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Overwatch gets a "strike team" to suppress toxicity

Published: 11:51, 09 November 2017
Updated: 11:51, 21 September 2018

Blizzard has created an anti-toxicity strike team made up of designers, staff, analytics people, and a group called 'Risk' that fights cheating and hacking. Machine learning will play a role in this latest barrel roll against toxicity.

Toxicity in Overwatch is a real, everyday issue that is directly caused by human emotion or lack thereof. Human problems are difficult to solve with a patch. Overwatch Game Director Jeff Kaplan is adamant the solution exists and now sees a potential in the newly formed Overwatch "strike team".

"Blizzard has created an anti-toxicity “strike team” made up of game designers, support staff, analytics people, and a special group called “Risk” that fights cheating and hacking. The team is currently devising a series of short, medium, and long-term plans to make Overwatch’s community better." said Kaplan.

Blizzard Overwatch - Moira Overwatch - Moira

Not many details were given, as more information gives the abusers more opportunities to cheat the system. "We’re starting to action less toward silences and more toward suspensions," he added.

Machine learning is one of the possibilities the "strike team" is looking into at the moment. Chats in Overwatch and Heroes of the Storm are running it in order to fish out words and phrases frequently associated with toxicity.

In early September, Jeff sat down in front of a camera and did one of his famous one-take developer updates. This update was different: he didn't talk about the usual "cool content and features". Instead, Jeff addressed the "rising tide of toxicity" among the players in Overwatch and what is Blizzard going to do about it. 

Blizzard Genji in Hanamura, surrounded by cherry tree blossom petals, reaching for his sword and making the shush sign Overwatch - Genji

The effort to discourage undesirable behaviour in-game included increasing the severity of penalties, adding a reporting system on PlayStation 4 and Xbox One, and piloting a program to notify players via email whenever their reports result in an action.

The reporting system on PlayStation 4 and Xbox One didn't take off due to a couple of roadblocks. One of the problems: PS4 and Xbox One players would have to create their own accounts.

The new permabanning system was online on Wednesday, 27 September. but essentially works like this: any player who accumulates three or more seasonal bans may be permanently banned from Competitive Play. This will also remove the player's ability to participate in any future matches in that mode.

Blizzard Overwatch - Doomfist Overwatch - Doomfist

Seasonal bans do not need to be consecutive to qualify for a permanent Competitive Play ban. Also, neither seasonal bans nor permanent Competitive Play bans will decay or reset over time; once an account is permanently banned, it currently cannot return to good standing.

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