The intense frustration of losing a match. The bitterness I feel towards last-second failures. The resentment I have for inept teammates who keep roaming directly into the enemy’s line of sight. The overwhelming sense of regret upon wasting an ultimate. These are feelings that overcome me with every Overwatch match. I haven’t felt this way about a multiplayer game in a long time.
I sat down on a gloomy Sunday afternoon for a “quick” bash of Overwatch. Four hours later, I found myself only just getting comfortable with Mei, a character I had yet to play as in the fifty-plus hours I’d played across the open beta and the final game. What started as a casual game turned into an aggressively competitive bout with friends, grouped up in a seemingly never-ending stream of attack and defence.
There’s something special about Overwatch, and something tells me we haven’t even seen the best of it. As I’ve slowly work my way up to level 25 (50 seems oh-so far away), I’ve noticed a shift in match pace and strategy. It’s hard to believe that there’s someone out there more infatuated with Overwatch than I, but it’s clear that the best of the community are seaping their way into matches with the far less experienced Hero, inevitably leading into one-sided matches of long-distanced multi-kills and stationary payloads.
I’ve reached a point now where I’m “struggling” in a way that I am far less influential on a match than I was on launch day or at any point during the beta. Yet I keep coming back, and it’s because Overwatch scratches an itch, one that constantly burrows its way into my subscious, feeding me with visions of “DIE, DIE, DIE!” and “Justice reigns from above!”
For the first time in almost a decade, I am deeply engaged in a game that is only in the early stages of its trek into the professional arena. When I first played the beta for Call Of Duty 4 back in 2007, you could sense that it was the start of something special: not overtly unique, but still very special in its own way. Upon its release later that year, I found myself neglecting basic life fundamentals, opting instead for the tense virtual battles of the modern battlefield.
There have been plenty of multiplayer games since COD4 that I have mindlessly sunk hundreds of hours into, but I haven’t actually dreamt of any. You know that you’re playing a game too much (or maybe just enough) when you start having dreams about it. From the moment I wake up until late at night, this overbearing urge to play Overwatch has been eyeing down the path of addiction, which can only mean that Blizzard’s onto a winner.
I hate to trivialise addiction in such a way, and I can pull myself away from Overwatch whenever I want (no, really, I can!), but I get the feeling that it’s only the beginning: I haven’t been so keen on a game’s growth in esports in years, and it’s comforting to be part of a community from the onset, as opposed to trying to work my way in once it’s already established itself on the circuit.
I have no intentions of working my way into the professional Overwatch scene — I am just not good enough — but it’s something I want to be engaged with in other ways, because Overwatch makes me feel like I am genuinely part of its winning formula. Those emotions I mentioned above reflect the outcomes of a game that wants you to succeed and have “fun”, but isn’t afraid of slamming you back down to the ground for not towing the team line.
It can be a tough road to appreciate and understand that — there’s been plenty of heated discussion between randoms in team chat — but Overwatch’s “easy to play, hard to master” philosophy makes it an exciting prospect, one certainly with a fascinating future.