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OverwatchNov 8, 2017 6:00 pm CT

Blizzard has formed a “strike team” to combat Overwatch toxicity

At this point, it’s a known quantity that Overwatch has a toxicity problem. Getting through an evening of play without being harassed by players who are theoretically your teammates is rare. Overwatch Game Director Jeff Kaplan has previously commented on the development team’s new dedication to combating that toxicity. In a recent interview with Kotaku, Kaplan describes a “strike team” that has formed within Blizzard to deal with the issue. Via Kotaku:

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, Kaplan said. The team is currently devising a series of short, medium, and long-term plans to make Overwatch’s community better.

As with Kaplan’s previous commentary on the issue, he doesn’t go into much detail about specific behind-the-scenes processes lest abusers take advantage of the system. However, he lays out something of a road map of potential solutions. First, they’ll be expanding the system that notifies someone when action has been taken against a player they’ve reported. While this system has been in testing with a limited number of players, it’ll be expanded to the entire playerbase. Notifications will be delivered in-game rather than through email, as they’ve been doing while testing the process.

The Overwatch team is also exploring machine learning to identify common abusive language and signs of abuse. Hopefully, Blizzard takes a cautious approach with machine learning. Machine learning implemented inappropriately, exposed to the teeming masses and expected to learn from them, has not gone well, historically speaking. If they can get this system to work, though, they’re exploring the possibility of extending the system to Heroes of the Storm which sees similar abusive chat issues.

Overwatch launched with woefully insufficient tools for protecting its players — especially when the developers should have known better. League of Legends has been fighting this war for years, as has pretty much every competitive game in the world. Launching Overwatch with a rudimentary report system on PCs — and nothing at all on consoles — is wishful thinking to the most absurd degree. Hopefully, now that the developers are taking the issue seriously, we’ll see some progress in weeding out the game’s worst offenders.

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