Overwatch 'Bronze To Grandmaster Challenges' Are Fun To Watch, But A Little Shady

Overwatch

"We're gonna have some fun here," Beeftipsy said, spraying his tag on the ground of Overwatch's Oasis map, the Overwatch equivalent of cracking one's knuckles.

It was the first day of the Twitch streamer's "Bronze to Grandmaster challenge," a trendy stunt in which master players who want to flex their competitive muscle live for fans take a single hero from the lowest to the second-highest rank as quickly as possible -- sometimes bending the rules to do so.

Peering down into the map's central chasm, Beeftipsy took his time placing his crosshairs on an opponent's head, giving off the impression of shooting fish in a barrel.

BeefTipsy

A generous interpretation of the Bronze to Grandmaster challenge paints it as a high-tension redemption storyline, like the plot of a generic anime, in which one streamer with lots of potential scales the ranks to compete against the greats. It's also educational, a way for viewers to see how each hero performs on every tier of gameplay.

Then again, a more cynical onlooker might view it as a novel and less overt approach to "smurfing," a widely reviled practice in which more skilled gamers make "smurf" accounts to stomp on noobs and revel in their superiority.

Beeftipsy's main account is already ranked Grandmaster. To prepare for the challenge, which took him 70 hours to complete, he purchased an alternate account, leveled it up to Competitive Mode's specifications, and then conscientiously underperformed on his placement matches.

When asked whether he thinks intentionally pursuing Overwatch's lowest ranking constitutes "throwing," a big no-no in publisher Blizzard's book, Beeftipsy said, "Nope."

What he did, he said, was do the placement matches with a controller on PC, constituting a sort of handicap. "Keyboard was broke and I wanted to place a new account and all I had was a controller," he told Kotaku. "Maybe that was the case."

Another streamer, PvPTwitch, got wind of the challenge back in March and decided to give it a go with the explosives-based hero Junkrat for a few reasons, he said in a Discord chat: "One, to prove Junkrat is viable at all ranks, two to prove I could hit GM as a Junkrat player coming from Console, and three to teach people how to play Junkrat through all ranks in a very entertaining format."

PVPTwitch leveled up an alternate account with five other players, who were either Bronze-level or primarily console-owning viewers of his Twitch channel. "I chose to group up with lower skill players knowing I probably would not be able to carry 5 other people during my placements," he said.

He lost all 10 of his placement games. Once he reached Grandmaster on that account, he had a 70 to 80 per cent win rate. His viewers watched raptly all 130 games of his ascent.

Dozens of new viewers tuned in for his streams, PvPTwitch said, because of their educational content. Often, during face-offs, he would explain tactics like how to knock a Pharah out of the sky with Junkrat's bombs, or how to guard Junkrat's Rip Tire with Symmetra's moving shield.

"The interesting part about climbing from bronze to GM is comparing all the different ranks as you climb," he said. Silver ranked players almost never communicate. By Platinum, players make more use of voice chat. Once they reach Diamond, opponents position themselves differently.

"This allows me to give tips to people of different [skill rating] levels, and explain how people should improve to make it to the next step."

Still, in his streams, it's clear that PvPTwitch relishes in the skill gap. "It's like my team isn't killing anything," he laughed during a Bronze-level match-up that he was clearly carrying. "If I don't kill it, it doesn't die."

"These kids suck," he added during another Bronze match. "They're all plebs. I'm killin' them."

Most viewers and Overwatch fans who aren't cheering along streamers' Bronze-rank pillages tend to look on with ambivalence. The few vocal naysayers are mostly furious about the games these streamers "throw" off-stream to get their account's rank as close to zero as possible.

"It's not ok to ruin hundreds of games just to get some attention on Twitch," Overwatch fan Girafarig said over email. "It's like letting a pro boxer fight against an amateur. Everyone knows the outcome but they still watch it."

PvPTwitch

A fan of the streamer Ster, who has done the challenge, finds the streams funny and impressive at face, but also a little callous, especially considering the Overwatch community's grievances over how hard it was to "climb" ranks last season.

"It's frustrating to see someone rank up so easily through the ranks," he said. Having a pro just blast past the rank you were or still are stuck at for seasons."

At the end of an early match in PvPTwitch's Bronze to Grandmaster challenge, PvPTwitch seemed nonplussed that his Junkrat's rip tire won "Play of the Match." PvPTwitch had dropped his Twitch handle into chat, which another player recognised.

"Smurf account?" the player asked.

"Yessir," PvPTwitch responded.


Comments

    It seems pretty dickish. "Prove X is viable at all levels of play" is a cop out since nobody actually wonders that, they wonder if X is viable at different levels of skill, which obviously isn't on display. And "oh I played with a controller to get lower rank" sounds like some straight up fiction to me.

    The whole thing seems like it's just trying to legitimise smurfing. Billing it as "player beats the odds to rise from bronze to grandmaster" sounds a lot less dodgy than "grandmaster makes a new account to beat up on less skilled players until he gets back to the rank he was supposed to be at". I'm not interested in watching that, and I'm certainly not going to reward someone with views for doing it.

      but his keyboard was broken for the duration of his placement matches.....

        So he said, after the fact when Kotaku asked him about it.

          i know, its hilariously obvious he doesnt give a shit about being an arrogant twat.

      I think we need to put it in perspective. It's not like he was doing dozens of games against the same low-skilled opponent(s). The opponents might have been matched against him once or twice probably. In that case, they'd just get owned by a superior player and maybe learn something in the process. Maybe not, but they'd lose 10-20 minutes on average.

      I agree it's pretty shitty to do this, but I don't think it's the end of the world.

        I'm not suggesting it's the end of the world, we're talking video games here. But it still seems like a dick thing to do and something I wouldn't want to support.

        The problem is they're encouraging the behaviour, they make it look like fun. I'm ranked platinum every season and at least two in every five matches has smurf/s in them. One smurf isn't a problem, but there's so many of them out there clogging up the scene.

    I kinda wish they would split competitive into Solo queue and Team queue but know that would come with its own bag of problems when it comes to 5 stacks and similar.
    It might help reduce the amount of smurfs though, there would be no need to create another account for when you can't queue with friends. hopefully the shorter season will see a drop off with smurfs too, less time to work on multiple accounts.

    I think as long as they're approaching it constructively instead of using it as an ego-boost, it's fine. It's like a scrim game with a pro - watch, listen and learn.

    The fact that it's even doable to go from Bronze to GM is nice to know when you're stuck in Gold / Plat and no one wants to use voicechat.

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