Over the last few months, I’ve gotten more involved in the gaming community…
And it’s been great to feel immersed in something I love. But with such immersion came an inability to escape Overwatch. Twitter? Tweets about Overwatch from journalists and gamers. Facebook? Peeps talking Overwatch. ASR Podcasts? “So what’s everyone playing this week? Besides a bunch of Overwatch.” It was inescapable.
Everyone was singing its praises so highly, but I hesitated to pick it up because it’s not my genre. At all. When I heard people talk about Overwatch, it was like they were speaking a different language—heroes, ultimates, healers, balance—it all meant nothing to me. But I was tired of being on the outside looking in. Surely a game with this much fandom must have some universal appeals. I thought to myself, why can’t I try a FPS? Lately I’ve realized my gaming interests are a lot more expansive than I give myself credit for. Sure I grew up on platformers, but I also play puzzlers, fighting games, racing games, sports games, and (most recently) simulators.
So on June 4th I broke down and finally bought Overwatch.
And I was just awful.
Many gamers have described Overwatch as a game anyone can pick up, and I found that true only in the most technical sense. Is Overwatch complicated? No. But will people flounder in unfamiliar situations—almost always.
I was, and remain, a floundering Overwatch Noob. This is my story:
The tutorial taught me the basic controls, but when I started a match I was completely lost. What’s our goal here? Okay: each match is sort of different. Different characters serve different purposes. Different characters should be played differently. But none of it really registered. It felt like theory I didn’t take time to learn, so I could barely apply it. I spent most of my time deathspectating as I—Tracer—died over and over again (it took several games before I realized what Recall did, oops!). It wasn’t until yesterday that I learned you could reload by pressing X. And I still, decently often, press RB/LB instead of RT/LT and vice versa.
Why did I struggle so much?
- All the concepts were new to me.
- I wanted to learn by playing. (What’s this button do again? Let’s press it and find out until I commit it to memory)
- I have a bad habit of going in guns-a-blazing: I lack strategy, am too impatient for stealth, and my aim is very poor.
None of this was surprising, but all of it was humbling. Suddenly I—a life-long gamer—was a complete noob. I wasn’t just bad: I was sluggish and unsure. I didn’t fully understand my role or my team’s, let alone how all the parts should function together. It was a lesson in empathy for every non-gamer who refused the controller I offered them. It was karma for every time I watched someone struggle while I silently judged, thinking to myself, “this is pretty straightforward.”
When I got Overwatch, all my friends were excited to add me so we could all play – but the thought horrified me. Have I talked and tweeted candidly about my struggles? Yes, but no one has actually witnessed it. I knew I wouldn’t be judged, but my neuroticism and ego kicked in. Like I said, I grew up on platformers where it’s you vs. the game. In a game like Overwatch, it’s your team vs. another (cue: the don’t-pass-me-the-ball-not-that-you-would-anyway gym class flashbacks).
But when my friend Nick messaged me: “Overwatch in 30 mins?” I had to give a resounding yes.
There’s an idiom I used to see every day in the hallway of my elementary school: “Character is who you are when no one is watching.” But in this era of online gaming, Youtube channels, and Twitch streams I’ve found the opposite applies.
Character is who you are when everyone is watching.
I had to put my ego aside. For every friend who I talked into playing a game, for all the non-gamers too intimidated to pick up a controller, if I did not do this I’d be a hypocrite.
Following the advice of Melissa, a fellow Bit Cultures writer and my partner in Noobdom, I clung to Soldier 76 for dear life. She “suggest[ed] Solider 76, [because] he can heal, [has] mid-range weapon attacks, and his ultimate makes it so you won’t miss.” All of this came in handy—particularly the healing. No, I never changed characters to match the mission or better compliment my team, but I held my own for the most part. And I finally got play of the game! (Yes, it was with my ultimate; yes, it was cheap; and no, I don’t care.)
Playing with my friend Nick (and his friends) gave me some much needed practice, and listening to them do some light strategizing helped me understand the game a bit better.
At the end of the day, gaming is about having fun and spending time with others: noobs or not. And a true gamer needs to embrace the times when they’re the former. Improving… winning… these things will come in time. As for now, I’m an Overwatch noob and will wear the title proudly. For I am not defined by my current abilities; rather, my willingness to work at something outside of my comfort zone and to do so publicly.