Like many online games that draw heavily on voice chat, Overwatch has long been a place for toxic experiences. In their most recent patch notes, Blizzard tries to curb this behavior by reinforcing the positive, not just condemning the negative. Overwatch‘s first “Endorsement system” lets gamers praise the positive in a report-like fashion:
[I]f you have teammates who coordinated well, a leader who gave great direction, or even someone who was just being positive you can now let them know how much you appreciated it with an endorsement!
It’s a classic behaviorist technique: rewarding players for doing what you want them to do, instead of just punishing the behaviors you’re trying to remove. Blizzard has a long history of tweaking their game to try and minimize negative player experiences: from increased penalties for harassment to reporting trolling behaviors. But time will tell whether or not this new Endorsement system is effective.
Giving players more ways to provide feedback is certainly a good thing, but I can’t help but think about the ways people will abuse this system as well. We’ve already seen this happen with the existing reporting systems: from reporting players based on the character they choose to reporting people as a form of bullying in itself. I like to think there are more neutral to positive players than harassers but I can definitely see someone “endorsing” those who propagate the “anti-SJW” gospel. Conversely, I can see people being accused of “white knighting” in order to get endorsements. I use these two examples because women are disproportionately harassed but of course racism, homophobia, and other abuse is also present.
The fact that these endorsements can be removed based on negative behavior will hopefully combat that concern:
Endorsements are readily available to view on Career Profiles, the Groups menu, and more so you can tell at a glance the types of players you’re playing with. Those who consistently maintain a high endorsement level will receive periodic rewards, while those who display negative behavior or accrue suspensions will lose their endorsements.
As long as we’re talking to each other, harassment is going to exist but here’s hoping Blizzard can discover the most effective way to fend off toxicity.