I’ve been playing Overwatch since the Beta, and the moment the game released I picked it up and haven’t put it down. I enjoy the game a lot, but the community around it is turning into any other shooter’s community: toxic. But the design and concept of Overwatch breeds a different kind of abuse, not just the usual name calling and shaming—though that is still as rampant in this game as it is in any other online multiplayer title.
So, because I like this game a lot and want things to improve, let’s have a chat. Over the past week I’ve noticed certain trends when it comes to the Overwatch community’s responses to certain subjects, particularly to any opinion that doesn’t blindly praise the game. But let’s go over the points. You can consider this an open letter to the community.
Right now, should anyone even dare to question the game’s balance, or a hero’s strengths or weakness gets thoroughly and almost violently put down by others in the Overwatch community. The call is to immediately question the person’s skill, their game time and their overall knowledge—though the usual questions of their character, intellect and gender identity do come in as well. To question the game and the characters is to show how much you don’t know apparently, and everyone will tell you that in the hands of a professional, the characters with high skill ceiling are inhumanly powerful. While there are highly skilled players you can’t define a game’s balance or that of the different heroes on them.
Also, if we use the professional argument, then we have to accept that they could bring out the fearsome potential out of any character, even one that only uses a stick and has barely any health. Their skill makes up for deficiencies or makes strengths seem unreal, thus the argument of “a pro can use it well” is, I feel, flawed.
Blizzard didn’t create or design Overwatch with these people in mind but everyone, including you and me, regular folks, those having good and bad matches in equal measure.
So please, stop saying that a character doesn’t need balancing or buffing or nerfing because pros know how to play it.
Concerning the lack of skill, why does commenting on a character mean you don’t have any skill with it? Let’s use my favourite character for this: Genji. I’ve played with this character for over 25 accumulated hours (out of a total of 40 played since launch) and through many mistakes, I’ve learned to play him and know his weaknesses and how to exploit his strengths. I know the character, I know how to play him, I know he’s fantastic at flanking and assassinating the weakest among the enemy group. He’s great at swooping in, get a kill and then move out. But Genji isn’t perfect and needs some tuning, particularly his very hard to aim shuriken and his ultimate, the Dragon Sword.
Genji is in an awkward position where he can work perfectly as a ranged character but most of his skills need him to be up close and intimate with the enemies, meaning that even playing the opportunist assassin, there are good chances he’ll die before accomplishing anything. It’s not just me, it’s pure fact and all Genji players know that this is true, we’ve all had those moments when we’ve found someone out of the way, dive in for the kill and get picked off instantly. His overall squishiness feels at odds with the extremely risky nature of his character. And even without considering this, we need to score headshots with 4 shuriken (3 of them fire off at the same time, by the way) to take a squishy someone out in one go, and with the projectiles’ travel time, hitting the first three is hard enough as it is. The moment they turn to face you and discover you (insert Metal Gear discovery noise), you’re on the losing end of the fight just because your basic defensive skill is so obvious that enemies just have to wait for it to go away before they kill you.
If we’re talking about the Dragon Sword, it’s perhaps the hardest to use Ultimate in the game and in the chaos of battle, using the sword can be quite disorienting. That isn’t without considering his low health. Suggestions have been made towards giving him a shield or reducing the cooldown of his Swift Strike (aka sword dash) for the duration of the special, in the same way Winston’s jump cooldown works while using his Ultimate ability. I personally feel the sword needs a buff of 30 points of damage or make the Swift Strike deal the sword’s damage. The ultimate ability only lasts for 8 seconds and more often than not, you spend valuable time just pursuing the enemies if they managed to back away while you were killing someone else, so an increase in lethality can offset the drawbacks. As it stands you need two slashes to kill even the weakest of heroes, and that’s while avoiding the gunfire and trying not to die.
At best, the sword can decimate an enemy team if they’re not topped off, but more often than not you just jump into the middle of an opposing team for enough time to kill someone before they blow you to bits.
Another point of contention—and by that I mean abuse—in the Overwatch community is the character McCree, and how Blizzard might potentially nerf him in the near future as he’s deemed too powerful because of how well his skills play together. Having used him and fought against skilled McCree players, I don’t find him that unbalanced as I’ve escaped many a time from his Fan-the-hammer and grenade combo, but he is certainly powerful. Though my opinions are moot at this point since Blizzard mentioned they’re soon changing this cowboy.
Many others have made the same suggestions, some with even more time with the character and indubitably, they’ve been slammed for the same reasons—as would I if I were to put this on the Blizzard forums or the Overwatch Reddit. Why is the community so afraid to say that the characters might not be perfect? Why is a simple discussion on ways to improve a character such a bad thing? Do you think Blizzard will crack down on dissenters and ban them from playing the game for expressing an opinion? Blizzard thrives on these conversations, on its players discussing ways to improve the game.
Don’t slam people down for asking questions, for suggesting something that might improve the game. Talk to them, work together and see what you can come up with, maybe you’ll hit the jackpot and inspire Blizzard to do something amazing with a particular character in Overwatch. Isn’t it always better to have a nice discussion anyway? And even if you disagree, give proper arguments. How would this unbalance the gameplay? Claiming that Pros can do it better is a lazy cop-out answer when you don’t have any real reason for disagreeing.
Another point the community turns feral with is the subject of Rankings. Apparently ranking heroes is a capital sin and some of the more outspoken Overwatch players go insane when someone dares to do this. The reasons are the same every time, the aforementioned slams about lack of skill, knowledge and how professionals can turn the characters Super Saiyan, and how it’s morally wrong to rank characters that fit specific roles and niches within Overwatch.
I call shenanigans on that. We can of course rank them on any possible metric. Sure, the meme and art-centric ranking Kotaku did is complete clickbait nonsense, but it’s Kotaku. But take another ranking, one made by YouTuber DeModcracy, a guy running some amazing Bloodsouls (Bloodborne & Souls series) ranking videos that actually take the game’s community into consideration. The amount of negative comments on his Overwatch character rank videos were outstanding—and even forced him to do a response video to it—despite the fact he explained his methodology and delivered a good first-impression analysis on the characters. Do I agree with his rankings? Not all of them, but I’d love to talk to him about it—and play of course.
Here’s the thing: we all rank the heroes. Every time you discuss with a friend how you like some characters more than others—for any possible reason—you’re already ranking them. You might not be assigning numbers or scores, but you’re giving them a personal value. And aren’t rankings just that, someone assigning personal values to characters? Why is that such a crime? I honestly don’t get it. Again I come back to the point about Blizzard. It sometimes feels as if the community were afraid of angering the big overlords.
I personally rank Symmetra very low because while her turrets are very fun, she’s a terrible support character. I actually feel her labeling as “Support” is wrong and she should be “Defense” instead.
The characters might fit niches, but so do classes in every other game out there. And this is a video game, enjoyed by people. People have opinions and we all like sharing them. So when a ranking shows up, it’s not THE list, it’s not a definitive value on the heroes, it doesn’t determine their true worth, it just shows you what the person feels about them. At least with guys like DeModcracy you get different metrics and reasons why he’s scoring them that way.
Lastly, it’s not so much community oriented, but manners and etiquette. Please, for the love of god, stop being so offensive on chat. The match chat in Overwatch is slowly turning into the General chat of World of Warcraft, a group of people talking and making others lose faith in humanity. Here’s a good way to handle things: if you’re thinking something horrible, ask yourself if you’d tell that to a person if you had them in front of you. If you would, say it, if not, shut your mouth. You’ll do us all a favour.
I understand fandom and many a time have I defended the honour of a game company of video game title that I absolutely loved despite how obvious its flaws were. But even that shouldn’t turn people into vicious creatures stalking the internet. Curb your passions because people complaining about the game’s balance are likely to love Overwatch as much as you do, and their requests and questions come from a desire to make the game as good as it can be for everyone involved.
Overwatch released very recently and its community is still forming, but already it has its vices, particularly this instant aggression towards any opinion they feel doesn’t appreciate the game enough. Hopefully the community can come back from that and not end up just like every other vicious, childish and abusive online shooter community out there.
We’re better than that.