I’d be lying if I said that my recent interest in Overwatch wasn’t a hankering for some of the ‘Good ol’ Days’ I spent hanging around TF2 servers. In recent years, my online FPS playing has been a gentle mix of squad based co-op and the unavoidable Battle Royale invasion, but those days of chipping away or digging in against the desert backdrop of Dustbowl have never really been matched in terms of smooth and direct team based combat. Enter the super-new and latest release of “Overwatch”… erm… ok, so I’m late to the party here, but in my defence it was only a few weeks ago that there was a free Overwatch event on Switch which meant that I finally decided to try Blizzard’s class based team shooter. The hours I spent with it that week, and the subsequent attractive sale price, coerced me in to dipping in to my PayPal funds to spring for it.
Since then I’ve more than once been pretty thankful that it was a free-to-play event that got me interested as at least there were a large pool of other inexperienced noobs bumbling about on the server trying to figure out which character was most ‘them’, and why exactly you shouldn’t attack zappy-beam-lady when she’s glowing red. In short, the shear number of characters means that there is quite a bit to pick up here, even if you’re only focusing on a few of that motley crew yourself. For the record, I play as Tracer… yes, I’ve briefly dabbled with other characters, and no, I don’t want to play as them… I play as Tracer, but I’m going to come back to that later.
Much of the enjoyment to be had with Overwatch revolves around the smooth & slick interpretation it presents of some fairly by-the-numbers gameplay styles… mainly ‘territory control’. Yes, of course there’s the charm of the overtly theatrical and diverse cast of characters and an inviting vibrant world in which games are set, but under the hood it just does that one thing very very well; it’s a one trick pony… but it does that trick so well that you can’t help but want to see it over and over again. There are flourishes too that make the whole experience more palatable: role queuing to auto-balance up teams and give everyone a chance to play as the character they want, drop in games to hone your skills whilst you’re waiting for a game, and the usual dumptruck full of unlocks, levels, and customisation to plump up the experience. I’m even gong to drop in a good word for the Switch version which plays smoothly (if not the most attractively) and includes those motion control that I’m kind of getting used to…
… then stomps in ‘Play of the Game‘; that highlight reel that’s supposed to showcase a single standout moment in the round you’ve just experienced, but instead showcases the biggest multi-kill…. No! No, Overwatch, bad game, no, you don’t get a biscuit! Play of the game should be about the actual ‘Play of the Game‘: That moment where Tracer zipped over to the enemy’s point to fore a split in their defence and break a deadlock, that other moment where Tracer flanked to take out their medic rather than fruitlessly pummelling their tank classes, that third moment when Tracer ran rings around their point defence providing enough distraction for a major assault to succeed. Of course you’re going to pick up a multi-kill based ‘Play of the Game‘ if you can turn in to a literal battle tank and unleash a barrage of fire, or if you can send your novelty oversized mech in to the middle of a crowd of enemies and self-destruct, but where’s the finesse? Where’s the tactical analysis? Where’s the annoying British accent?
Maybe you’ve spotted a slight pattern to my point here. Yes, that’s right, I’m shallow enough to get annoyed at not picking up ‘Play of the Game’. Ok, sure I’ve had a few…
… but there could be more! oh so many more! I’m not the Ralph Gunderson of this game by any stretch of the imagination, but I’m also not terrible by quick-play-on-Switch-public-game standards*. I pick up golds for objective time, kill participation, and even streaks pretty often… plus I spent all my hard earned not-real-ingame-non-premium-money on a cool skin and that emote where Tracer just sits there with a blank expression on their face… now that’s commitment.
Ok, ok, ok… the real reason this annoys me is because of TF2; or more accurately the way I used to play TF2 as scout. You see, I picked Tracer because she’s the more Scout like character with her low health, short range weapon but high manoeuvrability. The problem is that I’m a terrible Scout player… I mean, I’m actually a fair Scout player… but I’m a terrible Scout player (if that makes sense). As a Scout I’m absolutely 100% in it for myself. My goal is not territory control, but hitting the top of the scoreboard. It’s dominating Snipers to the point that they leave the server over actually capturing the intel, and it’s ensuring that as many enemy kill-cams as possible see me doing a silly taunt. Oh yes, I’m a terrible Scout player. You know, thinking about it, this may be why I’ve rarely played competitive FPS’s with my gaming friends. We play squad based co-op and I’m absolutely a team player, but in competitive… I’m much less fun to be on a team with…. and Overwatch knows it… somewhere a Blizzard employee watches all my games and says to themselves “no, not a team player, you’re not getting ‘Play of the Game‘”… I hate that Blizzard Employee**.
I guess what I’m really trying to say… after a lot of soul searching is… I deserve ‘Play of the Game’ Blizzard!!! …. also don’t play on my Overwatch team, I’m a terrible teammate.
*These may or may not be high standards… also Ralph Gunderson may or may not be good at Overwatch… or a real person.
** I assume that Play of the Game is controlled by a team of Blizzard staff making judgement calls on every game being played.