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Overwatch Development Has Been Slowed Due To Need To Address "Rising Tide Of Toxicity"

Game director Jeff Kaplan calls on gamers to look inward.


Blizzard has posted the newest "Developer Update" video for Overwatch, and this one is not like the rest. In this video, titled "Play Nice, Play Fair," game director Jeff Kaplan talks extensively about Blizzard's reaction to the "rising tide of toxicity or bad behaviour in the game" and what the studio is doing to help make Overwatch a more welcoming place.

Starting off, Kaplan pointed out that the player-reporting tools that were already available on PC are now on console. The tools are not perfect, he acknowledged, but it's a first step. Kaplan also spoke more broadly about poor behaviour in Overwatch, saying Blizzard has taken action against more than 480,000 accounts since the game launched in May 2016. 340,000 of those were a direct result of the player-reporting system, Kaplan said.

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Now Playing: GS News Update: Overwatch Development Has Been Slowed Due To Need To Address "Rising Tide Of Toxicity"

Whatever Blizzard does to improve the experience, there will never be a sudden fix for bad behaviour. "There is not going to be a moment where we have a magic patch in Overwatch that makes bad behaviour go away," Kaplan explained. "But it is a continual process that we are very dedicated to fixing and improving."

Kaplan added that Blizzard doesn't plan to create "naughty pools" as some games do, where offending players aren't banned altogether but put in a pool with other jerks. "Our highest level philosophy is, 'If you are a bad person doing bad things in Overwatch, we don't want you in Overwatch," he said. "Overwatch should be an inclusive game space."

Generally speaking, Kaplan said he thinks the toxicity problem is worse in video games because there is an element of anonymity when you're sitting behind a keyboard or holding a controller in some far-away room than where your teammates or foes are. He gave the example of if you were driving in your car and someone cut you off, you might curse them out. But if you actually met them and had an issue face-to-face, you might not be so aggressive or mean.

While Blizzard will take steps to stem the tide of toxicity in Overwatch, Kaplan stressed that players, too, must "take a deep look inward" and think about if they could be nicer. He also pointed out that creating systems in Overwatch that combat toxicity takes time away from actual game development. So if you want Blizzard to release more new features/maps/characters/whatever and faster, stop being a jerk, basically.

"The bad behaviour not just ruining the experience for one another, but the bad behaviour is actually making the game progress in terms of development at a much slower rate," Kaplan said, acknowledging that he, too, has been guilty of being mean to people online.

How do you feel about the level of toxicity and bad behaviour in Overwatch? Let us know in the comments below!

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