Chatbot Turns Jerks in ‘Overwatch’ Into Charming Dorks

Resistance is futile. Your lame insults will be rewritten.

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Aug 19 2016, 10:00am

Players in the test servers for Blizzard's team-based shooter, Overwatch, have noticed a sneaky new chat filter is rewriting their rude comments. Players with good manners have thanked opponents with "gg,"short for "good game," for a couple of decades, but more unpleasant players in Overwatch write "gg ez" to boast that their victory was too easy. As of this week's new patch, these jerks will now have their comments rewritten into charming, self-effacing statements

Gems include "Mommy says people my age shouldn't suck their thumbs"; "Ah shucks… you guys are the best"; and my personal favorite, "I'm wrestling with some insecurity issues in my life but thank you all for playing with me."

This method is an extension of Blizzard's interesting strategy to prevent toxic behavior in Overwatch. Rather than building robust tools to identify bad players and punish them like League of Legends, Blizzard is mostly trying to hide the information that sparks toxicity in the first place. For example, Overwatch doesn't display players' kills and death count in the game, allowing other players to identify and pick on the weakest players, instead highlighting only positive numbers.

In this case, rather than punishing players for teasing with "gg ez," it simply hides those comments. There are some parallels here to the Broken Windows Theory, which explains research that shows that broken windows and signs of civil disorder encourage more disorder. Basically, when you see laws being broken in big or small ways around you, you are more likely to break laws yourself.

By hiding evidence of toxicity and shutting down ways for players to be rude, there is less rudeness on display. With fewer examples of rudeness to follow, everyone gets along just a little bit better. Blizzard is no stranger to fighting for a wholesome environment: they've also been hard at work permanently banning cheaters, and trying to build a competitive mode that doesn't turn nasty.

Hearthstone, a strategy card game also from Blizzard, famously keeps things clean by having no direct chat interface at all. As far as Blizzard's concerned, it's hard to talk shit when you just can't talk.