Clickuorice Allsorts: Overwatch and in-game toxicity

I want to flag up a video with Overwatch [official site] game director Jeff Kaplan talking about the rise in in-game toxicity. Tackling bad behaviour is interesting, but this video is the first time I can remember someone in a high profile game with toxic behaviour issues spelling out the community members’ own responsibility. He also points out that time spent firefighting is time not spent on other features. “Sure we can try to build game systems to encourage [positivity] more, and we will,” says Kaplan. “But we need the community to own up to their part in the accountability that they have for really creating a great game space.”

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35 Comments

  1. GlennDanzig says:

    let’s not talk about HotS…

  2. Viroso says:

    I wonder what plays a more important role in creating a toxic community: people who like action video games/enjoy online competition (big overlap in those two categories) or the game’s own design, where you’re behind a screen tasked with outmatching your allies and removing your enemies from the game.

    Because this isn’t just an Overwatch problem, it’s in nearly every game.

    • draglikepull says:

      I think it has a lot to do with the design of the game. I encountered significantly less toxicity playing Left 4 Dead, which is carefully designed in such a way as to *require* teamwork, than in lots of other online shooters.

      I also do think, unfortunately, that it’s largely a video game problem. I play lots of sports offline, including in leagues where few of the players know each other outside the league, and my experiences have overwhelmingly been that players show good sportsmanship and are pretty nice to each other. And, critically, players who *are* acting like jerks are generally pulled in line by their own teammates.

      • MikhailG says:

        I’d say its a combination of anonymity and game design. I am with you that L4D and more coop games tend to have way less jerks while games focusing on competition tend to breed extreme toxicity.
        I think one more thing a lot of people forget is that despite age suggestions, A LOT of children play mobas and overwatch and similar games, and these people from 6 to 18 haven’t yet been properly introduced to social standards of interaction. Not much you can do if someone parents their kid by putting them in front of a console and the kid decides to call you names they heard on youtube.

    • TechnicalBen says:

      Yes. The design. Two things. One is competition. The second is high stakes.

      People don’t like being beaten in a game (in verses). People don’t like someone else causing them to loose (in co-op).

      A game can reward and punish in certain ways. It can also allow mistakes or not.

      People do have a choice, but the game can try and force them in certain directions.

      • golochuk says:

        The stakes are about as low as they can get, actually.

        • Hartford688 says:

          Well said.

          “High stakes”. It’s a video game for heaven’s sake.

          If you lose, back in the real world….absolutely nothing happens.

          • Hedgeclipper says:

            You will always live with the shame of having been n00b sch00led by ++!!–l33t_Ki114_13–!!++

          • Jjgddyuikbvff says:

            Well that’s reductionist. If you’re spending time playing games, and I assume that time has value for you, then something can always be lost.

    • Aetylus says:

      To my mind it is the community’s fault… because there are game where toxicity is basically non-existent.

      My competitive online game of choice is Atlas Reactor where the default behavior is positive – the result is that when someone acts toxic they almost always get called out by the rest of their team and then something amazing happens… they just stop.

      Its a turn based game (imagine competitive Xcom team-matches), so probably draws a more thoughtful crowd… but like all human communities, it has a social behavioral norm enforced by peer pressure and backed up by some level of higher enforcement.

      The only reason that toxicity is so prevalent in online FPS and MOBA is that its accepted by everyone in those ecosystems.

      • Nixitur says:

        I think it’s less about the game attracting more thoughtful people, but more that when you take away the time pressure, you also take away a lot of the stress. And being stressed is a big part in making people angry.
        If my teammate messes up and I have just a few seconds before having to concentrate on something entirely different, then I’m obviously going to be more terse, feel more rushed and might shout out the first thing that comes to mind because I simply have no time to come up with much else.
        Another thing with an XCom-like game is that you’re never in a position where you can’t do anything unless you’ve already lost. So, no waiting for a respawn with nothing to do but chat like in most MOBAs.

  3. Seafoam says:

    Internet anonymity, stressful game, competition and humanity in general are the main causes here.
    Although these problems cant go away Blizzard could remedy the situation by stepping up their ban game. The game needs that fear, something that makes all the bastards not feel like they can ruin games or spout racist garbage without reprecussions.

    • Archonsod says:

      You’d need a banning system which wasn’t trivial to bypass in order for that to work, and as the ongoing popularity of Counter Strike proves there’s plenty of people willing to circumvent bans even when it costs them money, so such a system is somewhat difficult to implement. I think the only method which has proven somewhat effective so far entails limiting in-game communication.

    • syndrome says:

      Internet anonymity, stressful game, competition and humanity in general are the main causes here.
      Simple truth.
      I don’t even understand what ‘toxic’ means. I mean, yeah, like people say shit sometimes. And the rest are all like fragile flowers who get depressed when they read about it in a fucking chat. Well, you know what? Turn the chat off.

      It’s that simple.

      Btw, 100 bucks says people who spout ugly things aren’t adults at all. 200 bucks says there is only one group of people whose behaviour is transformed by online anonimity: kids.

      And because we, as a race, haven’t evolved in a fucked up situation where we correspond daily with children nonsense as if they were all well-mannered, objective, mature, and civilized, without visualizing them, we constantly mix them up with the grown-up people.

      It happens on every social network everywhere: as soon as you’re presented with at least a picture of a youngling, your natural biases kick in, and your reaction turns from “shock” and “toxicity” to confrontation with a pretty irrelevant cynical nonsense that you would expect from an “anonymous” first-world kid anyway.

      So, will somebody define ‘toxic’ for me? Because in my mind, if something’s toxic, it’s a) harmful/fatal, b) spreading, c) something like a fume.

      Is it really toxic?
      Do you really need to play that shit if it’s toxic for you?

      Besides, what stops you from slowly explaining that such and such behaviours may spur horrific cancers. I did it on yt a couple of times, and it worked. Yeah it sounds horrible, I can be like that, but if you take the liberty to say whatever you want, the least I can do is to pray for your cancer. Of course that sounds harsh, and I don’t really do it, but it certainly makes (younger) people think about it. In one sentence, I switch the scenario, I stop being a victim — they stop being a bully.

      Isn’t that what you should do? Inspire your kids to behave differently? Make them think about what language is for, make them emotionally intelligent?

      Maybe if Overwatch wasn’t such a nervewrecking stressfest designed for competitive feelings of rush and commitment to win? I mean c’mon, you’re all acting like you’re the gentlest, the most virgin souls on the Earth.

      Your ancestors killed off all indigenous tribes from your lands, now you fight each other in a highly destructive simulation of conquest, where killing is something that’s for granted, and you’re like sensitive to what someone typed while being high on adrenaline??

      AFAIK, if something’s toxic that’s Overwatch’s designers/developers/producers/publishers, and not its intended demography. It inspires the ‘toxicity’ in them. If nothing else, it’s very similar to what Donald Trump does every day yet nobody cares.

      • Premium User Badge

        Herring says:

        I dunno. Shrugging it off with “kids will be kids” seems a bit too trite. My worst experiences have been on voice chat and none of those were kids.

        Not sure where “Toxic” comes from but I imagine it stems from the behaviours effect on having a welcoming, inclusive online community. My kids are both within the age-limit for Overwatch and I don’t want them having bile and abuse dripped all over them. So either I need to police it (not always as possible, especially as their MMR’s are better than mine :)) or restrict it.

        Blizzard are pretty good with this, with the parent controls (in effect disabling all chat) but it comes with loads of limitations and it just makes the problem worse; you’re just ceding ground to the asshats.

      • durrbluh says:

        Eh. Kids, teens, adults, seniors… a person of any age, gender, or ethnicity can turn into a real shitheel when they’re given anonymity. People like to think humans aren’t innately good or evil creatures, but we’re definitely all prone to a little dickishness when given the opportunity to act or speak without fear of repercussion.

        But yeah, I wouldn’t pin online toxicity on kids. Just humans in general.

      • Viral Frog says:

        From personal experience, I can tell you that it’s always kids. In fact, most times I encounter toxic behavior, it’s adults. Adults that were never taught how to compose themselves in social situations as kids. These days, I’d honestly sometimes rather get matched up with random kids than other adults in my age range (I’m 26, so between 23-30~) because the kids tend to behave a lot better.

        I feel like my generation had a lot of problems with absent/abusive parents and no positive role models, leading to the majority of us being rude, arrogant, undisciplined, idiots on and offline. I can say for certain my parents, and the majority of my friends parents, spent their time neglecting and (verbally and/or physically) abusing us. Some people learned the right things from those examples (like me) and others didn’t (like the toxic idiots you find online).

        (I’m speaking for people from the USA, specifically from personal examples. I can’t really say that’s the case across the board. But my mom’s generation (gen x) all seems to be pretty screwed up, so I wouldn’t doubt if it’s more widespread here than I can even imagine.)

  4. Drib says:

    There has always been and will always be some toxicity to online gaming. There’s just no way around it.

    Sure, ban people. Sure, implement curse filters or weird AIs that look for people being mean, but it still won’t really fix it.

    Also you can do is try to stem the tide a little, but you’re not going to hold the tide back forever.

    • Archonsod says:

      Having an AI screening communication might work. I’d propose BritBot – it constantly scans the channels and blocks any conversation which isn’t a) about the weather and b) preceded by an apology.

      • syndrome says:

        I’m terribly sorry, but that sounded awful. Was that a joke?
        I mean, in case you didn’t notice, your comment wasn’t about the weather and didn’t quite start with an apology either.

        I know! You must be toxic!

        * TOXICITY ALERT *

        P.S. Mine started with an apology

    • Premium User Badge

      Herring says:

      Some communities are far better than others though. A low barrier to entry and a large popularity seem to be the main enablers of bad experiences.

      I think OW bans will have more bite than in other games. It’s still full price for one and you’ll lose a lot of your accrued skins / achievements / rankings which are reasonably difficult to get.

  5. sapien82 says:

    If the “toxicity” is so much of a problem , just close the public chat and allow them to converse on dischord or teamspeak. Problem solved. No one needs in game communication if they are playing with friends

  6. MrLoque says:

    Toxic players are hard to avoid in any competitive game. It’s part of their nature, those who push their limits and/or try to achieve “impressive” results can lead to bad situations. From Blizzard’s perspective they’re still customers who grant an income by spending money for ingame goodies (I bet the average joe doesn’t do that).

    I personally have never-ever experienced this problem because I simply don’t join any chat channel. Vocal chat is out of question too. So I just enjoy the game. This is a very easy “fix” for everyone who just wants to have “fun” and enjoy the videogame as it’s meant to be: a hobby, something to make you “happy”.

  7. BaronKreight says:

    Commendable notion. Will it have a real effect? Time will tell. Real life shows you can’t fight immigration by building borders. Toxicity comes from education, parenting and neighborhood.

  8. Someoldguy says:

    I avoid most online gaming these days because I no longer spend most of my evenings in a MMO, but I don’t think gaming is anything other than reflective of society. They’ve been looking at the amount of abuse received by Members of Parliament this year and it’s shocking that one individual alone has received over eight thousand abusive tweets or emails in six months. It’s highly likely that the police will take no action against most of the perpetrators despite many being offensive enough to constitute a criminal offence. If this sort of abuse is not stamped out when levelled against a public official, it’s not surprising that people think it’s ok to do the same or worse to faceless individuals on internet games. When an individual is brought to court and found guilty it usually turns out to be some middle aged man, not a teenager. Naturally if men like that are setting the parental example, their kids will often know no better.

    I applaud any game that tries to enforce rules around unacceptable conduct. It should preferably be done by restricting the offenders so that they learn to change, rather than advising everyone else to restrict their game experience by muting chat.

    • Zombiwan Kenobi says:

      Games are full of sociopaths, nothing new here especially since online games/forums are the only places they can still stalk.

      Rules only work if they totally prevent them from playing/trolling but still some will try to cheat anyway. Even bans are temporary solutions. Since i play games there have always been a lot of of trolls and toxic players in pvp/MMO games, perhaps it’s worse these days but it always has been this way.

      Respect is mandatory to have fun with other people but sadly that’s precisely what they’re lacking of.

  9. Vitty says:

    I really like plating OW but sometimes struggle with this issue. Teenagers are usually the main proponents, shouting screaming generally losing their shit if thongs aren’t going their way. I get frustrated sometimes and try to coordinate very uncoordinated players and also have to block people occasionally.I would definitely applaud a more robust banning system, particularly for hate speech and abuzive behaviour directed at individuals. I’d also like to receive feedback if my report is listened to. I.e if the person I reported is banned then tell me

    • Drib says:

      Teenagers are usually the main proponents, shouting screaming generally losing their shit if thongs aren’t going their way.

      Please don’t send thongs on the way toward teenagers.

  10. Banks says:

    I don’t have any problem with the usual “EzPZ” or “GitGud”, in fact I laugh sometimes. As long as the banter is reasonable, I’m cool with it.

    But some people, a LOT of people, are just insane and have no sense of guilt. I hear too often things that make my blood boil, that would be absolutely reprehensible IRL and that always go unpunished. It’s like a race to the bottom at this point, and apparently they find it very funny.
    When I return home from work and I have half an hour to play a game, I don’t want to put up with that behaviour, I want to have fun.

    Overwatch is one of the best games in this regard and generally you’ll find both the text and voice chats to be reasonably bearable, as certain words are censored and Blizz bans users of hateful language. The attitude towards teamplay is another thing, but it doesn’t bother me too much.

  11. Babymech says:

    It would be amazing if other global companies were held to the same standards. “So I understand that you recently visited one of our restaurants, and one of the other customers took a dump on your Happy Meal? And when you complained about it they shouted slurs at you and played Never Gonna Give You Up in your ear until you left? Well, I certainly hope that the burger-enthusiast community steps up and polices itself in the future. Surely you understand that every second we spend on preventing this kind of behavior takes time away from making delicious burgers for you, which may not get shit on the next you visit one of our fine establishments. Also, have you considered ear plugs?”

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