I don’t like online multiplayer FPS games. In fact, it’s safe to say I loathe them. The feeling of utter despair when you try an online shooter and join a random game for the first time, only to be shot down by the pros; the flabbergasted feeling realizing just how quickly and nimbly players move while you feel like you’re standing still.
And the salt – oh, the saltiness of some player bases in these games. Have you ever been headshot by a 13 year old who proceeded to insult your mother while crouching on your dead body’s face? Because that’s what I felt was a realistic way to think about online shooters, even as close as two weeks ago.
But then, Overwatch changed everything. Unless you’ve been living under a rock you’ve heard of the game: the first original franchise since 1998 and Blizzard comes up with an FPS, of all things! But somehow, they succeeded not only in piercing the market of online shooters, they completely ripped apart the fabric of the esports scene: Overwatch is the Rise of Recreational Competition. In other words, Casual eSports.
Ok so you might be asking yourself, “what the hell is she talking about, there’s no such things as “recreational competition”, either you’re a pro competing gamer in a league or you’re a casual and don’t belong, n00b!”… And you’d be completely wrong, unfortunately.
Overwatch isn’t a shooter like Team Fortress 2, Call of Duty, Counterstrike, Unreal Tournament or the myriads of variations out there (if I forgot your favorite frag fest, I apologize, there’s so many!). Upon entering their first Overwatch game, a new player can immediately get a feel for the game, find a hero they kind of like, and go for it – other than having a mouse and a keyboard there’s no real barrier of entry to this game.
I’ve heard of some complaints about the very thing that makes Overwatch special: A lot of heroes are so-called “noob friendly” and are easy to win with – as long as you’re playing against other players of your level. And by the time you realize Bastion is easily countered by Genji? By the time you can no longer just fly up with Pharah and Press Q for Play of the Game without getting sniped instantly by literally any of the heroes? It’s too late. You’re hooked. And then you realize another thing, that this is a Team-Based game and you'd better start finding yourself some partners, of which there are now so many you've interacted with, and it's extremely easy to just add them as friends and start some real matches.
And the major factor that really brings about recreational competition in the eSports world is the simple fact that Overwatch matches played by brand new players of the genre (such as myself) can be fun to play and even watch. I might even say that in some cases I’ve had just as much fun watching friends play than I had looking at replays of pro matches (IDDQD vs REUNITED, anyone?). The thrill of hanging on to Overtime in a Capture map, where both teams are at 99% and heroes are flooding in, literally throwing themselves at the point, is something to behold and to live.
For once in my life, I feel like the Casual Gamer that I am, the one that can’t even always headshot stationary targets in Fallout 4, finally has a place. I finally have a voice, a place, a community, a game that I can rally around. Not against anything, not against the pro players or the teens claiming they did ugly things to my sweet mother, simply a rally for a new world – the one where casuals are kings and we rule by having fun.