Overwatch One-Trick Exposes Broken Report System

For Overwatch, the report system failure is just another day at the office.

By Daavpuke, Posted 04 Jan 2021

As with many things, 2020 was a year of great tribulation for video games, ranging from stories of crunch to abusive environments. One popular Overwatch streamer, by the handle of just_stevo (henceforth Stevo), got one more nasty surprise, just as the year ended. The Twitch partner has posted a video with details on their current situation:


After a successful run in the current competitive season, Stevo was situated at the very top of the leaderboard, fluctuating around rank 10 for their role. The streamer is primarily known as a one-trick; a person who plays a game with only one character, usually in games with a broad selection, such as League of Legends. For Overwatch, Stevo has been playing as mostly just Symmetra, one of the most disliked and eccentric choices in the game. Symmetra proved to be so controversial that it led the development team to rework the character multiple times. Playing only one hero, an unusual one at that, comes with limitations. Therefore, Stevo has decided that it was time to learn a new character in the damage role, Sombra.

It just so happens that Sombra is also a heavily contested pick. Mostly relying on utility, the hero requires a lot of coordination and team follow through to pay off. With Stevo already being a precarious position as a one-trick, the deck is stacked against them. People on the team are unlikely to cooperate with Stevo, which in turn makes playing Sombra harder to navigate. One-tricks are often harassed during a game and in the surrounding community, with prominent YouTube channels sending hate mobs their way. Stevo even had one of the game's most popular players, Dafran, organize a targeted hit on him, for playing Symmetra. To illustrate how accepted these harassment campaigns are: Dafran was later picked up as a player in the Overwatch League, for the Atlanta Reign team, despite consistent toxicity. They promptly left the position to return to their habit of being toxic towards competitive players on a stream, watched and applauded by thousands.

With these frictions in mind, Stevo's new venture has been deeply challenging. Wrestling a new character's systems, while also having to monitor the team's social dynamics, have made the streamer lose a lot of competitive points, measured in Skill Rating (SR). In total, the player lost over 1000SR, which dropped them down to several ranks of their usual place in Top 500. As the video indicates, Stevo received a message on December 30 of last year that their account had been suspended, citing "disruptive gameplay" as the cause. Essentially, the streamer got reported for simply losing the game; a mild and inevitable setback in any competitive game.

Being a frequent target, the streamer previously had developer Blizzard monitor their accounts, so that people couldn't just target them for playing one hero. In fact, the very descriptions of the report screen indicates that playing a hero isn't a bannable offense, primarily due to the toxicity hurled at one-tricks in the community. It had been three years since the streamer was last banned, then for playing Symmetra. This time, it was playing Sombra that was seemingly the wrong hero to pick on the available roster.

A first offense, one that required the streamer's account to be reset, is punishable by a day's worth of suspension. So, the very next day, the player started their stream and tested the waters of the report system. Making a custom lobby, the streamer asked viewers to join and to report them for gameplay sabotage, without even playing the game, which would create a false positive. In a fair system, this would be overseen by someone at Blizzard and overturned.

Within two hours, the Symmetra player was suspended once more. Moreover, after an appeal, the streamer's request was denied and they received a harsh warning that "spamming" customer service could lead to their account being closed, further victimizing the victim.

It's clear that monitoring the rampant abuse within the Overwatch community is a low priority at Blizzard. Customer service lackadaisically pasting a scripted message, when shown that their methods don't work as intended, highlights a deeply flawed, but mostly uncaring system. The blind statistical approach to handling reports harms players at risk and only benefits those who would abuse this laissez-faire attitude. Previously, Blizzard had already alluded to their report system being mostly automated. In an interview with Gamasutra, producer Chacko Sonny said the following, on the subject of combating toxicity: "We have this technology, this machine learning capability, that can help us automate a bunch of the work that previously was largely manual, human-driven."

For players like Stevo, this broken feature puts them in a "damned if you do, damned if you don't" situation. Being a one-trick and not swapping leads to reports. Playing Symmetra leads to reports. Yet, swapping to another hero also leads to reports. There is no way to win for those who don't follow or give in to the worst the Overwatch community has to offer.

Overwatch, One-Trick< Exposes, Broken, Report System

For Overwatch, this report system failure is just another day at the office. Just last year, the game's league had to let go of yet another sexual predator, some teams had questionable responses to 2020's global uprising, while another official team published one of their employees' deadname and then promptly booted them off the roster. The more risk factors you endure as a player, the less likely it is that you will see support from Blizzard, when fed to the wolves. If I can be a bit snide, I'd reach out for comment, were it not that it would likely end up in another automated mail. No response is the common response, in this case, which is exactly the problem.

Hopefully, this is the last dramatic story that 2020 threw our way. In related, more uplifting news, our editor Adam has put together an exhaustive list of the very best in games 2020 had to offer. I highly suggest giving this Game of the Year list a look. Despite a bad year, video games in 2020 were still good, mostly; just maybe not Overwatch.


Daav Valentaten, NoobFeed

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Platform(s): Xbox One, PS4, PC
Publisher(s): Blizzard Entertainment
Developer(s): Blizzard Entertainment
Genres: First-Person Shooter
Themes: MOBA, PvP, 6v6 Brawl
Release Date: 2016-05-24

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