According to Blizzard, Overwatch has seen a decrease in toxic behavior thanks to machine learning.
In a Fireside Chat video posted earlier this week, Blizzard president J. Allen Brack announced that toxic behavior had seen an “incredible decrease” thanks to machine learning the company had started implementing last spring. The AI system accounted for a variety of different spellings for insulting words, leading to many abusive words and swears resulting in warnings and bans. The machine was even able to understand sentence structure and context by collecting a hefty amount of data, learning over time what counts as an insult in a variety of cultures.
After over a year of implementation, Brack was confident in the success of the machine.
“This system has been in place in Overwatch and in Heroes of the Storm. It allows us to issue appropriate penalties quicker, and we’ve seen an incredible decrease not only in toxic text chat, but an overall decrease in re-offense rates,” Brack said. “A few months ago, we expanded this system into World of Warcraft’s public channels, and we’ve already seen a decrease in the time disruptive players stick around by half, and we’re continuing to improve the speed and the accuracy of this system.”
To continue improving the Overwatch community and fight back against abusive chat, Blizzard has also increased the severity of penalties for bad behavior. They also added a flexible profanity filter. There are three different filters players can choose from, from censoring all inappropriate words and phrases to a “mature” setting that only filters out specific words.
Brack explained that part of having a “good game experience” while playing Overwatch is ensuring that everyone feels welcome. This means everyone should feel accepted and respected in-game regardless of their background or identity.
“These are small steps, but they can add up to lasting change. Combating offensive behavior and encouraging inclusivity in all of our games and our workplaces will always be an ongoing effort for us,” Brack said.