Overwatch 2’s ban on swearing is the wrong way to tackle toxicity

Emily Stander
Overwatch 2 Heroes

Blizzard’s recent bans on Overwatch 2 players for swearing in chat is causing a significant uproar among the fanbase, and they’re not unjustified in their reaction. Simply put, the blanket ban on swearing is not the right way to deal with toxicity and abusive chat.

Season 10 of Overwatch 2 brought harsher punishments for players who engage in toxic behavior while in-game, and Blizzard have stated that their aim with these changes is to make Overwatch a safer place for all their players. The issue, though, is that their system is inherently flawed. 

Take Mason “Durpee” Kuehne, for example, a collegiate Overwatch 2 player who has been banned from the game for using words in the game chat that Blizzard have deemed offensive – specifically, f**k and sh*t. 

Durpee took the issue to X, where he shared the conversation between himself and Blizzard over the ban. According to the devs, he had been silenced and suspended previously due to offensive use of language, and this is inevitably why he has been banned for 30 days. 

Durpee’s behavior over the time that he has been playing Overwatch 2 is not quite relevant to the question, however, because many more players have come forward since the incident citing that they have been banned from the game for similar reasons. 

In response to some player’s outrage, Blizzard’s customer support have claimed that swearing has never been allowed in their games. “Profanity isn’t allowed in our games. Not explicitly, not abbreviated, not masked or misspelled,” they said in a comment on X.

This statement is questionable. As someone who has been playing Overwatch since its release, I know this is not true. Overwatch League Caster TempoZP also posted on X regarding this claim, confirming that many veteran players of the franchise have not experienced this kind of strict banning before.

“Historically, players were absolutely not banned for garden variety profanity,” TempoZP said. “Gaslighting people who have played the game for 7 years at this point is an awful f**king look.”

I am not fighting to let people be toxic in-game, just to put that forward. However, we need to consider whether cursing actually falls under toxic behavior, and where to draw the line.

Abusive behavior in video games is something all of us have experienced, unfortunately, and there is an incredibly important movement to stop people from harassing minority groups, using slurs, or threatening someone while playing. 

Does cursing fall into that line, though? Well, let’s look at some of the facts: 

Profanity covers all terms that are used that could offend, including the day-to-day that many use such as the f-word and s-word. However, it does also include slurs and blasphemy. 

In Blizzard’s In-Game Code of Conduct, the image below shows what is stated under the ‘Communication’ section: 

Blizzard's Code of ConductThe Code of Conduct prohibits players from using offensive language.

The most important line we need to look at is “You may not use language that could be offensive or vulgar to others,” and whether we want to admit it or not, cursing can be seen as this kind of language for many. 

It is worth noting that this is incredibly subjective, though. It’s impossible to know what each of the 6 million people who play every day find offensive, and it’s certainly not up to the devs to decide what is “offensive” language to them is either – of course, if we’re only speaking in terms of your run-of-the-mill swearing.

There are a few key flaws in a blanket ban on swears: 

  • The game is rated T (13+), which implies that there are no young children who shouldn’t be exposed to ‘bad’ language are playing.
  • The profanity filter lets players filter out any swear words, which becomes inconsequential if players are banned for swearing anyway.
  • Blizzard games do have profanity of some kind in them.

Teen-rated video games have content that may be suitable for persons ages 13 and older. The definition for this rating is that titles in this category may contain violent content, mild or strong language and/or suggestive themes.

While Overwatch 2 doesn’t have overt or excessive swearing, you do have characters in the game using words like ‘Damn,’ (like Ana when she gets discorded by Zen) and ‘Hell,’ which is used by Junker Queen when she respawns: “ Beat me? Like hell you will!” 

‘Hell’ and ‘Damn’ are soft swear words, for lack of a better term, but being desensitized to them doesn’t take away that they are listed under the blanket term profanity. 

Not to mention that Junker Queen also sometimes refers to her teammates as ‘Drongos,’ which is an Australian slang term meaning ‘idiot’ or someone slow, a fool – insulting her teammates as players are not allowed to do in-game.

This presents the main issue that many players have had with the extremely harsh bans: it’s a double standard. 

It is unquestionable that systems have to be in place to protect players from harassment. There is no place for slurs, harassment, and abuse in any space, and of course, that includes video games where people go to relax and have fun. 

This blanket ban on swearing lacks the nuance needed to identify truly abusive language. Players have to be extra careful with each message they write, even if their intention is not bad in any way. Systematically, it needs to be a case where the intention is identified, not a knee-jerk reaction because someone said a swear word to emphasize their point.

With these strict guidelines Blizzard are currently following, though, there is a danger that bans will be seen as unserious or unnecessary, which is not always the case.

Players getting banned for swearing in-game is already leading to resentment, and as a result, more meaningful punishments and important messages the company tries to push forward could get lost among fans not taking their decisions seriously. 

And, among all other things, that’s where the focus should be. It’s about striking that balance, allowing people to feel they aren’t being persecuted for harmless comments, but making sure everyone is respected – including the people who play your games.

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About The Author

Emily is a Games Writer at CharlieIntel. Most of the time, you can find her playing RPGs and platformers - but she enjoys engaging in the rage of Overwatch 2 or Apex Legends from time to time. Emily has a Masters in Media Studies and has been working as a journalist for over 5 years, both freelance and full-time. You can contact her at [email protected]