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Friday, December 8, 2023

Blizzard once again bans Overwatch 2 ‘sexual harassment simulator,’ but not before it reappeared in the popular list

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

A user-created Overwatch 2 mode that simulates sexual assault reappeared in the game’s custom game browser, and for some, showed up as one of the most popular modes.

I verified that the unique code to play the mode was working yesterday and contacted Blizzard. The code no longer works as of today, but I haven’t heard back from Blizzard about what, if anything, it plans to do to prevent the mode from returning to Overwatch. 

“Sexual harassment simulator,” which is an updated version of the mode players found in October, tasks one player with impregnating the female heroes of Overwatch 2. As Cassidy, one player is instructed to knock heroes like Mercy to the ground and repeatedly crouch on their body. The mode says “raping…” at the top of the screen until the female hero is marked as “pregnant,” and instructed to wait for the baby, represented as an AI-controlled Torbjorn, to be born.

The description attributes the mode to the same creator as the original mode, “Amatsuhikone on YouTube.” I had previously found a YouTube channel with that name last year—with a few Overwatch-related videos on it—but it looks to be gone now.

The new mode had been played enough to show up on the game’s popular page, the first thing you see when entering the custom game browser. Reddit user Joyolo13 posted a screenshot of it on the game’s subreddit. I couldn’t see the mode on my popular section on the North American Overwatch 2 servers, but it seems the automatic curation varies per region. An Overwatch 2 player in Sweden verified to me that it was on their popular page and said it was also on their partner’s.

Anyone with the unique code can create a lobby for the mode. You can search for it in the custom game browser using words like “simulator,” but it’s not always available, nor is it always under the same title.

Overwatch 2’s custom game browser tends to have modes that are marked as “18+” and some claim to be for erotic roleplaying, but over the five years the browser has been out, I’ve never seen a mode as explicit as “sexual harassment simulator.”

It doesn’t appear that Blizzard’s moderation tools automatically filter out those words from the title or description. You can report modes from their information pages for “abusive custom game text,” but Blizzard doesn’t let you type in an explanation like you can when reporting players.

When the mode surfaced late last year, Twitter user Lynn MBE posted a PSA to parents of children who might find the mode. Lynn said their son found the mode, “realized it was bad, closed the game and told me.” Popular comedian and Twitch streamer Brian “Limmy” Limond boosted the PSA with his own screenshots of the mode, while pointing out how the game is “marketed to 12-year-olds.”

“Inappropriate or explicit content has absolutely no place in our game,” a Blizzard spokesperson told PC Gamer after we contacted it about the mode last year. “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.”

Roblox’s user-created game moderation was recently exposed by a parent and games industry veteran after she spent six hours perusing its massive library of custom games. Despite having an age rating system in place, she saw “weird pedo stuff and bathroom voyeur games and suicidal  idealization,” without any age-gating and deleted her kids’ accounts immediately. 

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