Yet Another Divided Community?
Overwatch is currently celebrating the Chinese New Year with an event that adds not only additional cosmetic skins but also a new game mode. Capture the Rooster is a themed variation of capture the flag. What makes this new content so interesting is that Blizzard initially stated that such a game mechanic would not be viable for the game, due to the abilities of specific characters giving them an unfair advantage. However, the developers have placed a time delay between capturing the flag and when a player can run with it, allegedly mitigating this loophole. Yet despite this change Capture the Rooster is still proving controversial with the player base. Feel free to peruse the comments section over at Polygon or on the Overwatch subreddit for further information. The key to success appears to be with having a balanced organised team. Thus, guilds that player regularly fair better than players who just auto group.
This point and others demonstrate the divide that has quickly formed within the Overwatch community. As ever this division forms around player styles. Specifically, casual players who auto group and play for fun and those who pursue ranked competitive gameplay. I’ve read a lot recently about the alleged “toxicity” of the Overwatch community but have not encountered it myself until recently. But then again, I have been “playing in the shallow end” with regard to my time in game. I usually just use the Quick Play facility to auto group with players of my level. If I want to try and familiarise myself with a new character, then I play against the game AI. So far, all my interactions with other players have been positive. There’s been a few crass comments but they’ve been few and far between. However, as I recently hit level 30, I decided to give the Competitive Play ago and the difference in behaviour was striking.
Competitive gameplay can be a good thing, or so I’m told. Please insert all the usual platitudes about team dynamics, creating communities and building character here. I’m not sure if they are applicable to all players but I’m prepared to consider that not everyone partaking of Competitive Play in Overwatch is ill-mannered and ill humoured. Yet the reality is that a lot are and as ever they leech all the enjoyment out of the proceedings. Tantrums about changing characters as well as blame and anger after a lost round are all too frequent. As ever, racially abusive terms, sexually violent threats and brooding rancour liberally abound in text and audio chat. There’s a somewhat tiresome and tedious inevitability about this state of affairs. Furthermore, it’s sad because the ranked games in Overwatch, do tend to be better. Players show a far greater understanding on their character’s skills and have better situational awareness. I must admit I’ve been impressed by the standard of the games I lost. It’s just a shame that all this goes hand in glove with a simultaneous race to the bottom.
I and possibly many of my colleagues have reached a point now in our respective gaming lives where these kinds of community divides are just a fact of life. Ranked playing simply comes with baggage and you just have to roll with it. If such a mechanic is introduced in to any game, then this kind of behaviour always manifests itself. Of course, different developers try different approaches to correct this situation, with vary degrees of sincerity and success but I suspect it is ultimately unsolvable. The anonymity of the internet simply frees people from social convention and shows that perhaps our default position isn’t as nice as we would like to think. So, it’s back to the “shallow end” for me. I have insufficient skill anyway to truly thrive in ranked gameplay and as a result I don’t enjoy such an environment. As for the issues of division and “toxicity” (which is a nebulous term) perhaps they just prove that the brotherhood of gamers, so often extolled, is a myth and that we all play for vastly differing reasons. Therefore, why should we all get along?