In May, Blizzard Entertainment, makers of the long standing Warcraft games, added a new game to their roster: Overwatch. And it’s taking over eeeeverything. If you haven’t seen the commercials on television, you may have come across the many memes, the fan art, the cosplay, or seen “Play of the Game” overlaid across your favourite movie or television show. Originally intended to be a massive multiplayer roleplaying game called Titan, Blizzard decided to salvage the cancelled endeavor to create a first person multiplayer shooter instead. But not just any first person shooter. Overwatch was created with the intent to make it welcoming to everyone. The story elements remain, with each character having an origin story, and comics and videos are available to fill in more details, connecting the characters as allies or enemies. While conflict remains, the setting of this future Earth is a bright one, unlike many other shooters that focus on the dark and gritty, and the characters are all about supporting each other. This positivity extends into the gameplay itself. While you and your teammates are intended to compete against the AI or against other players, every aspect of the game encourages team spirit. Even then AIs will say “GG” (“good game”) at the end of each match, encouraging players to take on the same attitude. Don’t believe me? Tumblr user Yukisamui compiled dialogue from the various Overwatch characters and set them to music from the Undertale OST. The result is maximum Overwatch feels that could help you get through any bad day:
This positivity is one of the reasons why some of us WWAC gamers and friends have started playing and think you should try it too!
What got you interested in playing Overwatch?
Jo Fu: I think I was at a PAX when Zarya’s character design was revealed, and my response was, “Haha, Blizzard, you can’t distract me with colorful characters if the gameplay is boring.” Then, on the weekend the beta was released, everyone found out that the gameplay wasn’t boring. On top of that, the base version of the game was $40, with only one additional tier. No complicated algorithms for characters or ‘future DLC.’ The design made the game charming, but the price point really made Overwatch worthwhile.
Draven Katayama: Fanart of the characters, especially D.Va, Tracer, Pharah, and Mercy, was the first thing I saw before I ever saw the gameplay itself. I wanted to know these characters fandom was so enthusiastic about! I also was curious about a team shooter that didn’t center male characters and didn’t emphasize realistic blood and death.
Wendy Browne: Fanart and cosplay all over Tumblr, plus WWACer’s glowing praise of the game. Then my good friend and gaming partner, Tiara, started playing and praising, not only the gameplay, but the positive community aspect, which pretty much ended any further attempts to hold out.
Tiara Walker: To be honest, I’d heard about Overwatch while it was being developed, but I didn’t keep up with it. So, when I did decide to play, I went into it totally fresh. I didn’t know anything about the characters, the story, or what type of gaming experience it promised. A family member that I game with regularly bought Overwatch for PS4 and mentioned that he thought I’d like it. I wasn’t really sold on his explanation, but I tried it one weekend when I was visiting family.
How have your views on the game changed now that you’ve been playing for a while?
Jo: I have four separate groups of friends who all play, and observing their playstyles and team dynamics has been really fun. Because of course your friend who can party until dawn plays the world’s most aggressive D.Va, and of course your old roommate is the kind of lady who checks whose ults are ready before popping Zarya’s. I’ve been feeling more friendly toward Overwatch as a conduit to hang out with my friends!
[pullquote]I love the way it has been created with a welcoming intent. You can have your elite players competing for glory, but you can also have us noobs giggling all over the voicechat. ~Wendy[/pullquote]Draven: This is my first team shooter, and I was hesitant to buy it because I was worried that playing with strangers meant bullies and trash talk. Thankfully, all text chat and voice chat can be disabled! I like how different each character’s gameplay is, and how they have such different abilities and advantages. Playing with Tracer vs. playing with Bastion are like two completely different games.
Wendy: I generally avoid FPS. The competitive environment breeds far too much toxicity that I am not interested in. My friends and I play for fun, so having come into the game knowing how much emphasis is placed on having fun and working as a team, rather than on kill counts (though kill counts are still recorded), my views haven’t really changed. It’s better to say that I’ve developed a healthy obsession and love talking up the game, especially to people who don’t normally play such games. I love the way it has been created with a welcoming intent. You can have your elite players competing for glory, but you can also have us noobs giggling all over the voicechat.
Tiara: I’ve played FPS in the past with my husband and friends (mainly Call of Duty), but as I’ve gotten older, I’ve moved away from that and started to pick up co-op games that I can play just to relax. I don’t normally think of FPS in this vein as being a relaxing experience or very fun when dealing with the toxicity that accompanies these kind of things. However, I was pleasantly surprised at how chill this game was and how positive the community has been. I can absolutely relax with this game. It has made teaming up with random people outside my friends less daunting. I really appreciate the different playstyles that it encourages players to explore rather than being like many games that want you to pick a style and stick with it.
The diverse group of 21 characters really seem to resonate with the fans for various reasons. Which is your favourite?
Draven: D.Va! I identify with her so much. Soldier: 76 is my most played character because his gameplay doesn’t require a learning curve and he has a very useful sprint, heal, and powerful gun.
Wendy: My current default character is sexy sniper, so I went for Widowmaker first, but the game encourages you to get out of your comfort zone. I’ve since become fond of Mei for offensive and disruptive play, and after initially thinking Symmetra would be useless, I ended up adoring her defensive turrets and dangerously idealistic attitude.
Tiara: D.Va. I took to her character immediately on the PS4. Since I play mainly on PC now, I’ve found that I actually prefer other characters on PC. I’ve come to love Lucio and Reinhardt. I’m usually more of an offensive/tank player, but it’s satisfying to be able to contribute to the team as Lucio (support) too. I love Pharah’s aesthetic and playstyle, but I’m not quite comfortable playing with her just yet. I love the concept of Tracer. I love her kit and her optimism, but I am an abysmal Tracer player.
Favourite aspect of the game and/or the Overwatch community?
Jo: DEFINITELY the gay-friendly, butt-friendly fanart. (#Phamercy foreva.)
Draven: I love that the game is so popular that it’s easy to discover more friends who are playing it, and that it’s attracting first-time team shooter players like me. Overwatch is doing for new gamers what Harry Potter did for new readers. It’s fun seeing creative fanart like hyuugaclan on Twitter (jununy on Tumblr)’s high school AU. I like how the fandom united to ship Pharah and Mercy (Pharmercy) and Widowmaker and Tracer (Widowtracer), and refer to Soldier: 76 as Dad: 76.
[pullquote]Overwatch is doing for new gamers what Harry Potter did for new readers. ~Draven[/pullquote]Wendy: There are always going to be assholes who don’t respect the positive community vibe Blizzard is encouraging, but for the most part, I have not experienced any such people. Whether I play with my friends or with strangers, I am always having fun and as long as an effort is made, everyone, even opposing team members will offer praise or at least grudging respect. Regularly discussing and sharing Overwatch gameplay and character stories and fanart and memes has almost overtaken my daily routine of flailing over Bioware games. Almost.
Tiara: I like the inviting nature of the game and the awesome people that it’s attracting. I haven’t had a bad game yet, and I’ve played with helpful and friendly people. When I wasn’t sure how to use McCree’s Fan the Hammer (because my mind wasn’t registering the recoil), it was a very helpful stranger that offered me some useful tips. I’ve played with pick up groups who have really made the game fun outside of my usual circle. Also, I love the fandom community for this game and how diverse and inclusive it is. There’s always some headcanon or art to gush over whenever I’m not playing or there is always some interesting, thoughtful chat going on about gameplay aspects. That’s not to say there isn’t some grossness out there, but the positive has largely outweighed the negative for me.
Play of the Game: What is the most entertaining or interesting moment you’ve experienced?
Jo: I wheeze laugh every time a Reinhardt uses his charge ability to knock 2+ players off a cliff.
Wendy: Every time someone other than a Bastion or Torbjorn player gets a play of the game.
Tiara: I’m an insomniac, so it’s not unusual for me to play this game in the wee hours of the morning. That seems to be when I get on the most amusing groups where we’ll get in general chat and all decide to play as Tracer or Mei. As far as Play of the Game itself goes, my favorite PotG moments usually feature the tanks of the game because I don’t think they get enough love for all that they do. A competent tank can turn the tide of the battle. I’ve played with so many self-sacrificing Reinhardts who defend rather than charging off into the fray (which charging is so fun, but really sometimes you put yourself and your team in a very bad position when you do it recklessly or make that your WHOLE strategy) or Zaryas who play fast and loose and really disrupt the other team’s defense/attack.
Any advice for new players?
Draven: You can disable all text chat and voice chat! If you’re playing on PC, press P during a game, and turn off text chat for Team and Game. No more fear of hearing or reading offensive comments! Try out different characters in the Practice Range and playing against AI.
Jo: Definitely group up with friends if you can! Matchmaking for groups works very smoothly, and your friends can make even a bad matchup fun. And hey, even if you’re solo, do what you want to to have fun.
Wendy: Take the time to read up on the characters and learn their back stories. The lore elements are not as vast as a roleplaying game, but they are still a lot of fun, and give depth to the little interactions you’ll hear from the characters in game. Plus it will add that much more meaning to the fanart and memes rolling around the internet.
Tiara: Don’t get too obsessed with Play of the Game. Sure, it’s great to see yourself in the limelight, but at the end of the day, this game is won by holding/capturing your objective, which takes a team effort. Being a team player is going to be greatly appreciated by your teammates.
So. Are you ready to play?