It might be more than a decade old, but Blizzard's World of Warcraft is still coming up with new ways to make its users play nice. The latest of these might not be so novel for people with siblings, though — the developer is adopting the silent treatment. Players who are found to be abusive or who spam chat channels too often will face a new silence penalty, introduced in the patch before the game's next big Legion expansion pack, that will restrict them from talking with their peers outside of a few limited channels.
Players who are reported by fellow users for abusive or spam messages will only be able to directly message other users, talk in dedicated raid channels, or in global chat with a moderator present. They won't be able to talk in general chat channels or send in-game mail for 24 hours, and if they do it again, their penalty will be doubled. Blizzard says there's no maximum to this penalty, meaning really abusive players could be put in video game time out for years for repeated transgressions.
Really abusive players could eventually be silenced for years
The new measure comes as video games are still trying to work out how to deal with abusive, annoying, and generally toxic players. In addition to Blizzard, Riot, the studio behind mega-hit MOBA League of Legends, is well known for experimenting on its players to work out just why a subset get so angry when playing their game. At 2013's Game Developer Conference, Riot designer and Neuroscience PhD Jeffrey Lin explained how the developer wrote pre-game messages in different color text, before recording player responses. In one example, Lin specified that players reacted better when precautionary messages — like "Teammates perform worse if you harass them after a mistake" — were written in red rather than in white.