Overwatch's Hype Is All About Those Kids

Overwatch's Hype Is All About Those Kids

Boy, people sure got excited about that Overwatch reveal, didn't they? It's been a while -- Watch Dogs' E3 announcement probably being the last case -- since I saw grown humans lose their shit over a trailer and a lil' bit of early gameplay. But in the case of Overwatch there's a very good reason for it, and it's one that I wish more developers would make use of.

When it comes to weighing up your thoughts/feelings on a game you haven't yet played yourself -- and really, you wouldn't be reading this website if you didn't get carried away with that sort of stuff every now and then -- you only have a few things to go on. The genre itself, art design, maybe the pedigree of the team involved, the quality -- however misleading -- of a cinematic trailer.

Overwatch's debut trailer, the epicentre of the hype, had all of those. It's coming from Blizzard, one of the best studios on the planet. It's a team shooter, a genre that has remarkable staying power. The trailer itself was very slick, playing more like as short film than a game trailer. And while it's a subjective thing, the character design seemed to go down pretty well with most folks.

But none of those things on their own did the trick. Instead, it was the tone of the thing. The feel of its universe and characters.

Consider the vast majority of blockbuster video game releases. They usually star men. Those men are scowling. They're involved in bloody violence of the grimmest sort. The lighting is dark, and smoky, and hostile. From Call of Duty to Battlefield, Assassin's Creed to Far Cry (and most games in between), the big games from big teams share a very similar tone. And that tone isn't very fun.

Now consider Overwatch's reveal. Happy kids, a talking ape, a very chirpy British girl. It didn't really seem like a video game trailer at all, did it? People compared (wrongly, I think) the art design to Pixar, but they're close: it felt like a Pixar movie, with a youthful sense of joy and excitement.

In this business, that's pretty rare! Which is bizarre when you think about it. Humans, even nerd humans, have a variety of interests, which allow them to enjoy things across a wide spectrum of genres, tastes and styles. We love Toy Story as much as we love Aliens. Yet when it comes to games, we usually only get the latter.

Sure, there are exceptions. Loads of smaller indie titles get by just fine being super happy. You could say Borderlands does as well (though its toilet humour and violence sets it apart from Overwatch's gentler comic-book approach), as does TF2, along with Blizzard's own World of Warcraft. But those are just that, exceptions.

The world's biggest video games can't always be so serious; sometimes it's great to let the full colour spectrum in, embrace the absurdity of the medium (and the comic books its so clearly drawing inspiration from) and just have fun with a game's universe.

Now, let's just hope the game itself ends up as fun as its reveal was...


    "Happy kids, a talking ape, a very chirpy British girl."

    I hate kids, talking animals and chirpy anything.

    Anyway. Overwatch is a shooter, yes?

    You will be dedicated to the task of killing stuff with projectile weapons. Something about lipstick on a pig.

      I like the cut of your salt my boy

    I kinda get that this is different to most other shooters but really they seem to be taking a lot of their tone from the most popular game in the genre.
    The release was very similar to a TF2 video. Light, bright, cartoony and a splash of humour.

      Light, bright, cartoony and with a splash of humour is Blizzard's aesthetic for all their games except Diablo. I don't think it's fair to say Blizzard continuing to use their standard aesthetic is copying a competing game that came after their art style was developed in the first place.

        Really? I don't play WoW so I can see that it might be but I don't really know.
        But the original warcraft RTS didn't have it, diablo doesn't, starcraft doesn't.

        May just be me but when I think Blizzard trailers the tone is much more like this https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aVtXac6if14

          I'm talking about the in-game aesthetic. Both Starcrafts have occasional humour, and are visually bright and cartoony (the second more than the first). Starcraft and the original Warcraft had pre-rendered sequence styles that differed significantly from the actual in-game style, but games like Hearthstone and Heroes of the Storm have mainly changed that so they're consistent.

          The style of the trailer is different to what you might usually expect from Blizzard trailers, but it's consistent with the art style that's been through Blizzard's games for years.

            Fair enough.
            Like I said I haven't played many blizzard games recently so going mostly as a trailer comparison.

              You're fine. I should have been a bit clearer what I meant in my first post, my bad.

    I thought the kids were purely incidental, devices used to provide exposition and move the plot along, ending with an "Anyone can be a hero" style moral. I do agree that tone is very important when selling a game. It's why people got excited for TF2, why people were enthusiastic about Wildstar, and where the hype for Sunset Overdrive started. Even when it's sombre like that one trailer for Dead Island, the right tone will always make people hyped, even when the game doesn't live up to it.

    Do we really need a cockney lass though? After suffering through Loki in Bayonetta 2 I'm really over the default "British" voice being someone with a cockney accent.

      After suffering through Loki in Bayonetta 2 I'm really over the default "British" voice being someone with a cockney accent.
      He says, forgetting about the title character's classy refined default British voice for a moment.

      I could listen to a cockney accent all day...

        it seems cockney is now the popular accent to hate on, been seeing alot of people lately state their utter hatred for any character with a cockney accent

    Little kids and people who giggle "cutely" are a sure fire way to set my teeth on edge. As a result I haven't been drinking the kool-aid as much as seeming everyone everywhere. Which is a shame, because the game itself looks alright.

    For reference, I am inherently pessimistic and I've been having a lousy couple of weeks.

    I kind agree with the article. Games are so busy trying to prove that they are an adult entertainment medium, they have forgotten about the FUN. As an old bastard, I love cartoons and Pixar movies as much as I love my games. I think Blizzard have hit the mark with Overwatch.

    Last edited 12/11/14 8:16 am

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