The year 2016 is already bumping uglies with some of the worst years ever in recorded human history.
David Bowie, our link to the cosmic beyond, passed away. Prince, a true original and musical weirdo-genius, died. There are mass shootings every other week. American cops are racist. The Republican party still draws a ruthless pink-dong'd constituent. It's bad news all the time, growing worse as the summer carries on.
Sometimes you're so powerless in the face of one horror after another that you don't even know how you should hurt, beacuse it does hurt. Hatred and garbage don't get to win though.
And then, standing there, it's Overwatch. It is so perfectly The Future Of Videogames, so perfectly Tomorrow, that it just might save us all.
Overwatch is the antidote to 20 years of toxic videogame culture
I'll begin with The Joy. Overwatch's move-and-smile grin-scape verges on Super Mario 64 territory. You're an elastic gumball in Overwatch. Or, you're a lumbering knight with a jetpack. Or you're a sleek ninja, or DJ on rollerblades, a hovering robotic Buddhist.
I can't imagine the development hours that went into making each character feel like your favorite of birthday cake on a fork. Rumor has it Overwatch was spun from developer Blizzard's abandoned Project: Titan MMO. This means it might have been secretly in development for 10 years. Considering how long World of Warcraft has been in operation, a contingency to replace it must have been in the works for years.
Knowing Blizzard's history in just throwing out entire games they aren't happy with (off the top of my head: Warcraft Adventures, Starcraft Ghost, early versions of Starcraft 1), there are likely 9 abandoned versions of Overwatch that just weren't quite good enough. We are so lucky to have this.
Blizzard has tossed out better work than most game developers have dreamed over. And the game Blizzard decided was the acceptable final product: a game about happy, beautiful, globally-minded superheroes banding together. Not a dead-serious heck-dark gothic horror like Diablo. Not more rote high-fantasy like Warcraft. Not more Starcraft.
This! Overwatch. Positivity, optimism, and futurism. According to the marketing copy on Overwatch's homepage, we are quite welcome:
WELCOME TO OVERWATCH
In Overwatch, you control one of several heroes in competitive 6-person team shooting matches. Battle over objectives, take down the other team, and achieve victory.
Competitive 6-person team shooting matches. It's a match, as if it were a sport. No battles, no killing, and they even use an Oxford comma properly at the end of the second sentence. These two sentences demonstrate an uncommon confidence in videogames.
Overwatch's characters exist so precisely in their hyper-real, better world, fighting against capital-"E" Evil and capital-"H" Hatred, that its very gameplay loop makes contextual sense within the world's fiction.
Each match ends with a "Play of the Game" highlight replaying the pivotal moment. These plays of the game are inaccurate in their worst moments and are teachable experiences at their best. The opportunity to thank and congratulate your teammates or opponents follows next, followed by the scoring screen.
The scoring in Overwatch is positive. Rather than simply killing and avoiding being killed, where a traditional game might pour its foundation, you're encouraged to play a character's ideal objective in Overwatch. Are you the healing angel, Mercy? Heal away and be rewarded! Are you the ice-scientist, Mei? Block the enemy's advance to control the playing field! Are you the bubbly time-hopper, Tracer? Run distraction on your enemies to drive them mad.
Sometimes, you need to shoot your enemy, but these are not "kills," they're "eliminations." It's wonderful.
Overwatch was designed to be loved. This is such a rewarding feeling. Expert game designers and artists with fantastic taste decided the best thing they could do was create a game with mass appeal. Big, burly, broad appeal is a wonderful thing in the right hands.
Overwatch is leadership. It's strength in what Blizzard wants videogames to be in the future. It's Blizzard devoting football stadiums of money and years of development on something worthy of a fanbase.
We all should be so brave.