Blizzard recently introduced the Endorsements system into their glorious hero-shooter, Overwatch. The aim is simple — reduce toxicity by rewarding and promoting positivity. Basically, don’t be a dick. Be nice and you will be rewarded. However, anecdotally, I have seen this system questioned by players who worry that some players are being “fake nice” just to farm endorsements. This being my editorial (and not at all because my friend said I could write an article about this) I’m here to discuss this and more importantly answer if this really matters.
As a quick recap if you are unaware of the Endorsements system (or simply don’t play Overwatch), at the conclusion of each match, players can now endorse other players in any one of three categories: Shot Caller, Good Teammate, and Sportsmanship.
The more endorsements you receive, the more your Endorsement Level increases. This comes with perks such as better group finding in the LFG feature. You lose Endorsement Levels by leaving matches before they are concluded, for example. Of course, there are rules in place so your friends can’t keep spamming endorsements your way, thus cheesing the system.
And the results are two-fold. For one, there are my own subjective observations. I can confidently say that I have seen a drastic reduction in toxicity and general dickishness in my own experience playing Overwatch. And to be frank, it’s been great. I have found that people are generally more helpful, more communicative, and overall just more fun to play with.
Second, there is an objective measurement we can apply to this in order to see the tangible effect this Endorsements system has had. Blizzard’s Jeff Kaplan reported seeing a measured decrease in abusive behavior in various regions thus far.
Looking at these numbers naturally brings up questions such as how exactly does Blizzard categorize “abusive behavior,” and how that is measured. And very obviously, this is not a foolproof solution. I’ll be very interested to see results of this system one year hence. But I believe the overall big picture takeaway here is that there is a decrease in toxicity in Overwatch. Personally, I think that’s great.
However, as I mentioned above, just because I’ve experienced a decrease in toxicity and Blizzard has numbers reflecting this decrease doesn’t mean that the Endorsements system cannot be manipulated. The worry here is that people are being “fake nice” to farm endorsements in order to increase their Endorsement Level.
But, does this really matter? Really, if we take a step and look at this, does this really matter? Taking that step back and applying some critical thinking will see us asking the larger question, just why are people worried about other players being “fake nice?”
Well let’s look at the system overall. If a player is being genuinely positive or fake nice, and he is then awarded an endorsement for that, the net result is that there is still a decrease in toxicity. In other words, it doesn’t matter if someone’s positivity is genuine or not, the end result is still the same. We are seeing a decrease in toxicity.
And this is the genius of Blizzard’s Endorsements system. They have gamified positivity with just enough carrots to entice players to leverage that system no matter the player’s personal motivation. Are you just a genuinely positive person online? Well good, you’re rewarded for it. Are you just manipulating the system in order to satiate your need to “level up?” Well that’s not a problem either because ultimately, you’re manipulating a system by reducing toxic behavior, so here’s some XP.
I find this to be masterstroke of design and nothing short of genius from Blizzard (yes, I’m fully aware other games do this, but that’s just not my point). No matter what your motivation is — genuine positivity or artificial niceness in order to farm XP — Blizzard still wins. The absolute value of the result is still a positive one. And that means Overwatch and your experience will also be a more positive one.
Like I mentioned, these are still early days yet for the Endorsements system. I’m curious to see more results — both objective and anecdotal — in the weeks and months to come. I’m very interested to see how this system evolves. I’m a firm believer in utilizing carrots over sticks, and I see this Endorsements system as a great positive start of a solution to reduce toxicity.
So, does farming endorsements matter? Nope. And that’s a wonderful thing.