How Two Developers Dealt With the Shitty, Racist Parts of Their Community


#1

'Overwatch' isn't the only game that's had to divert resources towards the worst behaviors of players. One game banned half of New Zealand.


This is a companion discussion topic for the original entry at https://waypoint.vice.com/en_us/article/7xk94g/how-two-developers-dealt-with-the-shitty-racist-parts-of-their-community

#2

“divert resources” I mean…ok ? Overwatch is not an indie game, it’s a megaproduction that is striving on the marketability of inclusiveness, you’re gonna tell me it took a full year for them to own up to it ? They have like 10+ years of knowledge and experience in their MMO and MOBA, that should have been there day one.

Seeing the same dude calling me names in ranked for days without any penalty whatsoever is a shame and a complete lack of awareness on how its community is evolving because of it. If there is not a good system in place from the start, you can’t just be suddenly frustrated and say “I wanted to make heroes but now I have to ban people waah”

If Blizzard succeeds, most players won’t notice. As with most things in life, it’s easier to recognize when something goes wrong. It’s rare to praise something because it works.

I can definitely recognize when I can play a game without being called a faggot.


#3

Blizzard’s whole woe is me, guilt trip tone makes it sound like they’re completely underestimating how important this is. I mean sure, I’d rather build new maps than deal with harassment but making sure players don’t get bombarded with slurs should be a higher priority. By framing these reporting systems and community management tools as taking away from “real” production shows that they view it as an afterthought. Not that that’s surprising since console versions only got the ability to report players about two weeks ago, a year after release.


#4

Yep. Presumably people would also prefer to build new maps and design new characters rather than unglamorously fix server crashes, but one is expected and the other dismissed.


#5

I don’t want to sound like a conspiracy theorist, but do you think their energy for cleaning up the community is motivated by the massive esports spotlight the game will get with the city teams and additional mainstream coverage of their league?


#6

That probably has something to do with it, but only a small part. The toxicity has been getting worse and worse for months. It’s reached a critical mass where the community won’t accept good will and promises any more so Blizzard is being forced to finally take it seriously.


#7

I don’t know, I suppose there is an element of surprise in his comments that definitely isn’t warranted, but I still read them more as him venting. That the whole point of his comments is that they are putting community first, even though they wish they lived in a perfect world where they didn’t have to. That trolls don’t just ruin things for players, they mess things up for the developers, too.


#8

My overall problem with this and other social platforms is that it doesn’t ever feel like the company is willing to lead by example. I keep thinking about that recent situation where a Blizz admin tried to lay down a ~sick burn~ on the one whiny dude by pointing out they’d been reported over 2000 times, and naturally (reasonably!) the response was “why is a dude with that much documented bad behavior not banned ten times over by now?”.

It’s the same deal as a platform like Twitter IMO. Sure, they need automated tools for dealing with harassment on the minor scale; rando egg accounts with <10 followers spamming slurs and racial epithets. But meanwhile out-and-out white supremacist leaders are not only active on the platform, but given marks of authenticity.

What kind of message does that send? That the people running the service are willing to allow the worst-of-the-worst as long as it contributes to their short-term financial bottom line? I keep thinking about how much difference it would make if these platform holders established a zero-tolerance precedent of “if you’re honestly going to communicate that kind of hatred here, you’re not welcome” by insta-banning anything of that sort, “jovial” or not.

I do not believe for a second that the reason Overwatch has had such a rampant issue with godawful people in matches is because their automated tools aren’t good enough. It’s because they haven’t been willing to make the case that this kind of behavior is risking your account and all associated purchases being locked away into the digital aether forever.

So far, the message they’ve sent is “if you act like a miserable cretin in our game, the worst you’ll get away with is a small slap on the wrist, if that”. And it’s a big reason why I haven’t been interested in going back for a while now.


#9

A full year into Overwatch’s lifespan, I’m really not willing to accept “we’re working so hard, you don’t see when we succeed” as a reason given that I can file detailed, comprehensive reports against a player for spitting violently homophobic or transphobic slurs at me in text and voice chat, then be placed with that player again the next match.

And the next day.

And the next week.

And a month later, still able to type in match chat like nothing happened.

I’m not encouraged to keep documenting and reporting these players’ actions for Blizzard staff to “extend the lifespan of Overwatch” when that happens! I’m encouraged to block the player (thereby removing my ability to document their future harassment/abuse), to quit filing reports or playing altogether, to write the game off as a loss if anyone asks me if it’s worth buying.

These reports don’t get filled out by machines. They don’t all magically come into being in situations where nobody got hurt. People in the Overwatch community have already done an incredible amount of work to try and get toxic players out of the game, but at this point, the ball is squarely in Blizzard’s court to actually step up and do what needs to be done.


#10

Your post reminds me of the old Xbox forums where the only forum for complaining about bans was to clarify “This is why you are banned and why you will stay banned”. And it was one of the funniest forums because Microsoft’s enforcement team was allowed to run riot with a really dry sense of humor while also cutting through the obvious BS like the banned pretending to be a concerned parent (“Your Son was banned for exposing himself on camera playing Uno” will never not be hilarious). I’m not sure why but they eventually stopped doing it and closed the forums. And it was a darn shame because it wasn’t just hilarious. But it was shareable on forums and social media. And while it didn’t stop Xbox Live from being awful at times (And everyone started jumping into Party Chat anyway). There always seemed to be a pressure to behave or else because you never knew who was lurking. Someone from enforcement might randomly drop in and pull the ban trigger if you were breaking the rules. In the last few years, There’s been a complete lull in that sort of policing, even from MS. And the unwillingness to ban someone now seems very much financially motivated compared as usually the most toxic members tend to the ones who spend the most (I’d love to see an internal survey from one of the platform holders on that but if wishes were fishes we’d all swim in statistical riches).

Blizzard’s forums feel they are trying too hard while also trying to be just onside enough because “This guy might buy the game again drop a hundo on Loot Boxes”. Ten instances of being banned before and they still wouldn’t take care of a problem that should have been gone on the third strike. Maybe he was a whale and Blizz were intent on squeezing out the most of him till the community is taking action. And it’s a huge issue with platform holders. Twitter’s accusation hopes last year were murdered because the simple request of “Please remove the actual, literal Nazis off the platform before we buy you” was ignored. No one has a good platform policy or moderation and the clash with revenue is something that worries companies. It’s garbage, but bottom lines are starting to eclipse the user experience, And the only way a major publisher or platform holder will act is if the toxicity is starting to hit the bottom line with players leaving and not buying loot boxes (Which is possibly what’s happening with Blizzard and OW because the community is leaving). No one feels satisfied automation is doing its job and the “Sick burns” don’t work when you constantly let the worst of the community get away with it.


#11

So what’s the solution? Do you think people are going to be willing to vote with their feet (i.e. whether they hit the Play button or not re: Overwatch) when it’s considered to be such a fun game or useful service? Valve is facing similar issues with Firewatch receiving a lot of negative user reviews/forum trolls after their DMCA action against PDP and I doubt a material number of people will drop Steam in spite of the longstanding issues with the community there.


#12

The difference is that Steam is such a large platform that caters to basically every PC game in existence (with the exception of whatever is on Origin, itch.io, or Battle Net). No one is going to completely drop Steam over an issue with 2-3 games because that means that you’ve gone from playing 50+ games on PC to, like, 5.

The issue with Overwatch is that it’s taken Blizzard way too long to implement any modicum of consequences for players that are completely toxic. Overwatch isn’t a distribution platform that offers hundreds of thousands of games. It’s one game, and if they face a sharp drop in profit, interest, and player base because they’re unwilling to put forth the effort to control the more reprehensible parts of their player base, then that’s literally their fault.


#14

See that’s the big “if”. Jeff Kaplan had his “John Cusack holding a boombox playing Peter Gabriel” moment with the community during the week. And I have no doubt that was monetary concerns because they have to consider the people walking off to PUBG as their time sink and a lot of games coming in taking the mind share in the next while because 2017 is ridiculous in the amount of quality games arriving or even games that have finally reached the promised land like R6 Siege did. And OW is a fun game, still is but if the level of toxicity is starting to make the game unenjoyable, then that’s a huge motivation for gamers to move on (unless they are the toxic ones who like their cess pit). But what I would personally love to see is if players voted with their feet and made it clear to Blizzard they won’t tolerate it by going to a game that DOES promise to tackle toxic gamers at the root by being proactive and having visible, meaningful punishments. That is how the industry needs to act. Stop mollycoddling their walking ATM’s and start spanking while going out of their way to reward people who are trying to make a difference. Is it extra spend on a games budget? Of course, because you have to staff up. But giving CM’s teeth and a team to tackle it. Make moderation meaningful, open, communicative and getting those sick burns in on the first offense like Naked UNO while rewarding the players who actively go make a difference like playing with new players to help them, organizing regional play dates, creating FAQs et all. That is what will convince a good community to stay on board and attract more in.

Augmentalize does have a point with Steam though. It’s such a huge platform holder because it has become so ubiquitous. It doesn’t give a heck because they control the spice on the PC platform. And he who controls the spice, controls the universe. Going to GOG, Origin, Uplay or Windows Store? Pffft. Valve doesn’t have to keel to overcaffinated manchildren believing in conspiracies review bombing a game. Why spend money on community moderation when it doesn’t make money? And that’s the issue. Customer experience falls to the wayside when you are just printing money and a cursory check of the people review bombing Firewatch shows they have massive investments in steam with hundreds of games. Though that might be an entirely different branch with regards platform holders because customers are the lifeblood and one customer banned means them going elsewhere to Sony or Microsoft. And money is still money, especially so because people invest in their platform.


#15

Also Blizzard (somehow??) convinced multiple major sports investors to drop $10 mil on Overwatch League slots, so having a potential exodus of players due to an established bad environment would be completely disastrous for them when those investors start asking “hey where are the hundreds of thousands of viewers you promised”.

Personally I’ve stopped holding out hope for them on this issue. Consider that General chat in World of Warcraft is still infested by unambiguous sexism, racism, transphobia, everything. 4/5 times I look at it and it’s the worst shit just sitting right there not being dealt with. I feel like a damn fool for thinking their approach to Overwatch moderation wouldn’t be laughably inept.


#16

The potential financial ramifications of the OW league having a player that has a “Heated Gaming Moment” on stream or Milkshake Ducks would be interesting (Thanks 2017, you are the worst). There is a monetary reason to start actually looking at the community and saying “Oh no. We need to fix this before it blows up in our face”. But as you say, Blizzard’s track record isn’t exactly inspiring confidence. It’s sort of mindboggling to put in that money and say it’s going to be the next big e-sport but not actually look and see the massive problems in the community that emerged after the honeymoon period last year. It’s absurdly short term thinking from a huge company. But then, Community managers completely toothless that it took ten temp bans for Blizz to actually take action on a terrible person ruining the enjoyment for people. There’s something rotten in the state of Blizzard. And with gaming in general.


#17

I don’t actually remember if Heroes of the Storm always had a general chat or if I just never saw shit in it because I play on EU and live in NA. I recently started playing in NA because a friend of mine started playing and now all his shit is on that server. The General Chat is fucking abominable. I would love to report some of these players but I end up just blocking them because reporting never does anything with Blizzard. I’m absolutely certain that the only reason I’ve heard nothing about a downturn in HotS is because there isn’t a voice chat function.