Overwatch: Lessons Learned From a New Player
Enter The Arena
Overwatch is a name that everybody in the gaming community has heard (if you have yet to see it, check out their website here). Maybe you have played since the Beta test and maybe you are still wondering what the hype is about. I was firmly in the latter category, having missed every open weekend for one reason or another. I never watching a stream, or gave a passing nod to the accompanying animations or comics.
Ever the Johnny-come-lately, I finally decided it was time to give Overwatch a shot. A combination of a recent free weekend, Black Friday price drop and subsequent Game of the Year award is the perfect storm for drawing in new players like myself. The deluge of incoming fresh blood makes it that much less intimidating to integrate into Overwatch’s established player-base. Before this, I avoided most things ‘Overwatch’, knowing only a few characters by name and knowing zilch about the metagame. During the free play weekend my experience was limited to a few AI games trying out Pharah and Reaper. Once I started doing quick matches with actual people, it was time to branch out. Or so I thought.
Where I Went Wrong
The moment I picked Tracer was the moment my Overwatch career took a sharp and drastic turn (possibly straight into a brick wall). Tracer’s aesthetics and her playstyle clicked for me right away, but it was clear that she was a character that needed a bit of investment to really reap some of the rewards. I was having the time of my life zipping from one end of the map to the other, sneaking up on people, and even blinking right off the cliff. A few times. More than a few times. Thankfully, in a quick-play match of equally low-level new people, nobody has much to say to you if you are screwing up, as they are too busy looking for which way is up. Then sometimes you accidentally win and give yourself a pat on the back.
Any guides I read about Tracer said the same thing: she is tricky to master, but worth it. To me, this read as a challenge! I played a ridiculous amount of Overwatch the night I got it, staying up until the wee hours turning my fingers into weapons of mass teleportation and hair-trigger Recall reactions. And then I did it again the next day. And the next day. We have all been lost in a great game before, and Overwatch is no exception there. Combined with grouping up with friends that, like me, have just started, or friends that have played since launch made it that much more compelling. As a bonus, the more friends you play with, the more you can learn without having strangers yelling at you.
Bring On Ranked Battles!
Before I knew it, I had invested 11 hours of playtime into a single, somewhat situational character. It did not matter, that I had just hit 25 and Season 3 had started! Time for those placement matches. My equally-new friend and I grouped and eagerly queued up, where we hopefully would be going against other people who were also doing their first competitive match, ever.
Wrong! Immediately, we were stuck with a group of three gold ranks and a fourth random player. Okay, great, they will know what to do (we thought). First round, on attack. I got this. I confidently selected Tracer. I will show them.
To recap the events: We take the first point pretty quickly, but get hung up on the second. Ia m doing my Tracer thing of darting around behind enemy lines. Unfortunately, I have no idea where my team is, as they apparently just keep dying from rushing in, leaving me to dodge all the fire instead of taking out lone wolves. All in all, it is not a good situation. Time is running out, and progress is non-existent. And then I hear it: the dreaded, “Well that Tracer is not doing much for us.” Except I am pretty sure I am the only one that has not died 16 times in futile push after push. I get it that they had a point; if they were not going to help me do my job I might as well swap. Only…I had 11 hours on Tracer and not even an hour on anybody else. But, they asked me to do Soldier so I switch. It is way too late by then anyways, and we lose, horribly.
Defense time. Once again I grab Tracer, because a character I know how to play will be infinitely more useful than one I do not. Competitive players, I can feel your eye rolling from here. Predictably, the gold players raged hard. “Don’t pick Tracer, literally anything but Tracer.” Words are had. Panic sets in. The rest of the team has grabbed anyone I have a modicum of experience with. I do not have time to explain to them (not they would care anyways) my choice in character. So I say screw it, and mischievously hover my mouse over Sombra. These guys have been unhelpful and pretty much jerks the whole time and my inner troll has had enough. Sombra it is. Cue actual yelling and expletives. Last thing I hear before shutting off voice chat is “Play Rein”. Fine, I will play Reinhardt for the first time.
Spoiler alert: we lose. My friend and I are both told to “rethink competitive” and accused of throwing the game. By now this whole ordeal had not been the least bit fun, and my emotions all over the board from angry to salty, and just upset. All this over a video game. However, we learn more in defeat than we do in victory. As I calmed down, I stepped back and analyzed where we went wrong and learned a few things:
- Spend your early levels trying out more than one character, and gain competence in more basic heroes like Soldier 76 and DVa, along with learning a support.
- Blizzard competitive matchmaking needs fixing. Why was I, who had never had a whiff of competitive play, paired with players from the Gold league?
- Learn the maps. Learn where to run when you need to duck away for a quick health boost or when to get some cover.
- You are going to make mistakes, you are going to cause your team to lose, and you are going to get yelled at. Best to not take it personally. Most of these people you will never play with again.
- Do not let the negativity affect how you treat other people in the game. For example, a few hours later I was back in-game and trying out Ana and post-victory the resident Roadhog let me know he did more healing than I did. Before he could finish his thought, I sniped back at him “Sue me for trying a new character”. Turns out he was typing out some good advice and seemed concerned that he came off rude. There was never any reason for me to be so defensive, and I am completely ashamed of my remark. I thanked him for his advice and have incorporated it.
- You will never get better at competitive until you play it.
- I am still not “that good” with Tracer. Ouch.
As a closing remark, I have to say that I am shocked it took me this long to play this game. My first experience with competitive was negative, but in the end it made me want to get better and better. Overwatch is a wonderful balance between easy to play and challenging to master. Victory feels good and losses are (usually) quickly forgotten. With the holidays in full-swing, the recent free weekend, and the Game of the Year award, new players are bound to start pouring in. Has there been a better time since launch to try out this phenomena?