Dear Blizzard, Let Me Avoid Trolls in Overwatch

It’s no secret that Overwatch is one of the most successful games of all time, further cementing Blizzard‘s legacy as a top developer in the cutthroat world of the videogame industry. With the introduction of a competitive mode last year, the hero shooter soared above the competition, boasting record numbers of players and even briefly dethroning League of Legends from its position as the top dog in South Korean “PC bangs” (the country’s version of internet cafes)

Sadly, not even industry luminaries such as Blizzard are perfect when it comes to developing and maintaining an online shooter, something that can be clearly seen in their treatment of the “avoid this player” feature, which was permanently removed on June 21, 2016 after some users misused it in order to escape being matched against highly skilled players. While it’s commendable that the developer listened to the affected parties and took swift action, I personally believe that outright disabling the “avoid this player” option was a mistake, because it ends up forcing gamers to play alongside others who have already proven their inability to perform in the same level as the affected parties.

This becomes painfully obvious when playing solo queue competitive matches. As the stakes are higher, some gamers may act in a toxic manner, or even pick “troll” characters if they decide that the battle is already lost. Being paired with people who behave in disruptive manners is not an enjoyable experience, but it’s a fact that I’ve already accepted as part of playing a competitive shooter. What I do not accept is that Blizzard doesn’t have a system in place to avoid being matched with the same player who ruined my last match. Blocking them doesn’t really help, since it only removes the troll’s ability to trash talk, but it can’t force them to play as they should.

Jeff Kaplan explains the reasoning behind the removal of the “avoid this player” feature.

When the developer removed the “avoid this player” feature, I thought that it would be back in a better form, perhaps a sort of report system letting gamers send their reasons for avoiding certain players, and that Blizzard‘s GMs would then read such reports and act accordingly. Sadly, half a year has already passed since the removal and Overwatch‘s competitive modes are still full of people prone to fits of rage, and more importantly, other gamers who would like to enjoy a mostly troll-free gameplay experience must still suffer being paired with the same toxic players over and over again without being able to do anything about it.

It’s true that mistakes are a big part of the learning process for us humans, but it’s strange that a company that operates the biggest MMO ever released would let this happen. Overwatch‘s ranked mode is a big part of the game’s appeal, and in a teamwork oriented competitive title you can’t afford to let trolls dictate the rules. As the old saying goes, the road to hell is paved with good intentions, and in this case, Blizzard seems to be walking that road…

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