Overwatch developer Blizzard has shared details of how it has promoted a more positive and supportive culture amongst its playerbase, stating there has been a 40 per cent reduction in disruptive and antisocial behaviour since its endorsement and LFG ("looking for group") initiatives were launched.
In a talk at the Game Developers Conference (thanks, Gamasutra), Blizzard’s Natasha Miller said its endorsement program – which enables players to reward teammates for positive and support behaviour – was designed specifically with online communities in mind. Players were thanked for submitting reports, whilst those who accumulated reports of bad behaviour were formally warned by the studio.
"By performing well within society’s expectations, you’re rewarded," Miller said. "In online communities, there aren’t effective consequences. We wanted to give them a chance to change their behaviour after we penalised them."
The endorsement scheme positively reinforces good behaviour, and can be awarded to players on the opposing team, too. The more positive endorsements a player acquires, the higher their level becomes, encouraging consistent, positive behaviour as well as tangible consequences for players that routinely deviated from that. The decision to award loot boxes to players who build their endorsement level was a "really big discussion for [Blizzard]", as the studio was keen for "the push to be good to come intrinsically" rather than a cynical attempt to get free awards.
"If you’re not consistently getting endorsements, if you slip up, you’re not going to get endorsements and your level is going to slip," Miller said. "This often causes players to want to get that level back and keep going, which offers a path to redemption."
"Looking for group", on the other hand, gives players the chance to link up with players who had a similar playstyle and ethos, thereby reducing frustration and better managing expectations.
Confirming 50 to 70 per cent of Overwatch players have used the endorsement scheme, Miller concludes "the system makes people nicer", prompting Blizzard to continue to develop and improve upon other positive reinforcement systems.