Blizzard Announces Silencing Feature to End Abusive Chat in World of Warcraft
Recently, Blizzard announced the implementation of a new policy for World of Warcraft,: players who are frequently reported for spamming and/or abusive chat will receive a 24-hour warning silence, preventing them from using a number of in-game functions. Players who are continually reported after that warning may be permanently silenced.
For me, this is a particularly interesting announcement, as I’ve just returned to playing WoW after a six year (!) hiatus and one of the first things I noticed was the toxicity of public and party chats. Of course, I remember trade chat as always being a cesspool of ill-considered jokes and colorful language (to say the least), but maybe I didn’t remember everything, or maybe things have gotten worse — or perhaps it’s partially linked to the election cycle — but trade chat has not been the eye-rolling, obnoxious experience I remember, but instead a horrifying blend of racism and sexism, full of violent language, rape jokes, and worse. Not all the time, of course, but often enough that I finally turned it off a few nights, something I never did in the past.
Considering systems are already in place for Blizzard’s other games, and WoW has long had a report system, the question I most want to ask is why the change now? Maybe the differences I’ve noticed are more different. I’ve discussed with a few players on social media and seen some similar conclusions, but perhaps with newer players coming in after the film, and with Legion on the horizon, there are enough influencing factors that Blizzard decided it was time for a change.
Reactions to the announcement have been mixed, with some people celebrating the shift and others complaining that it will make the game “unplayable,” due to false and/or retaliatory silencing. While it’s true that being denied chat functions in WoW would significantly impact player experience, these kinds of policies are not unusual in contemporary gaming, and Blizzard has indicated that reports will be reviewed, though various commenters on other platforms and on social media meet that claim with skepticism. However, when Heroes of the Storm implemented a similar policy, a few, uh, interesting exchanges occurred on the official forums:
Maybe people who complain are lying. Maybe they just think their behavior is reasonable. Maybe the policy will be abused. But it seems the simplest policy is to just not flood public and party chat with spam, abuse or worse.