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June 13, 2016

RE: Overwatch

So you know what I realized?  Overwatch is the first game I’ve ever bought for the PC.

No, really.

No, really.

No, really.

Like I’ve said before, I don’t really play any PC games.  It’s not that I’ve never done it, but despite the options available, I’ve completely slid away from the platform.  Like, the last time I played a PC game was giving Hearthstone a try on my brother’s computer, and I’m pretty sure I only did that to beat some AI opponents to unlock stuff for him.  (Mission complete, thanks to the basic Paladin deck.)  I also played Team Fortress 2 a couple of times while he played on one of the consoles -- and back when we used to share a PC, I played World of Warcraft for a few weeks during one summer. 

And that’s pretty much it.  My expertise with PC games is lower than the number of hairs on Mr. Clean’s head.  I know there are a ton of classics that have wormed their way into the hearts of gamers, but those were before my time (both in terms of age and when I actually had a computer).  If and when I got games, most of them were on consoles, with only a rare bone tossed toward the PC vis a vis gifts from my parents.  The biggest payoff, if one could call it that, was when I got a six-pack of Sim-based games.  Their quality was…debatable, basically.  It didn’t help that the first computer we used for games was basically outdated in a couple of years, so the newest titles made that machine chug.

I don’t hate PC gaming, since if not for that I would’ve never played Final Fantasy 7 or 8 (and a couple of suboptimal-performing Lego games).  But I hope you’ll forgive me for not being too keen on the platform.  I never had the foundation, and I doubt I ever will.  Sorry, Will Wright.

That’d probably explain why I suck at Overwatch -- which I basically expected going in. 

Whereas my brother, a number of his friends, and presumably most people on the planet moved on to become more well-versed in PC gaming (with a multitude of shooters, Counter-Strike well among them), I’ve been sticking with a pad for millennia.  I don’t have the muscle memory needed to act with pinpoint precision or lightspeed reaction time; sure, I know how to use WASD controls and a mouse, but I can’t say I use them well

Now, if PC gaming was strictly limited to typing out stuff on the keyboard -- a la The Typing of the Dead -- then I’d be basically unstoppable.  But that’s not the case, so I’m a liability to myself and others.  That’s kind of a problem when you’re supposed to work with a team; even though nobody’s said it outright (yet), I’m always worried that people on my team think I’m the reason why we lost.  On the other hand, I’d wager that Overwatch is constructed in such a way that, even if you are terrible at shooters, you can still contribute something worthwhile.  That’d probably explain why I’m fond of a Support character like Lucio.  Though in his case, I can think of a few other reasons.

But I digress.  The important thing is that Overwatch is basically my very first real PC game -- and that begs the question of “why now”.  Why buy in?  Why this game, instead of droves of others?  That’s especially true, considering that there’s a console version available.  Well, the PC version is $20 cheaper, so there’s that bonus right off the bat.  I’m wary of PC gaming because it increases the risk of me goofing off instead of doing stuff for Cross-Up and other projects, but on the other hand?  It means I’d be able to play online with my brother, as we did in the beta.  So that’s another plus.

Really, though, I couldn’t help but be attracted to the game.  In a lot of ways, it’s exactly what I always wanted; it’s a symbol of the gaming industry’s step away from an age of grit, grime, and po-faced seriousness.  I want to enjoy that shift as it happens.  And it probably will happen, since the game’s a wild success…though that probably means we’ll be getting a bunch of clones that miss the point, but we’ll cross that bridge when we get to it.

There’s a part of me that wonders if the game’s triumph -- financially, critically, or emotionally -- is thanks to the same old marketing and hype-mongering tricks that’ve become standard operating procedure in the big-budget space.  Look at what the animated trailers were promising: heroes coming together in a brave new world to preserve the peace and push toward a better, more hopeful tomorrow.  Then you get to the actual game, and apparently, “peacekeeping” = matches of King of the Hill and playing babysitter to a big dumb payload.  It’s troubling, because there IS lore to the game, and there IS stuff worth looking at extensively.  Blizzard and crew need to give the game the story mode/campaign it deserves; I kind of wonder how that’d work, but given their resources, it’s not like it’s impossible.

But Overwatch is basically on the same axis as Splatoon.  The latter is also about its incredible multiplayer and gameplay (albeit with a deeper theme and metacontext than most would expect), so saying “Overwatch fails because it has no story” would be a massive disservice.  I tried the beta back when Call of Duty: Black Ops III came out, and pretty much stayed glued to the chair for about four hours.  I played the public beta for a couple of days, and grew enamored with it despite my lack of skills.  Now the full game’s out and I’m having a hard time thinking of a shooter I’ve enjoyed more.  (Besides Splatoon).  Soooooooo…why do we even need CoD or Battlefield now that we have a respite, a lord and savior descended to deliver us from brownness?

It should go without saying, but this won’t be the last time I talk about Overwatch here on this blog.  It’ll be a bit before you see anything from me, most likely, since I have to approach it in a manner as native to me as the surface of Phobos.  But until then?  I have to compare it, however slightly -- and unfairly -- to Battleborn.  I also played the beta for that, and it was…fine.  All right.  Not really my thing, but I understand the appeal.  I feel as if marrying shooter mechanics and MOBA mechanics isn’t a bad idea, but it adds a level of complexity that I can’t really get behind.  Still, the reason why I wasn’t sold had more to do with the characters -- and the aesthetics, and the animations, and everything in between.

I’m not saying Battleborn is bad -- and I feel bad for it because it release in the same general time frame as Overwatch, which couldn’t have been a good idea.  Still, my real complaint is that the aesthetic was all over the place; there was no consistency between the characters, uniting them under a single stylistic vision.  They were disparate entities that might as well have been pulled from different games and crammed into one; maybe that was the point, but there wasn’t really anyone I resonated with.  It didn’t help that the characters felt like they were missing something, the humor wasn’t particularly good, and I never got the sense that I was playing as a different hero each time.  Even if they have wildly different skill sets, it felt more like I was playing as those skill sets instead of someone I’d pledge my life to.  Or my loyalty, more importantly.

That’s not the case with Overwatch.  It should go without saying that it’s a good-looking game in terms of fidelity and aesthetics, thanks to the almighty dollar.  But it’s just a better-looking and better-feeling game.  I believe that the same space can be occupied by a scientist gorilla and Robo-Dhalsim sooner than I believe an armored space marine and an elfin archer can occupy the same planet.  In the absence of a dedicated story mode (for now), all you need to do to understand the characters is watch a compilation of their highlight intros.  They move, they speak, they act, they live, and more; some serious work has gone into making the heroes a reality, and it hasn’t gone unnoticed or unappreciated.

It’s like…you know how people turn their noses up at animation because it automatically means “lower quality” or “it’s for kids”, even when the reverse has been proven true time and time again by Pixar alone?  I’ve always lamented that not enough people are willing to use animation because of the stigma -- as if they’re afraid of being stylish.  Or ignored, or scoffed at, or whatever.  Now here comes Overwatch, which not only gives me exactly what I wanted, but also fills a niche that’s largely gone unfilled. 

As in, Zootopia may be a movie with some heady themes and complexity, but it had to masquerade as a cheery, kid-friendly comedy along the way.  Can you imagine what it would be like if the limiters were off and people were free to create whatever they wanted, however they wanted, and they were guaranteed to have at least a couple of curious onlookers instead of snooty naysayers?  We don’t have to imagine anymore, because WE OVERWATCH NOW, BAYBEE.

And that’s about all I’ve got for now.  Be sure to keep checking in for more on Overwatch from me, as well as whatever else shows up in the interim.  What’ll it be?  Who knows?  Maybe it’ll be the new Ratchet and Clank.  Maybe it’ll be JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure.  Maybe it’ll be something else completely random.

Or maybe it’ll have something to do with E3.  Let’s see who embarrasses themselves this year.

OH WAIT, NO.  There’s something of IMMENSE importance I have to mention:

Mercy is my Overwatch waifu.  Why?  Because she’s literally the best.  LITERALLY.


In my humble opinion, of course. <3 font="">

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