Unless you’re one of those people who likes to bully others or thinks it’s ok to vent the day’s frustrations on other players, no one likes to sit down for some quality live online gaming only to have to contend with abuse. At the very least it’s extremely annoying, but for some players, it can also be intimidating and downright hurtful. The Overwatch team has always been very clear on their dislike of toxicity during live game play, having even gone as far as explaining to their fan base that the time it took them to deal with reports of abuse would effectively slow down upcoming features in the game.

Two days ago, the Overwatch team released Junkertown, the latest game map, and took the opportunity to move in on particularly toxic players. As you may know, the game allows players to brand abusive players with the “Avoid Me” label. The updated version of the game will assess how many “Avoid Me” each player has received, and those deemed toxic will be banned from in-game voice chat. I think it’s a brilliant idea.

First, because it helps lower the amount of verbal abuse, obviously. But also because it sends a clear message while continuing to allow everyone to play. People who just happened to have had a bad day the one time are not banned from play. It’s also a way to warn all players that their actions have consequences – the Overwatch team has made it clear that they would much rather ban the worst acting players from the game altogether, and this silencing repercussion might only be the first step. The team has already “silenced” 480,000 players, which undoubtedly is making game play for everyone else a much more enjoyable experience.

The team’s approach and their introduction of a softer form of punishment isn’t only clever, it’s also effective. Those players who don’t want to lose in-game voice chat privilege will try to adjust their attitudes, and those who just can’t help themselves stop being a nuisance for everyone else and can launch abuse at their television all they want without hurting anyone else. And that leaves the other players ample room for decent communication and game play.

I do not have any information whether this disciplinary method will apply to other games under the team’s control.

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