Last week, Campster, a fellow member of The Diecast very kindly bought me Overwatch, after I had jokingly suggested begging the internet to purchase me a copy. It wasn’t that this seemed like a game that I would like, in fact quite the contrary. I hated playing TF2 when it was a big deal and even back in the time of Unreal Tournament, I pretty much only played it to spend time with my dad.
As I got older I would every once in awhile try out a game in the multiplayer first person genre and within a week or two, would get bored and walk away. And if I didn’t? It was because I had someone to play with to make me want to step out of my casual gaming nook, and out into the world of multiplayer shooters. Whether it was my dad, a friend, or a sibling, there was always someone pulling me into it.
And Overwatch is no exception. When the game came out I was neutral to it, I stopped for a moment to appreciate the inclusive characters and enjoy the fact that an LGBTQA+ character had stepped into the limelight of the AAA gaming world and then I moved on, back to my Harvest Moon, Stardew Valley, and casual rhythm games.
It wasn’t until the game blew up that it caught my interest. All of my gaming buddies who I previously played other games with on a weekly basis were gone, into the tempting candy shop that was Overwatch, leaving me behind. And when they did emerge from time to time all they talked about was Overwatch. Some about the skins they got, some about the narrative, and some about the gameplay. But whatever it was, I was out of touch.
But since money was tight I decided to wait it out. $60 is no joke and I was sure it would blow over quickly. But days turned to weeks which turned to months, and quickly I found myself missing out on my entire gaming community.
But then Campster stepped in, and I found a Battlenet gift code in my E-mail.
When it downloaded, I breezed through the tutorial really quick just so I would know what was going on and then quickly joined a party with some of my friends. I found myself overwhelmed by the sheer amount of characters and because of this, got hooked on the first one I played out of the simple anxiety of leaving my comfort zone.
When you click ‘Tutorial’ it gives you a quick walkthrough of the controls based on Soldier 76, telling you the left shift will allow you to sprint, while failing to explain that this is a unique ability, individual to Soldier 76. So when you go into your first real match and click on a character you think will be fun, easy, or just attractive, you hit the left shift in a tight spot hoping to escape an impending foe and quickly find yourself launching into the air, teleporting, or whatever other abilities your chosen character may have.
Despite this, I soldiered on, I wasn’t playing for the gameplay anyway. I was mostly there to understand and talk to my old friends.
But then something strange happened. After several hours of play my friends left for various reasons and I found myself alone…still playing the game.
Now this was for several reasons, but the one that shines the brightest is the same reason I find myself loving any other game. The reward system.
Overwatch, while still maintaining the gameplay of an everyday shooter, has brought something very new to the table. It has a reward system beyond ‘You won’. Now you’re probably thinking something along the lines of ‘But Bay, the entire point is to win! Why should you be rewarded for sucking?’ and this is the exact attitude that often chases people like me away from games like shooters.
While a good player may on average get better stats, no matter how good you are, you as a stand-alone player are probably going to win about half the matches you play from just simple variables like: your team, being matched against people with the same stats as you, or even just bad days.
So when someone like me comes into play, it’s very easy to get discouraged, because often you feel as if you’re not going anywhere. No matter how good you get or how much you play you will still win and lose pretty equally.
And in Overwatch, this is where the leveling system steps in, because your level has absolutely nothing to do with how good of a player you are. It only shows how much you play. And once you ding level 20, you need the exact same amount of XP no matter how high level you get. Plus, whether you win a game or lose a game, you will still gain varying amounts of XP based on your personal stats, rather than based on your wins and losses. And each time you level, you get a crate full of unlockables for your characters, maybe skins, spraypaints, and even gold.
So when you see someone that’s Level 2000, you don’t think they are some sort of elder god who you can never be, you just consider that if you keep playing, you can be there someday too, and that’s really cool.