Toxicity in Overwatch: Pwned By Trolls

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Trolls are a sad fact of multiplayer life in this digital day and age, so it should come as no surprise that Overwatch is chock full of them. Since releasing last year, Overwatch has become one of the most popular games on the planet, garnering a massive fan base and eSport recognition. It’s a given that games this popular are going to be full of players spouting racial slurs and sexist vitriol, which makes Blizzard’s unpreparedness for combating them all the more surprising.

To give an example of how behind Blizzard is on controlling its own community, a reporting feature was only added to console versions of Overwatch at the end of August. The game’s been out since May of last year. While it’s true that that feature has always existed on PC, it’s curious that console versions are only getting a means of recourse against toxic players now, about 17 months after launch.

What are you looking at? #Overwatch

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It’s worth wondering why Blizzard didn’t think to prep for the trolls sooner. Could it be that online first-person shooters tend to have more toxic players than the studio’s other, older fare, like World of Warcraft or StarCraft II? Neither title has a reputation for especially vitriolic players, and Overwatch is the studio’s first competitive FPS. Maybe Blizzard didn’t have more reporting features in place simply because it didn’t know just how cancerous the world of competitive shooters can be.

To make matters worse, Overwatch’s reporting system has a reputation for uselessness. According to a myriad of complaints spanning the gambit from private players to professional gaming journalists, reporting a player on Overwatch seems to rarely, if ever, result in an actual ban. In response to these accusations, game director Jeff Kaplan announced that Blizzard will ramp its responses to these complaints up. That’s all well and good, Jeff, but the onus on Blizzard to back those claims up with action.

"Tactical visor activated." ☀️⛱️ 😎 by @anais_orlitha #NationalSunglassesDay

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Hopefully Blizzard can make some real headway on ameliorating Overwatch’s online community, because the game is built from the ground up to be inclusive to players of all skill levels. It’s a simple game to understand, it runs well, and it gives players a chance to become good without being easy to master.

Because of all that, the game is a lot of fun, and players shouldn’t have that fun spoiled because a short-tempered teenager hopped up on too much Red Bull yelled that they were too slow for his liking. It’s a given that these types of players are drawn to competitive shooters, but that doesn’t mean that studios shouldn’t take measures to fight them off… as Blizzard should’ve done long ago.

As for Overwatch’s community, the best thing to do now is to just keep playing. The ball’s in Blizzard’s court to deliver on those sweeping promises of a better experience. Hopefully they can.