when your reports result in an action," Kaplan said in an update video (seen above), adding the day the video went live more than 20,000 players received an email with details on their reports. "This is just more of a pilot program than anything else, and someday we hope to increase the frequency of those emails to really let people know what's coming."

Kaplan says emails aren't the "ideal" way to notify players, adding the company would like to notify players "directly through the game that your reports carry action."

Addressing concerns that the reporting system leads to no action from Blizzard, Kaplan says, "To date, in Overwatch, we have taken disciplinary action against over 480,000 accounts, and 340,000 of those were a direct result of players using the reporting system. So you can see the vast majority of actions we take are because players have said, 'Hey. There's another player here doing something very bad and I want to see some action.'"

According to Kaplan, Blizzard's committed itself to fixing toxic behavior in its hero shooter, saying players will see visible changes to the game to fight bad behavior as well as behind-the-scenes steps the company will be taking. 

"We're constantly tuning and adjusting our punishment threshold and our punishment gravity," he said. "Meaning how hash are those punishments and what exactly happens to players. Our highest level philosophy is: if you are a bad person doing bad things in Overwatch, we don't want you in Overwatch. We don't want to create areas for you where just the bad people are in Overwatch. We just don't want those people in Overwatch. Overwatch should be an inclusive gamespace, an inclusive inspirational gameplay universe, and the gameplay experience should match what Overwatch is trying to achieve."

Kaplan goes on, saying he also thinks the Overrwatch community should do an internal evaluation of itself and try to make the game a "fun and engaging experience." If a player is there to have fun, and everyone else is there to have fun, why not spread positivity?

"Sure, we can try to build game systems to encourage that more – and we will – but we need the community to own up to their part and the accountability they have for really creating a great gamespace," Kaplan says. "We've been put into this weird position where we're spending a tremendous amount of time and resources punishing people and trying to make people behave better. I wish we could take the time that we put into putting reporting on console and have put that towards a match history system or a replay system instead. ... The bad behavior is not just ruining the experience for one another, but the bad behavior is actually making the game progress in terms of development at a much slower rate."

The entire video can be seen above.