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PCGamesInsider.biz Games of 2017 - Overwatch: The One that Highlighted the Pressures Devs feel from the Community

PCGamesInsider.biz Games of 2017 - Overwatch: The One that Highlighted the Pressures Devs feel from the Community

Yes, Overwatch came out in 2016, but the title has been massively influential through to this year for a number of reasons.

We could write about Blizzard's interesting approach to esports or about how it proves how a service-based game can work. But, in our opinion, the most interesting thing Blizzard has done this year is draw attention to just how taxing working with gamers can be.

Jeff Kaplan, the game director for Overwatch and arguably the closest thing the title has to a public face, has been incredibly open in the last twelve months about the negative impact that working with gamers has had on the team. In a series of blog posts, forum messages and videos, the developer has taken us behind the scenes on what it's like to work on a game like Overwatch's community.

Though the game itself is very much a feel-good romp, featuring a colourful art style, a nice and - yes, diverse - cast, working on Overwatch itself is anything but a feel-good experience.

In the summer of this year, the developer highlighted just how many accounts were being banned from the game for negative behaviour. In September, close to half a million accounts had faced some kind of disciplinary action since the title's May 2016 release date. That's 1/70th of the game's 35m strong player base but is still an insane number.

Around this time, Blizzard outlined part of the way it was going to handle the problem - improving the ban system, which has now been rolled out.

But as part of this open dialogue, Kaplan went on to say that dealing with the community is 'downright scary and intimidating', as members of the development team are branded as 'lazy' and so on. Blizzard has had to put together a strike team, yes, A STRIKE TEAM, to help deal with toxic behaviour

This isn't a lone example either; when we spoke to Hearthstone senior game designer Peter Whalen about the new Kobolds and Catacombs expansion, we asked him what his experience was and it was pretty similar. Whalen said that he wished that fans would express themselves in more positive ways. These were echoed by Riot Games alum Aaron Rutledge, who was fired from the company earlier this year for controversial remarks he made about a League of Legends streamer.

Speaking to Glixel after the incident, he said that: “Talking to players as a developer is scary and intimidating," before going on to say that some developers prefer to be anonymous for fear of "getting called out or targeted."

That there are sizeable toxic elements in the games community has been known for a long time - there have been numerous controversies, developer witch hunts, reports of death threats in the past.

But this is perhaps the clearest look we have had at it. It's not just comments we see online now; the developers behind some of the world's largest and most successful games are now outright saying that dealing with the community can be draining.

It's time that we, the industry, listened.


Editor - PC Games Insider

Alex Calvin is a freelance journalist who writes about the business of games. He started out at UK trade paper MCV in 2013 and left as deputy editor over three years later. In June 2017, he was hired to launch PCGamesInsider.biz for Steel Media before departing the firm in October 2019.

He has also written for GamesIndustry.biz, VGC, Games London, The Observer/Guardian and Esquire UK.

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