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Blizzard: Overwatch ‘abusive chat is down’ thanks to endorsements

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Jeff Kaplan drops some stats on the official Overwatch forums about how well the endorsements system is performing.

The refrain from tech companies is so predictable.

We’d love to reduce toxicity in our community, but we just don’t know how. Where do we even start? We tried a bunch of algorithms but that made no difference. No, we haven’t thought about paying moderation staff; that’s what algorithms are for. Maybe the community should do the moderation? Oh right, of course; some of them are part of the problem! How about a different algorithm…

Twitter. Facebook. Reddit. Google. Valve. It’s always the same story.

Meanwhile at Blizzard, Jeff Kaplan and the team have taken a different approach to reduce toxicity in Overwatch: the endorsement system.

The idea is a simple one. Instead of giving bad eggs a bollocking – though reports and bans are of course still in effect – Blizzard would very much like you to endorse Overwatch players who aren’t jerks. Give that friendly teammate a thumbs up; congratulate the opposing player for being a gracious loser; tip your hat to the team full of dudes who didn’t abuse their female counterpart.

It sounds like such a stupid, basic thing, but it’s clearly working. Toxicity is down in Overwatch competitive matches in both the Americas and Korean regions, by 26.4% and 16.4% respectively. Meanwhile the number of players being abusive is down 28.8% in the Americas, and 21.6% in the Korean region. (We don’t have figures for other regions like Europe, as Kaplan confirms they “don’t have all the stats reported yet”.)

“We’re really pleased with the community’s efforts to make OW a better place! Thank you all!” Says Kaplan, before adding, “And we’ll keep working on iterating on these features to make them better as well as exploring other systems to improve the gameplay environment.”

So there you have it, folks. Blizzard has proved, with Overwatch endorsements, that it can be done. Not only is it possible for tech companies to actively reduce toxicity on their platforms by taking measures and making changes – who knew? – if you invoke a bit of simple psychology and positive reinforcement, then it might work even better.

It’s not the end of the toxicity battle for Overwatch – or online gaming in general – by any stretch of the imagination, but it’s a step in the right direction.

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