As an avid gamer and game designer I feel that I have some credentials when it goes into commentating on the available smattering of content out there. At this stage in my life my free time is already fairly delegated, so when it comes to choosing which games I play it’s a 50/50 split between what I’d like to play and what I can’t seem to put down.
Unfortunately my days of ceaseless raiding, grinding, and general tomfoolery in World of Warcraft are over and I must submit to smaller and smaller chunks of playtime wedged within my schedule. That being said though, I’ve found that certain aspects that drove me to such pleasure in games like WoW have also been found as small nuggets of joy inside other games. I’m not trying to focus on the games themselves but rather the emotions and moments they instill in me. It’s not that these aren’t present in other games as well, it’s just that at this very moment these are the ones that exemplify those very characteristics that bring the greatest satisfaction.
If anyone is surprised by this in any way, shape or form; you either A) Don’t follow gaming very well, B) Don’t know me very well, or C) Have been living under a rock. Overwatch from Blizzard is arguably the past year’s (and looking to be for several more) best and biggest game. It comes from a well seasoned studio and has all the makings to be an impact on the gaming world for years to come.
To give you a little insight into the tale I’m trying to weave it may be a good idea to offer up a little backstory. I’ve been in the “Competitive Online Multiplayer” scene for quite some time now, my original foray began in 2004 with the introduction of Xbox Live and Halo 2. Having been a big fan of the first Halo and its respective LAN scene I was already familiar with the basics of concerted efforts and communication as the main factors in a successful victory. With the addition of online play into an already familiar scene I thrived in the community that Halo 2 and it’s connected appendages created. Thanks in part to the Clan system, emblem editors, and our own created forums and websites; I could now feel like my group of friends could not only have a global presence together but also find other like-minded individuals.
Now, you may be asking, what does this have to do with Overwatch?
To put it plain and simply, it’s the comradery and excitement that comes from a unique shared experience. Overwatch does this masterfully in so many different ways (don’t worry, I don’t think this game is perfect by any means). What it excels at is the sheer multitude of options, circumstances, and unique experiences that is so very hard to find in some games these days. Yes Overwatch is simple and basic, 6v6 multiplayer FPS with a small amount of game modes… and while it doesn’t sound like much, Blizzard has managed to make it one of the deepest and most enjoyable experiences to date. With no single player story, 23 Characters, 15 maps, and 5 game-types (as of now), the superficial look at OW can seem a little shallow. It manages to teeter on that fine line between too much and not enough. At first it can be overwhelming, grasping the multitude of characters and play styles WHILE trying to stave off some more experienced players can be a little cumbersome, but as any gamer knows it’s just a matter of time.
Over time the game begins to blossom, strange characters become familiar friends and allies while your sense of map presence and personal duties begins to become concrete. This is just the beginning. Thanks to the involvement of Competitive play and a few refinements (looking at you “Click ** to join Team Chat”), the ease of use and sheer desire to play has helped this become a staple in my gaming diet.
I’ve become a salesperson for this game and I’m not afraid to admit it at all. With a $60 USD price tag and inclusion of any characters and maps that are yet to come out it would be silly not to promote it to all of my friends and colleagues. In doing so I like to think that I’m starting the same sort of thing that I hold so near and dear as my first foray into the online gaming world. Communication and teamwork is key for this game’s competitive scene and it’s something that I like to pride myself in being successful at. OW has re-instilled a lot of the nuances and expectations that I have for games, things that got me interested in the first place and the ones that keep me on this less than traditional life track. Not only has it helped to reconnect with old gaming friends but it has also helped to make plenty of new ones. I can say without a doubt that I have added more “rando” XBL people due to Overwatch than any other game(s) combined, and that. is. fantastic.
Shared interest and experience are one of the biggest driving forces behind my personal appeal to games. It helps to bring like-minded hermits like myself into a much larger world where they can not only have common ground but they can meet and enjoy other people who have the same taste.
Two months ago you could have asked me if I thought anything would be able to unseat Overwatch from its Throne of Playtime and I would have scoffed at you. Ask me the same question today and I would have a much different answer for you. For Honor has from my point of view shaken things up in the multiplayer scene in ways that I would have never predicted. Now don’t get me wrong, I played through much of the Alpha and Beta testing and had high praise for it, but I never expected it to have this much of an impact on my friends list. Hearkening back to the days with my ol’ gal World of Warcraft, I haven’t had a sense of pride and/or hatred for another faction since. For the Horde was a common phrase in my group of close friends and it was rightly so. Another element and tool of the gaming world to help create personal investment in the games and tales they create is that of factions. It’s something that was easy for Blizzard to pull off with WoW thanks to the longstanding history and canon of the Warcraft Universe. Horde hates Alliance, Alliance hates Horde, simple as that.
That underlying principle is the reason that For Honor has gone from a : meh it’s alright kind of game, to a I GOTTA HAVE IT game. While not apparent in the Alpha or Beta, the faction war between the Vikings, Knights, and Samurai is easily one of the biggest components for its success. Something had to help pry me away from Overwatch and boy is For Honor giving it a run for its money.
For those of you unfamiliar with For Honor’s global faction war I’ll give you a simple breakdown. Between the 3 Factions are Fronts, this is where the battles are waged in the 3 different modes that For Honor currently boasts. Fighting for control of these zones in the form of War Assets won in the games is the driving force behind the global war. Displayed by simple percentages and bar graphs, players are able to determine where they would like to either Attack or Defend in the effort of having a majority stake in each zone when the map updates every six hours. This give and take, three-way stalemate is the main reason I’ve become so engrossed with this game. At the time of writing this the Vikings are successfully on the march towards the Samurai Stronghold. Not two days ago though, the Samurai were on a near victorious push towards the Knight’s origin only to be thwarted by a counteroffensive from their opponents and general Viking logic (attack both factions while their preoccupied).
Yes the individual games and customization potential is fine and dandy, but it is THAT sole underlying principle and mechanic of Factions that has gotten me from a casual bystander to the forefront of the game’s meta. Currently my friends group is split between the Viking and Knight factions, while it may be troublesome and counterproductive we can at least agree on one thing.. Get them darn Samurai.
To wrap things up, I’d like to show off the single most important thing to any and every multiplayer gamer out there.
Gaming has changed greatly in the past 20 or so years, largely in part to the introduction of online play and community contribution. One thing that hasn’t changed since that intro though has been the involvement of microphones and for the life of me I cannot figure out why more people don’t use them. They come with almost every system as a standard item and still most won’t be touched until a far later date. Admittedly, back in the day I was probably one of those whiny 14 year olds that drove you to hide away your microphone, but with the new advances in Muting, Blocking, and overall voice controls inside of each system or game’s interface I still find it rare that people have them connected. Actively communicating with your team (whether you know them in real life or online) is one of the biggest contributing factors into overall team success. Callouts for enemy locations, timing Ultimates together into the perfect Wombo-Combo, or simply asking for assistance can help separate yourself and your team from the mediocre to the legendary.
This is something that transpires everything, from sports to business to life itself.
I know, I know; being just like yourself (homebodies afraid of the sun), sometimes it’s hard to take a step outside that comfort zone. What we must realize though is that we’re not alone, the fact that you’re playing an online competitive multiplayer game should be enough of a heads up about our fellow teammates interests, but alas sometimes it’s not that easy. Shared experience and all of the things that go along with it is the reason that I am so passionate about this field and industry. Without the presence of other like-minded individuals I’m not sure I can say with much certainty that I would enjoy gaming as much. It’s the driving force behind my involvement and it’s what makes this industry so special.