It turns out that when you reward players for being decent human beings in Overwatch, there’s incentive for people to continue being decent human beings. In other news, scientists expect the sun to continue the same “east to west” rotation. No, really; joking aside, it turns out that the player endorsement system saw a 40% reduction in what’s generally classified as “disruptive behavior” in matches, according to a new piece covering the design principles behind the endorsement system and the struggle to incentivize not being an enormous jerk to others.
Research developer Natasha Miller explained that in the real world, there are obvious and tangible consequences to disrupting social systems, but in games like Overwatch it was harder to create that same dynamic. The endorsement system rises and falls over time, so players who aren’t consistently getting endorsements will fall in rank, and since awards for endorsements are awarded on an unpredictable schedule, players are encouraged to keep getting endorsed for tangible rewards. The whole breakdown is fascinating as an example of fighting bad behavior in online spaces and a good lesson about how adding incentive actually, well, creates an incentive beyond inherent morality.