Players are getting more toxic in Overwatch, but Blizzard is on it

Now that the game has been out for a while, and with the recent launch of Competitive Mode, Overwatch players are noticing an uptick in negative behavior. While it’s still not as bad as many other online multiplayer games, player aggression and toxicity remain an issue for developer Blizzard, which is continuing to tweak its systems in order to counter the problem.

“It’s a big concern for us,” Overwatch director Jeff Kaplan tells Kotaku. “I think, for the most part, the Overwatch community has been fantastic. But [toxic behavior] is not just in Competitive Play. I think as the game ages a little bit, people’s dark sides tend to come out a little bit more and definitely when you put the competitive stakes in there, it raises a little bit.”

In competitive mode, a teammate’s poor performance can affect your own score, so there’s an extent to which a bit of frustration is understandable. But Blizzard has also recently had to phase out its Avoid This Player feature in matchmaking, because too many were using it to avoid high-level competitors, rather than blocking abusive players.

“Since Competitive has been live, we’ve been doing some under-the-hood tuning and tweaking on [the in-game report system] to be more aggressive about handling toxic behavior. I wish there was more that was visible to players in a way that wouldn’t allow for other negative players to exploit it,” Kaplan admits.

One solution the team is looking at involves more positive reinforcement for good players, rather than punishing bad ones.

“We’re brainstorming systems right now where you’re sitting at the end of the match and you’re like, ‘Hey, that Steven guy and that Nathan guy, they were actually pretty cool. Fuck, I wish I could just play with them more,'” Kaplan proposes, as an example. “‘So I’m just going to click this button then if they do the same thing, then we can all just keep playing matches for the night.’ It’s not some permanent friend thing. We’re not sharing real IDs or anything like that. We’re just saying, ‘Hey, I like that group who I happened to be put with. How can I play more with those guys because they seem nice or confident or whatever.'”

Kaplan also notes he would like to see the in-game report system offer better feedback for reporters, notifying them when action is taken against an account. It may not have an additional effect on the toxicity level, but it can reassure players that their reports aren’t just getting lost in the void somewhere.

Blizzard is no doubt exploring options well beyond what Kaplan is able to discuss publicly, as well as continuing to tweak its existing matchmaking algorithms. Obviously, just banning players would be considered a last resort, unless you were cheating.

(h/t Kotaku.)