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'Sexual assault' custom game mode reveals a glaring Overwatch moderation problem


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Content warning: This news story includes descriptions of sexual assault.

Overwatch 2 has seen an influx of user-created custom game modes since its free-to-play launch earlier this month. Like a lot of FPS games with custom server browsers, Overwatch 2's custom games can be named anything allowed by Blizzard's word filters and character limit. However, that hasn't prevented a mode called "Sexual Assault Simulator" from showing up, which sparked Twitter user Lynn MBE to post a PSA for anyone who might encounter it. 

"Do not let your children play Overwatch," they warned. Lynn MBE says her 12-year-old son found the mode, "realized it was bad, closed the game and told me." Comedian and Twitch streamer Brian "Limmy" Limond posted several screenshots of the mode's listing that he found on Twitter in response to Lynn MBE's tweet.

The description for the mode reads: "This is version 1.2 of the new and unique Sexual Harassment Simulator. Find new friends, live a normal life and give birth to a child!"

When you enter it, it forces one player to play as Cassidy against a team of strictly female Overwatch heroes. In the top-left of the screen, it instructs you to "Flash to knock down your victims," which refers to Cassidy's old Overwatch 1 Flashbang ability and then says to "Tbag to 'frell'," which is written with spaces, seemingly to get around a word filter. As you crouch, text appears on the top of the screen that says "'storming'…" Enemy heroes are then marked as "pregnant" and, eventually, a Torbjorn bot is spawned to simulate a child.

The mode, which is attributed to YouTube user Amatsuhikone, was playable through a custom game code in Overwatch 1 as early as January, but has been updated following Overwatch 2's release.

"Inappropriate or explicit content has absolutely no place in our game," a Blizzard spokesperson told PC Gamer in response to my question about the mode. "We immediately removed the user-created game mode once made aware of its existence. We are continually working to improve automatic filters to prevent inappropriate user-created content, and manually removing any that are not caught by the system."

Do not let your children play Overwatch. My 12yo son found custom games within it, one called, 'sexual harassment' and one game that simulated the female characters being raped. Thankfully my son realised it was bad, closed the game and told me. Don't play #OverwatchOctober 23, 2022

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However, Blizzard seems to have only removed current listings of this mode in the custom games browser—I've verified that the unique five-digit code that allows you to play the mode is still available. Anyone with the code could presumably turn it into a public game and re-list it. It's possible to report custom game titles and descriptions through a button on the browser page, but for instances like this, where the mode itself violates the rules, there's no easy way to communicate that to Blizzard.

It's common to see Overwatch custom games titled "18+" or "NSFW" alongside things like "roleplay," but those warnings are usually used on things like empty maps to chill out and voice chat in, not elaborate creations that require custom scripting through the game's Workshop feature. Rarely do you see a mode so egregiously in violation of the game's rules before a single player even enters it.

In this case, Blizzard's moderation appears to be limited. It doesn't seem to include banning custom game codes, nor does it seem to fully filter offensive words out of the text within them. It's also unclear if the original creator has received any sort of punishment.

Custom server and game browsers can be a boon for lively FPS communities looking for an alternative to the regular modes and matchmaking, but strong moderation in those spaces is vital, especially for a game like Overwatch 2, which is primarily targeted at teens.

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