Overwatch game director, Jeff Kaplan, had announced in one of the developer updates that the studio would be monitoring out-of-game behavior and cracking down on Overwatch players for making comments, posting images, sharing videos, and using social media in ways they deemed “toxic”. Well, Blizzard just handed out fines to Overwatch League players who were posting memes on social media, using Twitch emotes that Blizzard deemed racist, and for comments that some of the players made during their own personal streams that Blizzard labeled as “anti-gay”.
When Kaplan said that Blizzard would be monitoring off-site activity of Overwatch players and taking action against them, some people thought that they would only apply this to video footage of in-game Overwatch play, but that isn’t true at all. Blizzard is definitely monitoring more than just video footage of the game, as they’ve fined Timo “Taimou” Kettunen from the Dallas Fuel for $1,000 because he used an “anti-gay” slur during one of his own personal Twitch streams.
In an update post over on the official OWL website, Blizzard also informed the community that Dallas Fuel’s Félix “xQc” Lengyel is also in headlines again, this time being suspended for four matches and fined $4,000 for using an emote during a stream that they deemed “racially disparaging”.
[Update: According to some gamers, the emote that Blizzard found “racially disparaging” was the TriHard emote, based on streamer Trihex, as noted by KnowYourMeme. YouTuber theScore eSports has a video on the history of the Twitch emote]
In fact, it’s not even limited to just streams and Overwatch. Blizzard enacted the fine based on Lengyel using the mote on social media, where the post states….
“xQc repeatedly used an emote in a racially disparaging manner on the league’s stream and on social media, and used disparaging language against Overwatch League casters and fellow players on social media and on his personal stream.”
Yes, you can be banned or fined for using emotes in ways that Blizzard deems racist.
In fact, you don’t even have to use emotes or post anything racist, homophobic, sexist, or transphobic to get fined or banned by Blizzard. In the case of Ted “Silkthread” Wang, he was fined $1,000 for sharing his account with someone else.
Tae-yeong “TaiRong” Kim, from the Houston Outlaws, also received a warning for posting what Blizzard labeled as an “offensive meme” on social media.
According to Blizzard, they find it unacceptable to post memes or images – even outside of Overwatch communities – that they find offensive…
“It is unacceptable for members of the Overwatch League to use or distribute hateful, racist, or discriminatory speech or memes. It is important for all members to be aware of the impact their speech may have on others.”
Right now Blizzard is cracking down on players who are part of the Overwatch League. There are strict codes of conduct both during league play and out-of-league behavior that players and teams must adhere to at all times, even when it comes to what they share or do through their personal social media accounts. Blizzard’s streaming partner, Twitch, is also applying ban policies for off-site activity, whether you’re part of the Overwatch League or not.
However, given that Blizzard’s policy about curbing toxicity was aimed at the general Overwatch community, how long will it be before bans are extended to average players for posting high-risk memes or using dangerously-dank emotes on social media?
[Update 3/12/2018:] Following the publication of this article, Dallas Fuel announced on its official website that it has released Félix “xQc” Lengyel. The team issued a statement on Lengyel’s release, saying…
“Our focus is to field a roster with players that are available to help the Dallas Fuel succeed now and in the future. Releasing Félix today allows us the flexibility to make additional signings during the league transfer window and allows Félix to pursue other opportunities this season and on stream.”
Lengyel is now a free agent and Dallas Fuel will look to fill out its roster now that the emote-using player has been let go from the team.
(Main image courtesy of bhelve)