Blizzard Entertainment, the developer behind Overwatch, has implemented a machine learning system in the game that it says is helping to dismantle the toxicity of chat in Overwatch. Unfortunately, in any game with a chat function, there will be those players who do not regard the feelings of others, have poor sportsmanship, or are downright offensive and not afraid to show it. A game as popular as Overwatch, with over 40 million players, is bound to have problems in the chat as people compete with others from all over the world.
Overwatch is competitive by nature, pitting teams of six players against each other in a multiplayer first-person shooter. This year’s Overwatch League wrapped up recently, but due to COVID-19 restrictions audiences could only watch from their homes online. That didn’t mean that Blizzard wasn’t going to give players something in celebration of the event, however, as Overwatch added unlockable skins that represent all the different teams in the Overwatch League for players to show their support. BlizzCon is coming up, too, and this event will suffer the same fate as the League competition as it can’t be in the form of the usual physical convention. That is why Blizzcon 2021 will be held online. Cleverly called BlizzConline, gamers will be able to watch and engage with the event for free.
This and the perpetual issue of a toxic chat in Overwatch was discussed in a YouTube video from Blizzard. J. Allen Brack, President of Blizzard Entertainment, explains that his company believes in all players feeling welcome in its games, which is why it has introduced machine learning to Overwatch, as well as Heroes Of The Storm players. This technology is able to verify reports of offensive language or behavior, and allows Blizzard to issue penalties quicker. According to Brack, there has been a major decrease in toxic text chats and in repeat offense rates, and Blizzard is still working to improve the speed and accuracy of this system. Recently, Blizzard expanded the machine learning system to public World Of Warcraft channels, and it has already ensured that players causing a disturbance stay in the game for half as long as before.
Overwatch has seen more improvement of its chat feature, above and beyond the machine learning system. Recently, the severity of penalties was increased, and an improved filter for profanities has been introduced to the game. Players can now choose between three different filtering options that determine the kind of language they want to see in their chat.
Brack reiterates that Blizzard is passionate about inclusivity in all of its games, and although this is a small step in that direction, Blizzard is taking the initiative to combat offensive behavior. Brack is confident that the new machine learning system will help keep gaming communities close, and give players a sense of belonging. While this is new untried and untested technology, Overwatch is likely to be a lot more welcoming now, and hopefully the chat will become even more affable as the machine learns.