#286: The Queue

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Role queue is a new feature recently added to the game Overwatch, and it’s changed everything. Previously, you were able to choose heroes freely, without having to worry about what role they filled. You could have an entire team of damage dealers, or supports, or tanks, and the game would do nothing to stop you from trying that hilarious (but probably ineffectual and frustrating after awhile) strategy. Role queue is meant to fix that problem, among other problems present in the game’s social side of things, by forcing a 2-2-2 team composition on every team that plays in Quick Play or Competitive Play from here on. While initially I was hesitant to accept the limitations towards creative freedom that role lock posed, I became more in favor of the idea the more I heard from people on the PTR who said it drastically improved their playing experiences. They were able to queue for whatever role they wanted, and it didn’t matter what other hero people picked. They knew that their team would be good from the outset, at the very least because it was 2-2-2.

Previously, there was always the lurching fear that your team would descend into total chaos because one of your healers switched to a damage dealer, or your only tank swapped to a healer when you already had three healers. There have been innumerable instances of playing Overwatch where the other team wins over us just because they have a better team composition than we do, and now the field is a bit more level. There can still be times where your two damage dealers are Bastion and Symmetra on Offense on a 2CP map (*cough* *cough*), but at least the odds of that happening are less and less. Eventually, role queue will be coming to Quick Play, and I’m looking forward to that so I don’t have to do Competitive as much!

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#58: Multiplayer & Solo

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Continuing the spirit of talking about things that I talked about a long time ago but want to dedicate more thought to, here’s Overwatch again, but in a different context! (The enclosed picture is not related to Overwatch at all, but that’s because there aren’t any free pictures on the internet of the logo, so this will have to suffice.)

In case you didn’t read my last blog post on this subject or are living under a rock, Overwatch is a first-person shooter (fps) video game for the PC, Xbox, and PS4. It features quick movement, a massive pool of heroes with different niches and styles, and solid, reliable run-and-gun gameplay built around teamwork and cooperation. Six heroes make up a team and have to complete a single objective in order to win a match; however, opposing them is another team of six heroes with the sole objective of making sure the first team does not succeed. It’s a back-and-forth, chaotic, fun multiplayer game built for pre-made teams to dominate together. When I find myself hanging out with my friends, we always end up playing at least one or two games of Overwatch before the night is over. Bringing our laptops or computers together to play games is a classic tradition of ours, to complete the LAN party atmosphere, but venturing online to Battle.net to play some Overwatch is almost an inevitability.

Despite all this talk about the game’s multiplayer prowess, I also enjoy playing solo from time to time. The Quick Play mode is painless and, as its name implies, quick, a simple way of entering a game with like-skilled players but without any major competitive stakes attached, except for a small bit of experience gained at the end of the match for the winning team. There are different virtues to extol while playing the game online with friends versus online by myself, and I’ve learned to enjoy both. The fact that every match is multiplayer does not necessarily mean I have to play with other people I know in my party to have fun.

 

#28: Overwatch

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Overwatch. Some love, some hate it, but most everyone knows about it in some way. From the firefights and massive ultimate explosions to the bombastic fanfare that enters every match, Overwatch has lots of love baked into it by its developers, while also providing for epic experiences on a regular basis. With 29 heroes and counting, the diverse gameplay styles offered in Overwatch are second to none. Tanks, healers, damage dealers; every hero fits into a specific “role” within a team and achieves that goal through different means. Playable heroes like Torbjorn and Soldier: 76 are both classified as damage dealers, for example, and yet Torb deals damage via crafting and upgrading turrets on the battlefield, whereas Soldier deals damage by shooting his pulse rifle. So, there’s a lot of unique design space within the game for the developers to explore; and of course, some heroes are more “vanilla” than others. The developers recently released a hero called Ashe, another damage dealer, who’s been a blast to play. Her move-set is centered on her weapon, the Viper rifle, which separates her from more ability and spell-focused hero releases like Brigitte and Doomfist.

While every fight in the game won’t be perfectly balanced and competitive, most quick-play matches tend to be fine. And even the most frustrating matches boil down to a simple lesson of: don’t take the game too seriously. Most aggressors and trolls are easily ignored (or muted) once I take my head out of the game. This isn’t just for Overwatch, necessarily, but for most competitive games. I used to get more worked up over games than anything else, and yet it’s so much easier for me to take a step back now. I feel much more at ease while playing games thanks to this change in my mindset. I spoke about mindfulness a bit in one of my previous posts, and I’ve tried implementing mindfulness practices while playing games to help ease the mental stress of competition.

One of my most memorable and cherished moments from teaching is when some students discovered my old YouTube channel and my Play-of-the-Game highlight reels, featuring some less than stellar gameplay from myself. (I’ve never professed to be that good at Overwatch; I just find it fun to play with friends when they’re around.) They left a note on my desk after the last day of school, after playing hangman on loose paper for an hour. I remember smiling for the rest of the day after reading their note. It made me smile not just to see their recognition of my embarrassing plays, but also because it showed a level of gratitude and respect from them that I had been seeking all year, slowly but surely. It’s difficult to put into words, but even if they didn’t learn anything all year, I’m satisfied with this.

Teaching has always been connected to some form of self-validation, for me. Is it selfish, or just human nature, to seek appreciation from people over anything else? Ethically speaking, I guess it’s questionable, as students’ learning should always be number one, but as a person with complex emotions, it’s something I have a hard time preventing.

Want to play Overwatch sometime? I’m on PC. Leave a comment if you’re interested.