Game Overwatch

Gather ’round while I tell you a tale of a not-so-young Karinshastha and their experience with a wonderful First Person Shooter game played primarily by people who aren’t female.

I’ve been playing Overwatch for a little over a month now and I’ve come to the conclusion that this very pretty, well-polished game is not something I am inclined to continue with, even on a casual basis. It’s worth the purchase price of $40 as far as I’m concerned. Getting a month out of it is quite all right. I don’t spend much on games in the first place. What drove me to this conclusion was the fact that at some point, I’m going to have to get better at this game in order to enjoy it, and there’s no good way to do that without investing an unpleasant amount of effort into being social with highly competitive young people who are more than happy to rage when things aren’t going the way they’d planned. Microphone required.

The maps are beautiful, the mechanics are smooth, the animations are fluid, some of the sounds are borderline ASMR, and the game play is pure adrenaline. The audio-visual-kinesthetic experience is excellent.

The problem I face, however, is that this eventually fades and I find myself craving a structured experience that casual play does not offer. Enter competitive play, in which one is constrained to a handful of character picks out of the 23 on offer in order to be maximally effective for one’s team while not being a burden.

I really enjoy playing D.va, the young Korean mech pilot with armor and infinite ammo and a low skill floor. I’d play her every game if I could. But you’re not supposed to do that in competitive Overwatch – you need to be versatile and swap heroes as the situation calls for it. If they have a Pharah raining justice from above, you’re supposed to bring Soldier 76 and shoot her out of the sky.

Okay, I can do that. Soldier is the game’s best-known all-rounder. He can sprint, heal, do good damage, and his ultimate is literally aim assist. No problem.

I can also bring Pharah. I used to play Quake extensively. I can point rockets at people’s feet and pilot her jet pack reasonably well. I know where my Q button is when I want to unleash a deadly rocket barrage. Sure, I’ll insta-die to a sniping Widowmaker, but as long as I take a few with me, it’s a good trade.

D.va’s getting a pretty big nerf next patch to the point where she’s no longer desirable. Okay, who else do I like to play? Sombra, the hacker, whose usefulness is very situational and requires a team to play around her. Tracer, the zippy track star who requires a great deal of skill to play effectively – skill I don’t have and don’t want to invest the time in training at the expense of other heroes. Mercy, the healer whose usefulness and utility is eclipsed by every other healer in the game and, like Sombra, requires a team to play around her. Ana, the sniping healer who requires an accuracy of 60% in order to be more effective than Mercy in a vacuum.

I’d train for that, I guess. The problem, though, is that competitive compositions are very limited and comprise characters that I mostly don’t enjoy playing. What happens when Ana is taken (perhaps by a more skilled Ana player) and so are the DPS roles (as they usually are)? I don’t mind Lúcio, the super-mobile wall-rider who heals by merely existing. Zarya, the Russian bodybuilder who shoots beams and bubbles is all right. I don’t care for the heavily armored meatshield known as Reinhardt whose rectangular blue shield is mandatory in every single game. I really don’t like Roadhog, a pot-bellied misfit who wears a gas mask and pulls people in with a hook for “picks.” Everyone else, apart from the abovementioned favorites, gets a resounding meh. (Except Mei, she’s super cute and I have no idea how to play her effectively.)

Play something that isn’t on the above list in competitive and you open yourself up to toxicity for having committed the cardinal sin of picking an available hero who is not in the “meta” for winning games. Manageable in a game like Smite, perhaps, where you have 83 gods to choose from and much more flexibility in finding something you like. Not so much in Overwatch, where I’ve found that your often teenage (or younger) compatriots are ready to jump all over your ass at the drop of a hat. And if you’re not playing to win, like you should be, even the Game Masters will jump on your ass.

So just play casually, right?

Well, I think I’ve exhausted my enjoyment of Arcade Play. There’s only so many all-Reinhardt or all-McCree brawls I can take before bowing out. I’m not interested in 3v3 elimination matches or 1v1 mystery duels – I am happiest when operating as part of a largish team – or no limits matches where people pick three of the same hero. Mystery Hero matches are all right – you get a random hero every time you respawn – but they don’t help me git gud at any specific hero.

And then there’s Quick Play, the casual alternative to Competitive Play. In Quick Play, you can play whatever you want and learn your hero’s abilities and the maps and health pack locations and so forth. There’s no team cohesion or strategy to speak of, mostly random Team Fortress 2 with a team that’s a third of the size in a scale-appropriate fortress so you’re bound to run into the Now Spectating screen relatively quickly once you’ve hit level 25 and start getting matched with level 400 players who are warming up before or cooling off after rousing matches of high-level competitive play.

I’ve played my share of Quick Play. It doesn’t do much to help you learn how to play your hero effectively, just what the abilities actually do, so to train for Quick Play (which sounds a bit ridiculous, but whatever), I decided to set up custom games with bots. Hard difficulty Lúcios padding both teams – Lúcio uses a speed boost, moves unpredictably, and keeps you alive – are good for training tracking. Just last night I was fairly adrenalized by my increased ability to track and kill the bots on Sombra while listening to very loud music (best way to train, I’ve found). They’re always running after health packs and are a pain to kill, but I was doing it with regularity.

But did I really pay $40 for a shooting range simulator? And do I want to spend thirty minutes to an hour a day training for an unknown payout at some point in the distant future on the roster of a squad full of jocular man-children (and children) who only like you when they win?

Maybe it’s my attitude that’s the issue here. I’ve calmed my temper considerably, when I can remember to, and have even been able to type words of encouragement in the chat box. But I really don’t have any motivation to get on voice chat and start calling shots or compliment assholes on their play to stroke their egos and stop them from tilting and/or throwing.

Essentially, I’d need to find enough motivation to seek out other players, group up with them, and queue for competitive play as a team in voice chat if I really wanted to get any further enjoyment out of Overwatch. I couldn’t even be bothered to do voice chat in The Secret World, which I enjoyed very much while I was in the swing of things. I think the last time I did it was in Guild Wars 2’s sPvP years ago with my guild – people whom I had gotten to know and who knew me and so I didn’t mind so much talking to them on my tin-can audio jack microphone. Random people? Ehhhhh, no, thank you.

So, bye, Overwatch, I guess. For now? (*shrug*) It was moderately fun and somewhat painful while it lasted.

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4 thoughts on “Game Overwatch

  1. I really like Overwatch – it’s the only game that I play regularly these days. I find it relaxing. But I never log on unless someone I know is on. I spent so much time chasing rating in WoW ranked PvP and in StarCraft only to realize belatedly that none of it means shit anyway. Oddly enough I’ve played in so many toxic PvP groups over the years that the whining and cursing doesn’t bother me anymore – it’s more to do with the fact that I don’t want to be Sisyphus chasing an achievement which I no longer find personally rewarding. I still doff my hat to people who are good at these games because I recognize the skill and effort and dedication behind those shiny ranks – it’s just not for me anymore.

    It’s a shame you can’t find an outlet in the non-competitive parts of the game. I still think you can pursue mastery in Quick Play, which is what I think you want out of competitive play. You just have to rejig your parameters from purely winning and losing. For me it usually takes the form of trying to never ever die. My favorite characters are Winston, Reaper and Soldier, and these guys have the tools and/or mobility to pretty much live forever if you don’t push bad positions or overextend, especially in the fragmented setting of Quick Play. You could log on as Tracer in Quick Play and set a goal for yourself to kill 5 healers or snipers per game, and build that number over time. There are many ways you can hone mastery without ever having to step into competitive again, and you can occasionally jump back into the cauldron on the days you feel like it.

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    1. I’ve been told you’re supposed to play to win but not care about your rank in competitive. Two seemingly mutually incompatible motivations, as far as I can tell. I’d like to figure out how to make that work because Overwatch really is a fantastic game. In terms of toxicity, it’s the personal attacks that infuriate me and cause me to retaliate in turn. My mood is shot for the rest of the day, usually. I don’t want to have to have thick skin.

      But here I am a week later in detox, still watching videos of top-rated players as they run amok on my favorite characters. I’d like to be as good as they are which would require hundreds of hours of play. If I could find a way to make peace with the shitshow of wounded pride and adrenalized anger that comes with the required practice time, I’d be playing right now instead of typing.

      Instead, I’m spending more time being relaxed enough to write novel-length fiction and pottering about in the one game I’m still playing (an MMO) in which I care about absolutely *nothing* and it seems to be working out just fine. Overwatch’s structure is such that it’s hard to not care about performance when pretty much every game mode is *about* performance.

      Though, there’s that new Capture the Flag mode and some pretty attractive Lunar New Year skins. I’ll try to wrap my head around what my personal rejigging of parameters would look like. Overwatch right now is like soda – sugary and rots my teeth – and I need to figure out how to make it more like coffee, a sensible drink for adults that doesn’t make me stay up until 3am drinking it.

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  2. Maybe it’s because I am playing far more casually than you – still not lvl 25 after buying it at launch ! – but I love thequick play. I find it interesting and rewarding, and as nobody is speaking, the active talk is not required. But I see it more as a strategic game – playing character like Rienhardt or Bastion or the woman that create sentry- that do not require reflex or good aim. I find it more interesting to try to understand the flow of the game, and use the good ability at the correct moment to unlock a battle, or to block a big push from the other team.
    Needless to say that playing against bot is the antithesis of the game for me. But the guy I am fighting against are at similar level, no I still find it interesting. Hopefully this will not change after lvl 25.

    But I am the type of gamer that prefer to mute other player or not read them if they started to rage, and do not care if I am playing good or bad – do not even care about “meta”

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    1. I’m so glad to hear that you’re having a great time playing Overwatch. That’s really what the game is supposed to be all about! I started out playing Mercy who doesn’t really require any aim at all unless you pull out your pistol, and even then it’s pretty optional. I wouldn’t mind playing other characters that don’t require aim, such as Symmetra (the one who creates turrets), but I also really need to be able to play Offense characters when necessary, and for that I need aim. I just can’t decouple mastery from enjoyment in Overwatch and I think that’s one of my main personal issues.

      I’ll try to be more like you and just have fun.

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