A little over a year ago, I was stood inside my local purveyor of quality Video Games and I had, in my grubby little mitts, several as-of-yet-un-owned titles. In fact, as per my “system”, I’d already picked up every game in store that I didn’t already own, and only afterwards did I start to make any kind of decisions regarding what I’d actually purchase with my actual cash-money. Because I like to maintain the pretense that “No, I don’t have a compulsive Game buying problem, thankyouverymuch…”, I usually make a (token) effort to talk myself out of at least one or two titles, and on this occasion, one of these was Overwatch. At the time the game had just launched, so my reasoning included “waiting a bit to see how it all panned out”, so that, plus Overwatch’s total lack of any kind of Single Player Campaign, meant it got put back on the shelf….. at least for the time being. Since that fateful day, not only did everybody seem to go a bit daft over what Overwatch was offering, but, because I’m an eejit and I’d actually talked myself out of being a part of that from the very beginning, I still clung to the idea that I’d made the right decision.
As such, I’d frequently find spurious (and often conflicting) reasons to avoid admitting, acknowledging (and ultimately correcting) my mistake. So, “Look at it, it’s for the kiddies” I’d say one second, immediately followed by “Jesus, with that many different characters, you’d need to be a full-on genius to work out all the different variations and whatnot”, and because Cognitive Dissonance is a splendid thing, I’d see no contradiction in the two positions. Even as the number of people playing Overwatch surpassed the population of average sized countries, I was still all like “whotevs…..still a niche game, innit!?“, essentially doubling down on the whole eejit position.
Recently, however, I seem to have come across a lot of people in the WordPress community extolling the virtues of Overwatch, and in a period of a few days I happened to see a few people say stuff like “honestly, I’ve put about 200 hours into Overwatch and I still can’t get enough of it” or, “Even after a year, I’m still finding it fresh and interesting” and that forced me to re-evaluate my position. Maybe Overwatch wasn’t for me, but if loads of people whose opinions I respected were saying how good it was, it seemed like I should really give it a shot at least. Obviously, I’d still be kicking myself for all the time I’d lost but, like, better late than never and all that.
So this past Sunday, I warmed up my trigger finger (and no, that’s not a euphemism), sequestered myself in the TV room, and I loaded up Overwatch for the very first time. As I’d kind of suspected, the sheer number of available characters seemed quite daunting at first, so I spent the first couple of hours just dicking around; first in the target range thingy, and then in the practice maps against enemy AI. 24 playable characters is still a lot though, and even just spending a few minutes on each one took a chunk of time and, because I’m not as young as I once was, by the time I’d made it through the full roster, I’d already forgotten most of the characters I’d tried earlier. I seem to spend a lot of my time these days confused, frustrated or overwhelmed – so I should be used to it, really – but still….. that generally isn’t what I look for in my Games, and I wasn’t overly keen on the idea of getting my ass handed to me whilst I clumsily stabbed at random buttons. Normally in multiplayer games I’ll take a crack at the Campaign by way of a warm up, but of course that wasn’t an option here so I, like, cheated and I Googled shit. Because of Overwatch’s popularity, the t’internet contains thousands upon thousands of guides, tips and techniques for the Game, including many written for those just starting out with it, and even a fair few for those confused, frustrated and/or overwhelmed by it all too. Which was nice.
Even nicer, some of them had even been so kind as to include “best characters in each class for beginners” type elements, so I read those bad boys, returned to the game, and narrowed my practice to focus more on these until I felt I’d got a reasonable grasp of their ins and outs. I’m not the sharpest spoon in the deck of cards, so mastering four or five characters and their various abilities still wasn’t what you’d call easy, but it was a shitload easier than 24, and after a bit more practice time, I even managed to press the right button a good 25% of the time – even under pressure. Yay me! Mentally drafting my application to join a l33t Pro Overwatch squad might’ve been somewhat premature in hindsight, but I still felt I was considerably more ready to jump into the actual, proper PvP shenanigans. Which is what I did, all the while yelling stuff like “come at me ya’ bastards” and “I pity the fool who gonna be all up in my grille….” and whatnot – to nobody in particular as it turns out because I’d not turned my mic on.
Despite my bravado however, I quickly come across the first obstacle on my road to Overwatch domination, and it slightly ballsed up my plans. See, I knew that Overwatch was a more involved, tactical Shooter, and success would rely on tactics and team composition – and that was precisely why I’d made an effort to familiarise myself with at least one character in each class – but what I hadn’t realised is that each team can only have one of each character. Immediately, the couple of hours I’d spent practising with specific characters went straight down the shitter as I found out that, actually, they were pretty popular characters (or that everyone else had just read the same shit I had) because they were instantly picked whilst I was still busy trying to find them on the bottom of my screen. “Oh fucking fuck” said I, as I immediately found myself entering my first competitive Overwatch bout with a hero I’d spent exactly five minutes playing as. Against some robots. I’m not going to lie: it didn’t go particularly well. Even worse, as things started to go south, I panicked, and I went back to randomly mashing buttons and that, as it happens, is not a viable tactic in Overwatch.
Still, in the few seconds between my repeated deaths in those first few games, I actually liked what I was seeing from the other players. Even watching the Killcam was both interesting and exciting (not withstanding the fact I was watching myself get murdered, obviously), and channeling my inner Sun Tzu, I tried to see my abject humiliation as a learning opportunity. Mostly what I was learning was that I was fucking horrific, but I was also seeing how other players were stringing together abilities, and how various characters on the opposing team were working with other characters to maximise those abilities. Plenty of times, for example, I’d wondered why I’d gotten dead in a one-on-one encounter with a character, even when I’d got the drop on them (and particulary when it was the same character I was playing), but only when I watched the killcam did I realise they were getting healed or buffed during our engagement, and that it was this that had made the difference. During one particular game, my whole team was getting absolutely fucking hammered, but whilst that wasn’t a whole load of what you could reasonably call enjoyable, watching the Killcam was illuminating – particularly because I was seeing how the opposing team were annihilating not just me, but all of my team in one go.
On the one hand, that kind of scared me because if, as a n00b, I was going to be up against that shit on a regular basis I kind of just wanted to hide and cry for a bit, but, on the other, it genuinely made me excited about the possibilities of Overwatch. Normally, humiliation’s usually a bit of a dealbreaker for me – and I certainly tend not to actively seek it out – but I couldn’t help but see it here as a fairly short-term “cost of entry” type deal, and I was quickly starting to see it as a price I was more than willing to pay.
And pay it I did. Over and over (and over) again. But, hidden in amongst that initial cost, I was starting to get a few returns. Even not being able to play as characters I’d practiced with had certain benefits, and I even discovered ones I really liked (and that I wasn’t totally horrific with) and, moreover, I was even starting to appreciate how they’d work with the other characters in my team. That was mostly because I’d watched myself get fucked up by that same combination, but in a way, that’s one of Overwatch’s main features. Indeed, all the stuff I liked about the game was genuinely quite clever, and had been expertly woven into the fabric of it, and I could definitely see what all the fuss has been about. Sure, twitch-ey uber-skills help a fuck-ton in Overwatch, but they’re not enough on their own. In CoD type games I can usually mitigate my general shiteness a bit (with loadouts, tactics, etc) but only to a point, because it’s still primarily about reactions and t’ing. My reactions aren’t what they used to be anyway, but they’re sure as shit not going to compete with adolescents hopped up on caffeine drinks and E-numbers – even at the best of times – so there’s kind of a natural ceiling to how good I’m ever going to be at those games.
There’s a ceiling for me in Overwatch too, for sure, but it seems higher, or at least has various routes to climb, and right now, I’m pretty excited about the possibilities. It’s early days yet, obviously, so my interest may very well wane but, precisely because Overwatch is so involved and so deep, it feels like it’s been designed to last well beyond the initial addictiveness and reward continual and consistent investment – even with, like, thinking and shit. I love that, even though I’m not what you could reasonably call a great thinker. Indeed, it’s exactly this element that meant I’ve seen plenty of “even after 200 hours…” type comments recently, and they certainly make sense to me, even after putting just a fraction of that time in myself (not for nothing, though, it might not take me too long to get there, given I’m a wee bit addicted already).
Overwatch is clever, quirky and above all, it’s a lot of fun – and even if you’re as shocking at it as I am, that’ll still hold true during the constantly-getting-yo’-ass-handed-to-you-ness of your initial forays, I expect. Given it’s abundance of characters (and combinations of characters), maps and Game Modes, Overwatch offers plenty of opportunity for experimentation, re-assessment and on-the-fly adjustment, and watching people who know what they’re doing nailing that shit is often genuinely breathtaking.
That’s not me right now – and, if I’m being honest, prob’ly won’t ever be – but even at this early stage, I have had plenty of moments when I’ve felt like a murrrrfuckin God (Killstreak of 17; thanks for asking) and that be some powerful shit, right there. Obviously, all of what I’ve just written emphasises the fact that I am a proper fucking numbnuts for putting Overwatch back that day – I’ll accept that – but it also means that I was slightly less of a proper fucking numbnuts for finally admitting and rectifying that mistake.
So, you know, swings and roundabouts, innit!?
TL; DR – I’m late to the Overwatch party, horrifically, hilariously shite at it, but I’m still loving the bejesus out of it right now!