How Blizzard creates Toxic Players

 

 

Hey, ioStux here.

 

Overwatch has arguably one of the most toxic, stubborn, unpleasant yet also passionate player base in the competitive gaming scene. For most, the game simply isn’t fun if they can’t play with like minded people, and the only way they find some form of enjoyment is by grouping up with others to minimize the amount of random players they have to encounter. But why exactly is Overwatch so incredibly toxic?

 

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This is Sally. Sally is a 6 year old living in a white trash family, watching Honey boo boo all day and getting next gen barbie dolls on a daily basis so her parents can watch TMZ in peace.

 

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This is Billy. Billy has a single mom who don’t need no man, gets his 3 meals a day and a toy every once in awhile, while having to do chores around the house in order to get in front of the tv.

 

Now imagine Billy and Sally growing up. They are now two young adults working on their a-levels. They get put into a group together with 2 classmates because they need to do some random ass project. Who do you think will be the more pleasant partner. Sally or Billy?

 

Obviously Billy. He has been raised well, had a mother that cared for him and taught him that hard work gets rewarded, whereas Sally didn’t really get much attention from her parents, but she got everything she wanted shoved down her throat. Billy will be much better at dealing with the dynamics of a group task. He knows that he has to do his share in order to get a good grade, but obviously he will also expect his group mates to do their fair share. Sally on the other hand is going to get mad if someone complains about her not pulling her work.

 

The key word here is “entitlement”. Sally feels entitled, because that’s what her life has been like since childhood, whereas Billy hasn’t really been exposed to that. Whenever he got something, it was for a special occasion or as a reward. He never expected anything unless he worked for it. Billy represents humility.

 

So now let’s have a look at Overwatch. Games are responsible for their players behaviour, and good game design makes sure that toxicity will be kept to a minimum. So let’s see how Overwatch would do as a parent.

 

Well first of all, the game doesn’t have a scoreboard. This means that players aren’t really being pushed to good performance. Not having a scoreboard is the equivalent of a parent telling their child that “everything will be ok, you don’t have to worry about anything, you did good!” even though the kid did jack shit for school and got a bad grade. Both Overwatch and bad parents are scared of telling their children when they do something wrong, and especially since the majority of toxic players are of a very young age, it’s easy to see the parallels. With Overwatch not confronting players when they have a bad performance, players will feel entitled. They won’t feel humility, because they can’t accept that they are the worst part of their team.

Now, you may think that this will lead to scapegoating, but look at the current game. People are already scapegoating if they have medals, it’s just that right now they may scapegoat someone who is actually doing better than them. A scoreboard would add transparency and push players to improve. The majority of players who blame others are in reality among the bottom performers, and it would take their anonymity away. People couldn’t just pretend they were superior. A Scoreboard would prevent bad players from scapegoating, since they no longer have a justification. Obviously it would give the people at the top of the Scoreboard a reason to scapegoat, but if you are at the top of the Scoreboard, you most likely are a player that would blame your shortcomings on someone else. That mindset doesn’t get you to the top.

 

Next up, passive ult charge generation. Now I am not arguing that this is a bad thing that should be changed, but it represents Blizzards mindset towards the playerbase pretty well. The idea behind passive ult charge is that even the most useless player will get at least 1 ultimate every single game, simply by having it charge passively. Blizzard doesn’t want to lock these strong abilities behind a skill wall, everyone should be able to get it. And that once again creates entitlement. Players don’t really need to work as much for their ult charge, because they will get it eventually anyways. One fundamental rule of building a healthy community is that you should never give people something for free. Overwatch is supposed to be a skill based game, but it tries to make everyone happy.

 

Let’s look at Bullet Spread and Recoil too. Games like CS:GO are known for their intricate recoil control and the way movement velocity affects bullet accuracy. In CS:GO having your Crosshair on the enemies head does not guarantee a headshot! Whereas if you look at most Overwatch Characters, they either shoot perfectly accurate, or they have minor spread that could just be replaced by having damage falloff over distance, meaning that it's really only added for flair. There is no difference between bullets only dealing 50% of their original damage at 15m of range, or adding in spread so that only 50% of bullets will hit after 15m.

 

Especially new players can get really mad in CS because in their minds the shot should have landed, but their lack of skill made them miss the shot, either by not properly compensating for the recoil, or by not moving quite as elegant as they thought they were.

 

A few weeks ago you couldn’t even drop out of certain skill tiers! You could make it to Diamond aka 3000SR, and drop down all the way to 1000SR without losing your shiny diamond badge!

 

And Season Rewards? Golden guns don’t represent skill, they represent grind, while the season rewards you get are based on your Season High, not your End of Season Rating! The Top 500 rewards are only handed out to players who actually finish in top 500, why not for every other rating?

 

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The fascinating thing is that this isn’t even exclusive to regular competitive players. Entitlement can even be found in high level Players. Some professional players can get really toxic, for the same reason! They are so used to their regular teammates that they feel like their ranked randoms are stealing something from them. They may feel entitled to win because they are the “Pro Player” and the opposing team is just a bunch of no names.

 

Players feel like they are owed something. The game makes them feel good, and players tend to associate good play with SR gains! I mean that's what everyone tells them, someone in GM is much better than someone in Diamond! So they expect to gain SR because clearly they are performing well! They are getting free kills every once in awhile by simply using a Scatter Arrow or picking someone with a flashbang, without even understanding what they just did, or their ult will passively charge up giving them their own heroic moment and even a Play of the Game using an ultimate they haven’t even really earned.

 

So they feel like someone stole their SR, usually their teammates. Imagine Sally visiting her grandparents for a weekend. It’s 8pm and old nan tells Sally that she should hit the sheets. But Sally is going to be mad, saying things like “But why? Mommy always lets me stay awake much longer!”. This toxic behaviour from Sally is caused by her feeling entitled to her extra hours of staying awake! But if she always went to bed at 8pm instead of her trash parents spoiling her, she wouldn’t be as pissy when asked to go to bed!

 

If Players wouldn’t feel like they deserve to climb, then they wouldn’t search for a scapegoat and show toxic behaviour when losing SR! Because they will start seeing SR as a reward, as a nice thing that they get sometimes, and not something they are entitled to, something that they can expect to get!

 

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In my coaching sessions, every player is different. But so far every single coachee I have dealt with has improved drastically in 1 department. Toxicity. Even the most toxic players started turning humble, once someone they respected told them that they don’t deserve anything, that they aren’t entitled to anything, and that they should be happy they got as high on the ladder as they are! This usually washes their feelings of entitlement and thus toxicity right out!

 

All of these things go together in one neat package. Blizzard is really good at making players feel good about themselves, and if they avoid every possibility of confronting a player with their own inability, then players will become entitled. All those Overwatch Players know is hitting shots left and right, getting ults for free and seeing gold medals in their tab screen. All the while getting loot boxes and only seeing an animation when GAINING SR, not when losing it! You have great animations when going from Plat to Diamond, but going from Diamond to Plat is just a static image change. This breeds entitled players. So what ends up happening is that we have a bunch of Sally's in our games, that are confronted with random people in Voice chat telling them things that they aren’t used to hearing. The game tries so incredibly hard to convince every player that they are special, that they are really really good, which makes them really really unhappy when something doesn’t go their way.

 

So, in conclusion Blizzard needs to make a choice. Do they want a delusional Player base that thinks it's hot shit, or a Playerbase that is always reminded of their place in the game.

 

If I can give another example, most players get mad at their teammates not performing well. They get really really agitated because their teammates aren’t performing to their standards. But how do I deal with me being the best on the team and my team being trash? I am fucking glad. I love games where I am actually performing the best and my teammates just have no Idea what they are doing. Why? Because I know what it’s like to be on the other side.

 

I have been scrimming with people, I have played with very high tier players in both Overwatch and World of Warcraft. And when you play with those legends, and you fuck up a boss mechanic or you fat finger your ultimate, and you have a bunch of really really good players shittalking you, thats when you sink into your chair and reconsider your past behaviour. All of a sudden my mindset changed drastically. I knew how bad it can feel to actually perform badly while your team is disappointed in you. And once you have an experience like that you are fucking glad if your teammates are bad. Because you know how much worse it could be.

 

And Blizzard needs to find a way to give players this sensation. They need to put Players on the spot. They need to give players a reality check, let them know when they just don’t perform to their standards. Be honest with them, because honesty goes a long way. At least in competitive. In Quick Play you can keep your sugarcoat land going, but if you want a healthy competitive experience, you need to give players incentive to not be toxic. When I played CS:GO casually, I was feeling really bad when I was at the bottom of the scoreboard and my teammates were trying really hard to carry me but couldn’t. That’s what sparked this improvement oriented mindset that I have.

 

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I don’t try to get better at games because I want to prove to myself how good I can be. I want to get better at games because I know the feeling of disappointing others.

 

My name is ioStux, and I’d like to thank you for learning.