*This is to be a long-ass post about something that isn’t anime*
I have been playing Overwatch since the beta. I fell in love with the game since the cinematic trailer with the two brothers in the Overwatch museum getting stuck in the middle of a battle between Tracer/Winston and Reaper/Widowmaker over a museum relic. I knew straightaway that this could become a competitive esport that would make a name…and it has. Now, we have the Overwatch League, which has done far better than people thought it would, with big sponsors wanting to get involved, huge global multinational companies wanting their own teams, and even the likes of ESPN and the Disney Channel wanting to broadcast the finals that took place in New York. In addition to this, there are the numerous people on the competitive ladder playing to their heart’s content, forsaking real-life things like jobs, school/college, food, and general adulting, because they want to be in an Overwatch team themselves.
I know my limits though. I’m trash at the game and I know it. But that still doesn’t stop me from loving this game, and continuing to love this game. I’ve been trying my best to do what I can in the competitive ladder, but starting today, I must leave ranked play. And there’s a few reasons why…
The community (and how not great it can be)
The community itself is not the kindest one. You thought the community in the likes of Fortnite, Counter Strike or Dota was pretty toxic, well Overwatch‘s one is on its own level. It is especially worse on the American servers though. Trolls and smurfs are more noticeable and rampant there, people are less forgiving to those who don’t know complex team comps, and of course, there is the cloak of anonymity that players feel they are protected by. But there’s more than just the community that can put people off.
Hard counters and the meta
Not so long ago, big-name Overwatch streamer (and former Dallas Fuel player) Brandon ‘Seagull’ Larned put out a video detailing the issues that were evident in the competitive Overwatch ladder. The video gained a lot of attention, and led to so many of us on the ladder (regardless of whether we were top 500 or bronze) having to nod in agreement. Here it is, if you’re curious:
In the video, he especially highlights the issue of ‘hard counters’ that has appeared in the game since its release to the general public in May 2016; in other words, instead of players choosing the heroes they want in order to win a game, players are felt forced to have to pick heroes that are part of the current meta…because if they don’t, they lose the game (or are perceived by others in the team as throwing the game or trolling). This promotes the toxicity that has appeared on the ranked ladder now, and is getting worse and worse.
There are a lot of heroes in Overwatch that I absolutely adore, but while some of them are in meta and are seen as essential heroes in ranked play, some of them just aren’t totally in the meta…or at all, and so if I end up picking them in ranked play, I get totally slaughtered for it. Heroes like Mei…
I love Mei to pieces, but she isn’t completely in the ranked meta, and a lot of players see her as a real pain in the backside to play against, because of her abilities. Mei is a hard hero to play though, and is something that one really needs to be skilled at in order to do well in ranked play. She’s the kind of hero that skilled players who are high up in the ladder would play, and destroy teams with – she is not a hero ranked people can just casually play.
But while there are polarizing heroes like Mei, there are others that are more important, like Sombra, who I also love playing:
Right now, Sombra is in the meta, but for how long remains to be seen. Since her recent changes, I have enjoyed playing with her mobility and her disabling abilities, and she isn’t as high-skill as Mei is. But where I am in the ladder, she isn’t seen as that important in a team comp. On the other hand, the one hero I love that’s in the meta and is perceived as essential is the recently-added Brigitte:
She’s a support hero that can’t heal everyone (like Mercy can), but her shield bash is something that counters a lot of heroes – squishy heroes like Tracer, for instance or other more mobile heroes like Sombra, Lucio or Moira, plus her weapon can knock players off the map entirely. And so while the likes of Mei and Sombra aren’t totally in the meta, I feel like I’m forced to play a hero like Brigitte, not because I love playing her, but because of her position in the meta.
…and also because, usually in my position in ranked, support is the least popular role to play. Players often desire to be the big man with the big guns with all the big kills to impress their friends than actually be a part of the team…regardless of how good or bad they actually are at the game. Which sort of leads me onto the next reason.
Blizzard haven’t been the best when it comes to match-making in low-level ladder. Because we are all bronze or silver or gold-level, we don’t know everything about the game (even though a lot of us constantly convince ourselves that we do, and love to brag about how many eliminations we get in each match when, to be fair, it doesn’t really matter). At our end of the competitive ladder, it ends up like a coin-flip a lot of the time; we are either paired up with people who care about their rank and know what to do in order to do better, or we are paired up with people who, while they may care about their rank, they convince themselves a lot of the time that the problem lies with everyone else in the team, not them, and that they don’t need to change. And because it’s either one or the other, so many of us end up frustrated that we can’t seem to get progress higher, and get out of bronze/silver/gold/whatever…and thus the toxicity returns.
“lol, get rekt, n00bs, you mad bro?, your trash, you play bad, uninstall now looser”
Perhaps it is my age, but this is the kind of thing that I am just sick to death of. This kind of polarizing behavior not only promotes toxicity in a game, but cyberbullying as well.
“A dead game”
Overwatch came out to the general public in May 2016, but annoyed and frustrated players are already declaring this game is dead. Why? Well who knows the real reason, but with new games coming out, plus the battle royale genre (games like Fortnite, PUBG, Blackout mode in Black Ops 4) getting huge right now, it is really no surprise why these same frustrated people have decided to move on, but persist to trash-talk a game they no longer want to play because…I don’t know…they want attention or something…
One huge thing that could well be done to this game is a hotfix. A reset. A rework of the game. It’s something that other games have done and have done well. One case study is another Blizzard game: Heroes of the Storm.
When this MOBA came out in June 2015, it didn’t receive the reaction Blizzard were hoping for from both players and critics. It was only when Blizzard decided to make a 2.0 hotfix to the game in April 2017 that everything changed. Opinion changed almost overnight, games became far more enjoyable, updates to the game came thick and fast in the form of new heroes, maps (or battlegrounds), and events, and the esports scene took off. Sure, it’s no way as big a MOBA as League of Legends or Dota 2, but it has no intention to be. In fact, Heroes has a different play structure to the big MOBA games, and that’s what attracts players. It’s become a MOBA that players don’t have to take seriously, and can just switch on, play, and log off. Heroes is, in fact, the only MOBA I actually enjoy playing now; I’ve grown tired of League of Legends, and I only play Dota when I want to be uber-serious, which is admittedly not often nowadays.
So, can Overwatch do a hotfix? Should it have a hotfix? What else would need to be added/removed/changed aside from what I already mentioned? The game’s already huge, and so making a number of drastic changes to it could actually become more of a hassle than a solution.
Why I want to play this game
While the Overwatch community can be really really horrible and disgusting sometimes, it can also be a wonderful thing. At conventions/public matches/whatever, we all feel a sense of brotherhood and sisterhood. We enjoy cosplaying as our favorite heroes. We enjoy geeking out about Overwatch lore. We enjoy talking about our favorite Overwatch League teams (mine is New York Excelsior, by the way, but I have also enjoyed following the trials and tribulations of the unlucky Shanghai Dragons). And it’s all because we love the game. And some of us know about the state of the Overwatch competitive ladder, and want it to be better. And yes, some of us have left ranked play too, just as I am about to.
I want to play the heroes I love (Mei, Sombra, Brigitte) without having to think/worry/panic/get angry that others in my team won’t be under the impression that I am throwing the game because I chose a hero that isn’t in the meta.
Since when was the meta more important than the game itself?
I also don’t want to have to panic desperately over my Skill Rating score. I’m just getting too sick of feeling that I have to play for hours and hours (and forsake important things like adulting) just because I want to gain a few dozen points.
Ultimately, it’s all just a bunch of ones and zeroes. We have jobs, school/college, families, rent/bills to pay, food to eat, dogs to walk, trash to take out, bodies to take care of, etc.
I also want to carry on watching the Overwatch League and support the teams I love without feeling like I have to be ‘part of the ranked club‘ in order to like them, even if that means I have to stay up late-night in order to watch the matches. I’m looking forward to the 8 new teams coming in season 2 (Atlanta, Chengdu, Guangzhou, Hangzhou, Paris, Toronto, Vancouver and Washington), and seeing what could happen. True, I enjoyed all the drama that happened in season 1 as well (from the players being suspended for bad behavior or account boosting, to the one guy thrown out entirely for allegations of sexually harassing a minor), and I’m sure there’ll be plenty more strange drama in season 2 to look forward to.
Go New York, by the way…
So to end this post, I would just like to say that I will continue to love this game, but the state of the competitive ladder has made a part of me feel unhappy and a little unwelcome. So I will carry on playing Overwatch in quick play, where I am free to play whoever I want without incurring the wrath of some other hardcore players who seem more prone to emotions and game losses, leading to toxicity, cyberbullying and the reputation the community has gained.
Goodbye, ranked play.