Overwatch’s Jeff Kaplan on how toxic gamers try to intimidate Blizzard devs

As the discussion and response to Overwatch’s legendary toxicity problem continues, even the development team isn’t spared from the impact of this, ahem, “passionate” community.

Game Director Jeff Kaplan wrote a somewhat raw essay to tell players what it is like to be a developer on the project and deal with the stress and harassment that comes with it. “Developers speak to you directly, using our real names,” he said. “And if you’ll allow me to speak openly for a moment — it’s scary. Overall, the community is awesome to us. But there are some pretty mean people out there. All of our developers are free to post on these forums. Very few of us actually do because it’s extremely intimidating and/or time consuming.”

Kaplan also paints a somewhat sad picture of a team that is pressured to keep up with the game and on top of all of its controversies: “Overwatch is a 24/7, 365 days a year affair for us. Overwatch doesn’t stop because it’s 5 o’clock on a Friday evening. Overwatch doesn’t stop because it’s our kids’ birthday.”

Maybe it’s OK to take a break once in a while? That kid deserves a dad to watch him blow out the candles on his cake. Just saying.

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76 Comments on "Overwatch’s Jeff Kaplan on how toxic gamers try to intimidate Blizzard devs"

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Byórðæįr

ten hours with 45 minutes to 2 hours a day is what attorneys are legally allowed to work since beyond those hours you start making too many mistakes. I can not see how that does not effect developers the say way.

The California traffic likely eat another two hours a day out of developers working in Anaheim, but I have missed way too many of my kids birthdays due to working for the department of the defense over the years but if you have the option of posting a head of time to the forums slight delay this weekend kid’s birthday is being celebrated, you might get some people freaking out but most people would wish the kid a happy birthday. We are gamers not gamblers.

The mean people they are either the ones that are looking for an outlet in games and can not tell the difference between blowing off steam in a single player game and remembering that mmo let you relax and find humor in the weird thing some one says that makes you laugh when you are stressing out. Stress does not go away from blowing it off, it goes away from taking a nap and having someone make you laugh or giggle.

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socontrariwise

“Overwatch is a 24/7, 365 days a year affair for us. Overwatch doesn’t stop because it’s 5 o’clock on a Friday evening. Overwatch doesn’t stop because it’s our kids’ birthday.”

I feel there is something fundamentally wrong with a company that talks that way – and yeah, I have a very demanding, well paying job in critical environment.

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Chris Mc

Talk about a drama queen.

ceder
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ceder

Its a vicious circle though. Both sides contribute to the toxicity in their own ways.

oldandgrumpy
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oldandgrumpy

Experience is a wonderful teacher, maybe Jeff needs to keep this in mind when he is working on a new game with designers and developers.

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steve

Toxic players trying to intimidate poor Jeff Kaplan, aka Tigole Bitties, who earned fame in the annals of MMO history with regular gems like this:

“Whoever came up with this sheer fisting of an encounter can go fuck themselves. Do me a favor so I don’t waste my guild’s time on this kind of jackass shit-fest again, send me an email at tigole@legacyofsteel.net when you decide to A) Implement an encounter that wasn’t designed by a retarded chimp chained to a cubicle A.)Get a Quality Assuarance Department C) Actually beta test the fucking thing and D) Patch it live. And please for god’s sake — do it in the order I laid out for you. Don’t worry, I won’t charge you a consulting fee on that one. And for good luck you might as well E) Pull your heads out of your asses. While you’re at it rename the game to BetaQuest since you’ve used up you’re alotted false advertising karma on the Bazaar and user interface scam of ’01.Fix the Emperor encounter. Fix Seru. Rethink your time-sink bullshit. Fix all the buggy motherfucking ring encounters (I suggest you let whoever made the Burrower one do this since that dude apparently laid off the crack the rest of you were smoking). Fix the VT key quest. Fix VT (just guessing it’s fucked up considering your track record). Don’t have the resources to fix this stuff? Move the ENTIRE Planes of Power team over to fixing Shadows of Luclin AND DO IT NOW. If you don’t fix Luclin, you jackassess will be the only ones playing the Planes of Power.”

Perhaps those toxic players are just trying to do it the way you did, Jeff. You made out pretty well for becoming famous for being a toxic douchebag who helped RUIN RAIDING with your egotistical, elitist bullshit.

Don’t let this guy, of all people, preach to you about not being a douchebag.

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Utakata

Now this is a “both sides” argument. Being shortsited when developing the raid or die paradigm that is inflicted upon WoW is not really the equivalency of being a toxic D bag. Even if he were being a D bag about it, it’s just not the same thing IMO.

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steve

Of course. Once Kaplan was picked up by Blizzard he was always a professional as far as I know, and he never made death threats or criminal statements even in his early days. His ‘salt’ was entertaining, though still incredibly toxic and bullying by any standard.

But I argue he wasn’t shortsighted in his early behavior. He was bullying the EQ developers and he and the Raid or Die set had an incredible influence on, and almost a symbiosis with the development process.

I don’t tolerate teammates who “act ugly” as grandma would put it, and a death threat is a criminal act and should be lawfully dealt with, but what he did back then was the same sort of developer abuse he’s now preaching against. I’m not against his message, but I’m not going to trust his intentions.

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Sorenthaz

Yes, because nobody can change in 15 years.

…You realize that’s from 15 years ago before he was even hired by Blizzard, right?

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steve

I was there through most of it, and was aware of his influence on WoW as I moved to play that game at launch.

I’ve no doubt the man has learned to communicate in a non-toxic manner. I am not implying that Jeff Kaplan would say things this way now.

But that’s how he started. By the time he’d cleaned up his act he had leveraged his behavior into enough influence that growing up became a matter of survival, but that doesn’t negate the fact that the current position of authority he now uses to berate toxicity was built upon the very sort of toxic bullying of developers he now wants to preach against.

Jeff might as well have said, “Don’t behave like I did, or you might become so influential in the industry that you wind up bullying your way into a senior development gig.”

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Bruno Brito

Wish, yeah. You can think anything.

Keep to your thoughts, tho

styopa
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styopa

“…sad picture of a team that is pressured to keep up with the game and on top of all of its controversies…”
Meh, while I agree about not generally being a dick to anyone, this part falls flat.
Nobody’s making them do these jobs. If they want to work an 8 hour shift and be done, there are plenty of folks out there working such jobs who would be DELIGHTED to trade jobs – any paychecks – with Blizzard developers.

FWIW I can sympathize. I work a job that’s 9-10 hours a day, plus I’m more or less on-call 24/7. I’m a small businessperson; what I gain in freedom and income, I’ve paid in missed kids birthdays, missed sleep, etc. I’m not complaining. I too know that there are a LOT of less stressful, simpler jobs out there but to provide for my family I need this income.

And any ‘controversy’ is at least half ginned up by their own marketing dept & management. They don’t HAVE to stoop into the mess of it, their response could simply be “we’re sorry you feel that way; we’ve made the best game we know how to and hope people enjoy playing it” full stop.

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Schmidt.Capela

As far as I could understand, it’s not about how demanding the job is. Rather, talking to the community isn’t actually part of their jobs, it’s something they volunteer to do — and then they get flak from the community, ranging from people making demands too forcibly to actual death threats.

In other words, if the community (or part of it) treats devs that talk to them as trash, don’t be surprised if devs stop talking and start ignoring the community.

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Kickstarter Donor
Greaterdivinity

I know I fail at this as well, but pretty relevant –

comment image

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Kickstarter Donor
Scratches

Do you fail because your name is actually Richard?

I mean, that ‘motivational poster’ could cause quite an existential complex for such a person, if you really think about it….

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Knox Harrington

I’d argue that it isn’t that easy because emotions run high in competition. Even amongst family, brothers fight. Why would it be any different among strangers you’ll never meet?

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Bruno Brito

Being a dick is different than acting on impulse.

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Utakata

I wouldn’t go that far. But either way, it doesn’t nor should it excuse such behaviors in any way, shape or form.

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Bruno Brito

We have societal laws to make people answer for all the crap they did on impulse.

The core difference is: Everyone acts rash sometimes. Not everyone is a dick.

If i end up in a fight because of a rash action, i have to deal with the consequences anyway, but i still have the leverage to say: “my bad, it was on impulse.”

If i go picking fights everyday, i’m a raging asshole.

Bree Royce
Staff
Bree Royce

Millions of gamers manage to compete against strangers and argue with developers every day without threatening lives or spewing slurs. Please don’t normalize crappy behavior.

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Sorenthaz

Yeah there’s definitely a line between “wtf are you guys doing you just threw the game with that idiotic play ffs” to “kys you bronze trash and gtfo of my game”.

Getting frustrated is natural when you have any sort of desire to win a game and put a lot into it. I’ve done that plenty of times while playing LoL and other competitive games and so far haven’t had any penalties applied to my account, probably because 1. I don’t do it regularly and 2. I’m not telling people to go kill themselves, calling them horrid slurs, or doing other stuff to intentionally tear them down.

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Knox Harrington

Threatening lives and spewing slurs is on a whole other level of toxicity than what I was referring to. That’s beyond just “being a dick” and more in the realm of “being a sociopath”, at which point “being nice” just isn’t an option because you’re dealing with someone who has a mental health issue.

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steve

I’ll accept that from you, Mrs. Royce. It’s true.

It’s also true that, death threats aside, this is Tigole. He made his reputation off of browbeating devs to favor the ideals of a bunch of elitist jerks, then he got picked up as a rockstar developer and pushed those bad ideas for years in WoW.

I understand that it’s been a long time and he’s not that same toxic player, but he remains a poor spokesperson for being kind to poor developers.

Bree Royce
Staff
Bree Royce

I do not disagree. It loses some impact coming from someone with his history. It’s still true, just weird to see him as the face of anti-toxicity at Blizzard. Everyone grows up, I suppose.

(Mrs Royce is my grandmother. I didn’t change my name when I married. :P)

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kgptzac

“Developers speak to you directly, using our real names,”

Call me crazy for calling you crazy here… why do you have to use your real name? Does your boss force RealID on your forum account?

Inconceivable.

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Stormwaltz

In the early days — we’re talking turn of the century — it was normal for devs to use pseudonyms. These days, most companies have policies that require developers who interact with players to do so under their real names, clearly identifying themselves as employees of the company.

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TomTurtle

A reminder that the crap players experience, developers experience too. I do not envy being in their positions.

It’s good to see they continue to discuss the situation and keep it on people’s minds. It’s important not to ignore the toxicity, and I can only hope Blizzard finds ways to deal with it that doesn’t punish everyone else in the process.

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Nathan Aldana

Unfortuately, half the comments in this very comment section kinda convince me that most gamers are just assholes and empathy-less dicks.

hurbster
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hurbster

Hire more staff, then.

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Ashfyn Ninegold

Wow, I’m really stunned by some of the responses here. Another professional developer dares to be truthful and open and he gets slammed for . . . being truthful and honest. Not just the upbeat stuff the PR guys say to say, but a real insight into the team, how it works, and why more devs don’t post. Concluding with:

We’re not allowed to post that here without our bosses (and I am talking literally here) receiving emails from some of you demanding we be fired. It’s not exactly what I would call a safe environment for creative people to openly express their thoughts and feelings.

And MOP’s response is: Yeah, toughen up there, dude. We all everyday get blasted by self-entitled nerd ragers who send vehement, threatening emails to our bosses that we be fired. Didn’t you learn in grade school to shrug this off like everybody else did? And hey, cry me a river, you billion-dollar baby.

Next time I read a posting from an avid gamer crying on his/her pitty-pot that developers never communicate that sound you hear will be me ROFLMAO.

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steve

My response is : Don’t you remember when you did this sort of thing and made insulting demands of the devs outright in public? You’re a professional, and your business should have a set of professional standards for dealing with customers and filtering your own email. It’s all well and good to ask players to behave in a civil manner, but keeping your employees safe from harassment is your job. Toughen up, because it’s a tough game, and review your PR standards.

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Joshua Dickerson

Society as a whole has become less empathetic.

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Knox Harrington

Compared to what? I can think of no better time to live than now. The scarier thought is that we’ve never been more sensitive and empathetic, which means that in ages past, we were far worse than we are now.

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Joshua Dickerson

Doesnt quite work that way. Our issues now are compounded because of the anonymity of the internet and the disconnect between “action and consequence”.

While you have your own opinion, I dont see how our current society especially how things have gone in the last year are reflective of a better time.

We have an influx if sympathy in the world which is what is causing people to voice their own personal views. We are seriously lacking in Empathy which is a totally different psychological concept.

Empathy allows you to live in the person’s shoes and contemplate how they are feeling. Sympathy allows you to notice an issue but still retain a distance that does not call you to take action or care about the other person.

Empathy is a far deeper level of caring where you understand the effects of personal words/actions on the whole of society.

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Knox Harrington

The exhibition of empathy or lack thereof does not imply that the capacity for it isn’t there. It simply means that not everyone cares about everyone, and that general indifference has permeated throughout human civilization since its inception. It has only been in modern times that we’ve considered the plight of our fellow man with social entitlement programs like universal healthcare, etc.

This is why I say it’s much better now because at least now, a homeless person can go to the emergency room and receive care and sleep in a government-funded shelter because there was a time when we’d just let them die in the streets and throw them away with the trash.

You are right that the internet has perhaps exacerbated the issue, but I would argue that all it has done is given the indifference a louder voice. It is not a new voice. It’s always been there and often expressed to a much harsher degree than now, where it is consolidated mostly to the internet. Don’t get me wrong; we still have a long way to go, but we’ve also come a long way to get here. As a student of history, I certainly wouldn’t want to be living in any other time period, despite my romantic tendencies to say otherwise.

miol
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miol

Developers speak to you directly, using our real names…

Just another indirect stab on anonymity and privacy using scapegoats, bred by devs themselves and their non-stop 2nd-Coming-of-Christ-hypetrains, all while that tiny little hellhole called Facebook over there continues to be ignored!

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Hirku

I really don’t get this “anonymity causes toxicity” argument. A lifetime of customers going batshit two feet from my face suggests otherwise.

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Mark

The disease is humanity.

borghive
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borghive

I work with the public every day, people are crazy!

miol
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miol

My experiences exactly as well!

rondstat
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rondstat

Game developers are overworked and underpaid. They’re driven by passion, and never deserve the type of vitriol generated by the worst sorts of nerd ragers.

And yet – I can’t help but feel like there’s a little karma at play here. Sure, most of the Overwatch team should in no way be subject to the verbal abuse certain types like to sling freely. But Tigole is something of a monument in online toxicity, and if you’ve ever read any of his more legendary Everquest posts, he’s gone far more abusive towards developers than I’ve ever seen towards Overwatch. He’s still revered as one of the greatest contributors to the WoW forum culture.

I’d like to see the horrible (and unfortunately, often deserved) reputation gaming culture has be replaced with at least a modicum of civility. But, until then, Kaplan’s one of the game directors I least mind seeing the subject of its scrutiny.

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Melissa McDonald

Or, just maybe, gasp, did they ever think making a PvP game wasn’t going to incite trash-talk, anger, revenge, vitriol, bile, and bitters?
My hate for PvP really is just an MMO thing. I love World of Tanks, and it’s definitely team-based-PvP. I die in almost every game. But I don’t really hear a lot of trash talking in that game, nor do I feel especially picked on or singled out… probably because our avatars aren’t “us” so much as they are vehicles. But kind of a no-brainer that a PvP game will have a more PvP community, inside the game, and in the forums, and every space the game touches. You reap what you sow.

I bet they wouldn’t be saying these things if they’d made the next FreeRealms!

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Dystopiq

That’s because most of the people who play WoT can’t speak English :^)

borghive
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borghive

Not all PVP games have the same community. When you market and design your game to appeal to mass audiences this is what happens. The simplistic nature OW tends to attract a lot of gamer’s that don’t typically care about community, add to it the intense focus on E-sports Blizzard is trying to force down everyone’s throat, it is no wonder they have such a toxic atmosphere.

I know this problem isn’t exclusive to Blizzard games, but they do tend to attract toxic players due to how simplistic their games tend to be.

Reader

Apparently not all devs are “innocent” either.

Riot apologizes for League of Legends dev who joked about streamer’s death

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birini

LoL is the most toxic community I’ve ever seen (having never played EVE). Somehow, this is sad but not entirely surprising.

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Ket Viliano

EvE is really only toxic in fits and spurts, most of us space bros are pretty chill.

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Melissa McDonald

what the heck is a “homunculus” ? is this American slang?

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rafael12104

Well, I get my refinement on definitions from The Big Bang Theory like all good nerds do.

Reader

http://www.dictionary.com/browse/homunculus
1.
an artificially made dwarf, supposedly produced in a flask by an alchemist.
2.
a fully formed, miniature human body believed, according to some medical theories of the 16th and 17th centuries, to be contained in the spermatozoon.
3.
a diminutive human being.
4.
the human fetus

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Melissa McDonald

Hm so. a pregnant woman has food cravings because of the homunculus… ROFL

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Hirku

I do sympathize. I think toxicity is unacceptable. I also wish I had to deal directly with all these problems that come with a billion-dollar franchise.

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Knox Harrington

This whole “toxic” buzzword needs to go away. It’s overused and overly vague. Kaplan sounds way too emo for an adult who’s been working in the online gaming industry for well over a decade. There’s some pretty mean people out there? No shit. That’s a grade school life lesson right there. They made a game people care too much about and his response has been caring too much as well. He needs to detach, take some time off, and practice diaphragmatic breathing techniques.

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Utakata

So what term would you use to replace it then? Or are you one of those types that believes the problem will go away if people stopped using the word? o.O

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Knox Harrington

If you replace “toxic” with some other term, that new term will just become the new “toxic” and therefore changing nothing. It’s become this buzzword in the industry that is too vaguely defined as basically, “people who say things I don’t like”, which is problematic unto itself. And to combat “toxicity” companies implement tools that players can abuse and further suck up developer time.

Obviously, ignoring the problem won’t make it go away because the problem is inherent in the human condition. There’s only so much developers can do so if Kaplan is losing sleep and quality time with the family over this, there’s an issue with his approach to his job that he has to resolve for the sake of his own sanity.

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Utakata

It has to be given a word then. Because folks overly use or abuse that term doesn’t make it problematic in of itself. It exists because it’s an actual problem.

So I would keep it simple and stick with calling it toxicity. No point in trying to reinvent the wheel on this, that will make it more convoluted and open to abuse than it already is…or supposedly is. Just saying.

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Knox Harrington

It’s too broad. Define it. What is it that is so toxic? What are the parameters? Where is the line? And what measures can a company actually take or should take? At what point does this boil down to expecting everyone to give each other high-fives like at the end of a pee wee sports game? It’s an unrealistic and lofty goal to demand that people be nice to each other because you have a hard time ignoring people raging and trying to troll you.

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Utakata

You are claiming it’s too broad. I suspect most would reasonably understand what that is outside your opinion of it.

Besides, you really can’t have it both ways. That is, claim there is an issue, but assert the term to describe it is too vague at the same time. So which is it?

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Roger Christie

Oh look! It’s the Both Sides Do It set!
Hint: No. They don’t.

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Utakata

No he didn’t make that arguement…yet. Rather he’s turning the debate into a No True Scotsman, as opposed asserting a moral equivalency. Although both are equally bad logic fallacies in their own way. :(

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Knox Harrington

Who said both sides do it? Only one side is “toxic.” They rage and troll. The other side fails to ignore it. Both sides fail to adequately and maturely process their emotions, but the side that fails to ignore it isn’t responsible or to blame, and I never suggested it either.

All I’ve been saying is that there is no amount of measures that can be taken to completely remove apparent toxicity from competitive gaming so either way, those being targeted by the toxicity of others are going to have to report, ignore, and move on. If you let it actually get to you, then the trolls win.

If a developer is skipping family functions because people are being mean to each other in the game, then there is clearly something wrong there and the onus is not wholly on the people being mean. At some point, you have to be able to take a step back and breathe. They were mean yesterday, they’ll still be mean tomorrow. For every mole you whack, four more take its place. Go home. Spend some time with your family.

Bree Royce
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Bree Royce

Ignoring toxicity does not make it go away, just like ignoring trolls does not make them go away.

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Knox Harrington

No, the point of ignoring it is not to make it go away. That’s obviously impossible. The point is to not let it affect you. Report, ignore, and move on. You shouldn’t be losing sleep over it and neither should a developer. Keep fighting the good fight but it is a never-ending fight. If you can’t emotionally detach yourself from it, it will drain you and ruin the game for you. And that’s when the trolls win.

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Bruno Brito

“No, the point of ignoring it is not to make it go away. That’s obviously impossible. The point is to not let it affect you. Report, ignore, and move on.”

That’s not how it works.

If you’re this detached from people, you clearly have a mental issue too. Words get to people. “Thick skin” doesn’t cut it. This world has people from all shapes and sizes and mental capabilities and sensitivities, and it’s completely wrong to dictate how they should think and behave based on assholery.

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Utakata

As I said, you can’t have it both ways. You need to define it as well as recognize it. The toxicity, is more than an adequate term to describe the problem. And I doubt folks at large is going to change that on the opinion of one person and an /upvote. Just saying.

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Knox Harrington

I don’t think “toxicity” is that adequate for some of these people because it skirts over just how much mental health plays a role in all of this. An elitist berating fellow players’ competency is one thing, and certainly detrimental to the community, but the ones that take it an extra step and start threatening violence etc have some serious problems. “Toxicity” doesn’t do that justice at all and even downplays just how much of an issue it is.

Obviously detrimental behavior needs to be defined and recognized as you said, but with the way companies are now using “toxicity” like this blanket term because it’s convenient, it’s neither being defined nor wholly recognized. Plus, the more you repeat a word, the less impact it has. There is a variety of ways to address the issue. Repeating “toxic” ad nauseum is lazy and induces complacency.

And of course, I don’t expect my view to gain any traction, but I would settle for a nickel every time an Overwatch article mentions toxicity so I can retire early, because at this point, I know more about this game’s terrible community than the game itself.

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Utakata

“…it’s neither being defined nor wholly recognized.”

I would need to some *credible citation on that before I would consider taking a look at it. Beyond that, I’ll have to agree to disagree here and move on.

*Read: No quoting /redditors, 4 Chan’ers or GomerGaters as sources for example. :)

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Vincent Clark

the difference being, in grade school you had a real name and face to go with the harsh words you encountered. at least, that was the case back in my day (showing my age). these days, however, the internet is the coward’s playground.

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starbuck1771

I disagree sure there are a lot of cowards however there are some of us bad asses out here too. I will gladly give you my name if you don’t know it already and even my personal address if you ask but be warned I am armed and for an old guy can be deadly if someone crosses the line.

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Melissa McDonald

You know, there are decaffeinated brands that are just as tasty as the real thing. I’m just sayin’…

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starbuck1771

But they are not as tasty. :P

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Vincent Clark

oh to be a “bad ass”, life goals for sure. like totally.

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Knox Harrington

Which is another reason why someone of Kaplan’s tenure should have perspective and thicker skin. He has to know that there is just this incessant wave of rage-babies who have literally nothing else to live for but video games, so they’ll take any perceived misstep as a death threat and respond in kind. If his ability to ignore this dreck has worn off, it’s time to go on vacation.

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MrNude

Until you’ve worked in IT, or just plain customer service you can’t even begin to understand how petty, and ignorant people are. I’m not singling anyone out, because on any given day it could be any one of us who gets fired up about something. People as a whole need to understand that at the end of the day it is just a game, and whatever gets done will get done eventually. Dev’s don’t take things too personally because plainly people suck. Most don’t, but the ones that do ruin it for everyone else.

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birini

Yeah, that’s kind of how your playerbase feels about playing with them. And your playerbase often has to pay for the honor. Not saying he doesn’t have a point. Not saying the hours for game developers aren’t stupid long. (They are.) But anyone who has played a Blizzard game in the last decade fully knows there are extremely toxic community members and empathizes. If they want to stop it, they have to be more proactive and plaintive posts on the message boards are unlikely to be enough.

Also, and I’m sure this will get me branded by some, they have some old issues to get past. For example, Jay Wilson’s famous “f*** that guy” to David Brevik completely uncalled for. When their developers engage in that behavior, it shouldn’t surprise them when the community thinks it’s okay.

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Melissa McDonald

Overwatch can’t be reasoned with. It can’t be bargained with. And it absolutely will not stop until the devs are dead! That’s what it does. That’s all it does!

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