Overwatch players received a long-awaited update on June 28 this year when the development team released Patch 22.214.171.124: new social features! These features are Looking for Group, which allows players to find others to play with across all game modes, and Endorsements, which allows players to compliment their teammates and even their enemies in exchange for small rewards.
They’re relatively small changes, and they’re not new concepts in online gaming. That said, both Looking for Group and Endorsements are changes that, hopefully, are just the start of improving the quality of gameplay for everyone, by reducing toxicity, rewarding positivity and productivity, and allowing for better matches through the creation of more organized teams.
The features have been out for two weeks now, and I for one think they’ve been a hit, but I thought it would be fun to hear what the members of Death Blossoms themselves thought about the experience. We have members from all regions, in all skill tiers, who main all heroes, and they certainly had quite a bit to say when I opened the floor up to them.
By and large, respondents feel that both features have been a plus. I ran a small survey to go along with this, and every single respondent agreed the new features improved the state of the game.
Summing up what a welcome change Endorsements in particular has been, Demi has seen how it benefits a game’s player base before, and is glad to see it come to Overwatch.
From the days when I played Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 on Xbox 360, to playing LoL years ago, you encounter the same type of behavior. When LoL added their endorsement system, I noticed an immediate change in the community, and since Overwatch came out I always hoped they would implement the same system. Unfortunately people need an incentive to behave when they can hide behind being anonymous, and I believe this simple solution is enough to do that.
Nuka had a similar sentiment.
While part of me is bitter that it takes a reward system like this to make people act like decent human beings, I am largely relieved that we don’t have to put up with the things we used to.
A running theme among the responses was that while people may not be nicer, they are less toxic, and the net benefit is the same to the average player. Nubz puts it like this:
I don’t think that toxic people are necessarily being nicer, but the larger, quieter majority of non-toxic people seem to feel more comfortable participating in text/voice chat. Heck, this is the first season in a while that I have defaulted to team chat, and I think that’s true for a lot of people. I also think the larger presence of chill people in comms is making toxic people feel less free to be abusive.
Others agreed, believing that drowning out the toxic vocal minority of the playerbase, intimidating them into keeping their vitriol to a minimum if it comes up at all, has been the biggest noticeable change since Endorsements was implemented. According to eternaforest:
I feel like the endorsement system has incentivized players to be better teammates, knowing that a number and ranking is on the line. Although it is not much in the grand scheme of things, I do think it’s making players take the game a bit more seriously.
Being rewarded for not being toxic may even sway some of those people to stop being toxic entirely, a possibility Cascadia noted:
There is some psychology that indicates that the more you do of something, the more genuine it becomes. So, when people are being rewarded for being nice, eventually they become nice. My personal example is that I always felt I’m not a good streamer. Very defeatist attitude. But then I tell myself repeatedly that it’s more about me being able to be me, and that the more I do it, the better I will get. Eventually I’ve internalized that. It’s all about retraining the brain.
Some in the larger community have decried the system for encouraging “fake positivity,” claiming that people will only act nice to get endorsements. Many of our members mentioned this, and while they don’t necessarily think that’s wrong, they also think it’s kind of a non-issue. Somecatfish put it pretty succinctly:
It feels like people are more nice, and even though they might just be “fake” nice to get endorsements, I think it’s definitely better than genuine toxicity!
Even if people are faking their positivity, they are willing to work together, whether it’s to win or rise in the endorsement ranks.
rainmonkey thinks positive reinforcement is more effective than punishment:
A lot of people have noted and even made fun of the fake-niceness. However, I feel like it’s still a better change towards positivity instead of trolls running rampant and putting people down for no reason, other than the fact that they might get banned, but most likely not.
Some people still don’t care and will act however they choose, but in general communication has been better and more constructive. I do feel like a lot of people are probably putting on an act simply for the endorsements, but as long as my games are less… crappy… attitude wise, I don’t mind the fake positivity.
And Nana sees true potential for change:
There’s a saying that you “fake it till you make it” – if all these people are just being “fake nice” for the endorsement, it doesn’t matter. Chances are, if they’re “fake” nice long enough, they’re going to be actually nice. They’ll see how much better their games go if they’re not an asshole.
On a more personal note, AJHoney felt that the endorsements made her a better player:
I have felt that being noticed for shot calling is helping me realize that even if no one is talking, it is still a good habit to get into!
Overall, the community is very positive on Endorsements. Akra summed it up well by saying:
My hope is people will be more likely to communicate and cooperate overall, as a community expectation and standard.
Our members had less experience with Looking for Group (LFG), many simply feeling intimidated to try for a number of reasons. To start with those who’ve tried it, the results have mostly involved rock-solid teams and good old-fashioned fun. Kristen shared that she used it to make a team of nothing but healers and pointed out how great it is for new players:
I had a lot of fun and managed to make a few friends! I’ve also spoken to people before that want to try out the game, but don’t want to do so without having a team to play with. I think this is a great step towards that, especially with the role system!
The role system certainly is great, allowing people to guarantee at least a chance at the heroes that they’re most comfortable filling, which makes everyone happier. Hera agreed and said:
Since we can set the roles, there’s a designated healer, tank, DPS in almost every game. It really makes our roles easier. If I tank, I know that the healers and DPS would have my back, especially if there are comms. If I DPS, I know that I have tanks who can create space. If I heal, there’s just enough coordination to be able to stay alive. There’s no frustration as well: I no longer think, “Ugh, I want to DPS, but I can’t because we don’t need 6 DPS,” because I get to choose.
SubLein thinks the combination of both Endorsements and LFG could be greater than the sum of its parts:
Like-minded people look for groups to get away from some of the toxic nature of Overwatch, plus it increases callouts as well. The endorsement levels can be a factor when creating a group, say your group wants level 2 and up, while people who have been reported for being toxic go down to zero. So endorsements help to heighten the quality of groups. Plus, who doesn’t like colors and leveling up?!
Despite the overwhelmingly positive response toward the new features, some members expressed concerns. For starters, Amna found a bug that indicates LFG isn’t fully integrated as yet, as it can’t handle changes to the group composition well.
One time in a 5-stack, someone sent a group invite to a friend to make it 6, but that person never accepted the invite, so there was a pending 6th person forever. We tried to kick the person, change leaders then kick, nothing worked. We had to disband the whole group, and unfortunately I was the last person to hit “leave group,” so I was stuck with the pending person and had to restart my client in order to get them removed.
A few of our members also noted that LFG and Endorsements, while not inherently problematic, would create or bubble up other issues in the community. pinja found a good example of why we can’t have nice things:
Some people use the green Sportsmanship endorsement to BM, like when the enemy feeds a lot, your team will give them the green one.
While many of our members were happy that they now felt they could talk without bearing the brunt of toxicity in return, Akra noted that some might feel more discouraged now, knowing that they can’t as readily benefit from the new system:
I wonder if an unintended consequence of the endorsement change particularly is that folks not able to participate in voice chat for whatever reason (computer limitations, discomfort and/or shyness with speaking in front of strangers, and so on) might be negatively impacted by the changes. For me personally it’s been a 100% positive change to have endorsements, but not sure how others who aren’t comfortable in voice chat feel about it.
Allie shared that there are instances where it’s best to just go it alone and avoid LFG, out of fear that LFG might invite more toxicity rather than mitigate it:
As a trans woman with a feminine username I actually feel slightly more uncomfortable using LFG than I do without it. If I’m tired and my voice isn’t on point or I don’t care and I get clocked in a game, it’s one thing and over and done quickly, if they even paid enough attention to notice the two things. In a group I’m stuck with, those people while they have nothing else to look at between games. It feels a little more vulnerable to more personal harassment in a weird way, as opposed to something super easy to blow off in a one off game.
Roxy had a similar feeling.
Being trans in Overwatch is just as awkward as it’s always been, and people I don’t know won’t necessarily kick group members for making rude comments towards me (which has already happened). Additionally, blocking, or avoiding a player actually doesn’t stop them from joining your LFG group, which I think is a massive oversight.
On the whole, the Death Blossoms community is very positive toward both Looking for Group and Endorsements. In the week that the two features have been available, they have noticeably improved the state of the game, and our members are in agreement that could be the start of mending Overwatch’s reputation for having a toxic player base. The devs have indicated as well that they’re not done improving the social aspect of the game, either, and given what a hit these two features have been, we can’t wait to see what comes next.