Overwatch's Jeff Kaplan on toxic behavior: 'the community needs to take a deep look inwards'

Overwatch director Jeff Kaplan has used a new developer update video to appeal for better behavior in the game, saying that while Blizzard will continue to iterate and improve upon its disciplinary systems for toxic behavior, players have a responsibility as well.

Indeed, Kaplan says that while the studio has a responsibility to manage its community, there's a degree of self-awareness the community must have in order to keep things in check. If Blizzard didn't need to use so many resources developing disciplinary and reporting systems, he said, they might have more time to work on other, more exciting things.

"There's not going to be a moment where we have a magic patch in Overwatch that makes bad behavior go away," Kaplan said. "But it is a continual process that we are very dedicated to fixing and improving. So you're going to see things that are visible – changes to the game, more notifications – and then there are more things happening behind the scenes."

Kaplan said that while many believe the game's reporting system doesn't work, of the 480,000 players who have been on the receiving end of disciplinary action, 340,000 of those were a result of other players reporting them.

But also, there's a degree to which no amount of action on Blizzard's part can curb toxic behavior, with Kaplan appealing to players to look inwards.

"The community needs to take a deep look inwards, and consider: I'm playing this game because I want to have fun, and the other people, the other team, they want to have fun as well." he said.

"Think of all the times someone said something negative to you in the game, and imagine if they said something positive instead. There's a way to spread positivity that I don't think is really prevalent right now. Sure, we can try to build game systems to encourage that more, and we will, but we need the community  to own up to their part in the accountability they have for really creating a great game space."

He continued: "The reason we got into the thing that we do is because we love creating these cool features for you. We want to make new maps, new heroes, new animated shorts – that's where our passion is. But we've been put into this weird position where we're spending a tremendous amount of time and resources into punishing people, trying to make people behave better. I wish we could have put that time into a match history system, or a replay system instead. It was the exact same people who worked on both, that had to be rerouted. 

"The bad behavior is making the game progress, in terms of development, at a much slower pace."

You can watch the full video below:

Shaun Prescott

Shaun Prescott is the Australian editor of PC Gamer. With over ten years experience covering the games industry, his work has appeared on GamesRadar+, TechRadar, The Guardian, PLAY Magazine, the Sydney Morning Herald, and more. Specific interests include indie games, obscure Metroidvanias, speedrunning, experimental games and FPSs. He thinks Lulu by Metallica and Lou Reed is an all-time classic that will receive its due critical reappraisal one day.