There are those who’ll tell you that Overwatch is at its best when you’re playing your favourite hero, pushing the limits of your skill and reflexes to unseen heights. They are wrong.
Play every hero. Play the ones you love. Play the ones you hate. Play the ones who infuriate you every time the enemy team trots them out and who are named Torbjorn and Bastion – and who should rot in Hell and Robot Hell, respectively. Do it for yourself. Do it because it’s fun.
You aren’t an MLG-calibre Widowmaker or Genji. I’m sorry. You aren’t. Unless you’re in the 0.0001 per cent of Kotaku‘s readership that has realistic professional aspirations, you’re probably just a regular person who’s trying to chill out and play a video game. Good on you! There is no shame in being that person. Never change.
Despite that, you are surrounded on all sides by unreasonable expectations. Some players yell at you to switch to a healer or tank so you can roll out the red carpet for the stylish Hollywood movie that plays in their mind every time they fall on their face and die as Hanzo. Other players berate you for not playing flawlessly when you give in to their demands and switch to a hero you’ve never spent much time playing before. And even when no one actually does this, the implicit threat of it looms, applying impossible-to-ignore weight to your decision-making process.
The path of least resistance, then, is to just stick with what’s comfortable. Specialise in one or two or three heroes and hope that suffices. Put another way, I’ve seen people apologise profusely for trying out new heroes in quick play. In quick play! Where nothing matters and there isn’t even a competitive ranking – which also does not matter, because ultimately the goal of the system is to match you against evenly skilled players – on the line. That is ludicrous to me. I felt so bad for those people, their self-respect torn to sad little shreds by a wood-chipper of expectation, that I wanted to hug them.
Here is why you should play every hero: Because it’s a blast. It seriously makes the game 26 times better, because each hero is basically a different game. I got bored of Overwatch for a while, but lately I’ve been spending my evenings focusing on heroes I didn’t use to give the time of day to, and I’ve been having a fantastic time.
I used to think I hated Orisa because she’s big and slow, and I was certain that I only liked high-mobility heroes such as Pharah and D.Va. Now I adore Orisa, because I realised there’s more to her kit than I gave her credit for. There’s no better feeling than busting up an enemy Reinhardt’s shield at range, baiting him into charging at you, and then using your Fortify ability at just the right time so that he bounces off you and falls on his arse like an idiot. Also, teams that have a giant holographic shield to take cover behind tend to win a lot. Winning feels good, too.
I also used to think that Winston died too easily; Junkrat was a scrawny, annoying troll man; and Zenyatta was better at ASMR videos than sustained combat. I was wrong about all of those things. That’s great, because it means I can now enjoy all the content in the video game I paid for. And I mean really enjoy it. Overwatch is a game of interlocking skills and strategies. It might seem as though the point of it all is to get on the point, but the larger joy of the game comes from learning. If you learn one new hero, you suddenly know every other hero in the game a little bit better. That means you gain new insights about your favourite heroes as well as a better sense of how to cooperate with your teammates. It also means that if one of your teammates makes a mistake, you’ll have a better understanding of why and, in the aftermath, can cut them some slack instead of flying off the handle.
Playing every hero also takes the weight of expectation off your shoulders, at least temporarily. I don’t mean that in regards to what jerks in chat (who can choke on those giant ants from that one part of the bad Indiana Jones) believe you should magically be capable of. I’m referring to where your head’s at. When I play Pharah, I practically seize up because of how stratospherically high my expectations of myself are. Playing other heroes, by comparison, constitutes taking a breather. I can relax and experiment, try new strategies without getting upset at myself when they fail. Then I can go back to Pharah and, feeling less stressed out, play better.
There are plenty of Overwatch players who’ll demand that you switch heroes “for the good of the team”, by which they usually mean themselves. There are others who’ll declare you a “one-trick” and post 4000-word rants to Reddit if you don’t. Fuck those people. Mute them if you have to. Play every hero on your own terms, at your own pace. Do it because it makes the game feel new again. Do it because it gives you more ways to win. Do it because it’s fun.