Online toxicity has always been one of the most persistent issues in multiplayer experiences, especially in games with prominent player bases. From Riot’s League of Legends to Blizzard’s Overwatch, big companies have always struggled with maintaining a safe environment for both fledgling players and consistent veterans of their online titles.
On the other side of that same coin, toxicity amongst the streaming community is also a point of contention for both streamers and competitive events, especially during an era in which large-scale tournaments are now being broadcasted to millions of people globally through these online platforms, one of the most important being Twitch. In an attempt to reduce toxic chat of those that watch its pro scene, Blizzard has decided to experiment with a new moderation system in Twitch that requires those that wish to participate to link their respective Blizzard Battle.net ID to their Twitch accounts.
This system is being experimented first in Overwatch Contenders, the pro development series for Blizzard’s Overwatch League, starting from Season 3’s quarterfinal matches for all regions from December 28, 2018 to January 12, 2019. The idea is that unmasking all the participants of the public chat will quell the tendency for anonymous users to sling out verbal abuse when they are not held responsible for their actions.
This is a somewhat controversial move by Blizzard, as in the past, their attempt at removing anonymity for its users did not work out. Overwatch Contenders is not nearly as high-profile as its official League counterpart, which may explain why the company decided to trial on a smaller scale first.
Twitch chat has long been an entrenched and integrated part of gaming culture, with some of its major events such as “Twitch Plays Pokemon” and indoctrinated memes now a part of the video game zeitgeist; this naturally includes the somewhat rambunctious and chaotic nature of its free chat system. Only time will tell whether or not the Overwatch community willingly adopts the new moderation system, or if backlash will cause Blizzard to rethink its stance once again.