I have a confession: I have become an Overwatch meta slave. I rarely pick heroes other players think are “bad”. I won’t take risks with our tank-healer balance. And, most important, I will seethe when my team doesn’t reflect the holy comp du jour.
Did you pick Hanzo on an attack map? I probably scoffed at you. Did you, Genji, really think we could defend Eichenwalde without Reinhardt? Apparently, I type in team chat, you couldn’t care less about winning. I see you switched from our only healer to Widowmaker on a control point. Are you serious, I grunt into my headset.
In the grand scheme of toxic Overwatch players, I rank low. For heaven’s sake, I’m not telling any Genji players to “kill yourself”. I’m not reporting all Widowmakers for “griefing”. But I do admit that, over the last few months, I crossed into “taking Overwatch comp too seriously” territory. It’s a sad place over here, verging on mean-spirited, but at least it isn’t lonely. In Competitive Mode, inevitably, there are others who loudly police hero picks before I even have the chance. I tend to let them do the talking, unless someone’s way out of line. (I am looking at you, last-pick Genji. We do not have a healer).
I feel at home in Competitive Mode among my fellow meta peons. So I queue up for Quick Play infinitely less than I used to. There’s just something about stumbling into a room comprised of a Hanzo, Widowmaker, Genji, Sombra and Torbjorn that makes my blood boil. Have you no empathy? I think, before inevitably picking Reinhardt or Mercy. Who raised you? Quick Play’s disregard for team balance, lack of communication, and “fuck it” attitude has become grating.
Overwatch‘s Quick Play and Competitive Mode breakdown has become the equivalent of mixing oil and water. The strength of Competitive players’ culturally-sanctioned snobbery bonds propels others away. Or, perhaps, we’re less dense.
And yet, there are two problems with being angry at other players for not adhering to the “meta”. First, meta is designed to reflect players who max out each heroes’ skill. I am not a great Overwatch player. I’m simply an obsessive one who is remarkable with Roadhog most of the time. In no world am I, and five mid-rank randos I met online, playing each hero to their fullest potential throughout the entirety of a match.
The second problem is the reverse of the first: If a player is truly glorious with a non-optimal hero, there’s a chance they’re not actually a selfish, terrible person (unless they are a Hanzo main). Maybe, in fact, they are OK. I am loathe to admit it, but I’ve witnessed an attack-Bastion pull my team through the last moments of a payload map. It hurt. But it worked.
I justify my newfound Overwatch elitism like so: I like structure. I like rules. I like doing right by others in online games. I like feeling like I’m a part of the great Overwatch zeitgeist. But you know what else? I, and I suspect, my peers, secretly like having someone, like an ill-advised Genji, to blame to when we lose. If only you had switched, I say, with a sleight of hand that brushes away my own and others’ failings. If only you had switched.