It’s been years since I’ve been able to enjoy playing an online first-person shooter. Back when I was a younger, worse version of myself, I used to be really good at them. I played more Rogue Spear than I care admit as a teen, and even in college I was still good enough to hold my own against Call of Duty’s horde of racist 14 year olds. Everything changed when I entered adulthood, though, and tried my hand at one of the myriad Call of Duty sequels—I believe it was called Call of Duty: What Are You Doing Here? Aren’t You, Like, 25?—and found that my only proficiency was getting shot in the face. Even more recently, I purchased Star Wars Battlefront, because I will run head first into literally anything Star Wars related, and proceeded to spend a few weeks eating laser beams and crashing X-Wings into mountains before setting it aside for good.
The problem here isn’t so much that I’m no longer good at video games—I’m extremely good at video games because I’m extremely cool—but that most first-person shooters are not designed to be enjoyed by people like me. That is, people who have jobs that need doing, relationships that need tending to, apartments that need cleaning, and the desire to consume entertainment that dulls adulthood’s constant hum of anxiety rather than amplifies it. Throwing a person like me into a Counter Strike or Halo match is like asking Jamie Moyer to come out of retirement and pitch to Mike Trout.
This is because the aforementioned games, along with many others, are dominated by players who excel at what is known as twitch gameplay. “Twitchy” games are games that reward players who are able to spend hundreds upon hundreds of hours playing the game and honing their reflexes until their Cheeto-dusted fingers can pull the trigger faster than the other guy’s Cheeto-dusted fingers. There be monsters in these games, and they look like this:
That girl is ruining her opponents while simultaneously delivering a Gamergater’s sermon on Buzzfeed and feminism. How am I, a man who routinely spills water on himself, supposed to compete with a killing machine like that?
All of this is to say, thank God for Overwatch, the ballyhooed first-person shooter released by Blizzard Entertainment last week. Overwatch is built upon the foundation of a your a basic online shooter—teams of six face off in various maps and try to win the match by completing objectives like “stand in this spot longer than the other team” and “stop the other team from escorting this big car through the map”—but it feels specifically designed to be enjoyed by people who normally suck at this type of game.
The point of the game is not to run round the map, racking up headshots while yelling, “No-scoped, bitch!” and dipping your digital testicles onto the digital faces of your vanquished opponents. (If the previous sentence is completely befuddling to you, congratulations on your very fulfilling life.) In Overwatch, the goal is to use teamwork to complete the objective at hand. Many other first-person shooters carry the implied suggestion of teamwork, but Overwatch is the first one I’ve played that feel specifically engineered to require it. This is largely due to the characters—instead of having everyone control the same anonymous, bearded Navy SEAL, players get to choose from an eclectic cast of heroes, all of whom have specific strengths and weaknesses and special abilities.
You don’t succeed at this game by running off on your own and shooting people; you win by sticking with your teammates, complementing their attacks and abilities with your own, and just generally being chill and helpful. You can dominate an entire match without ever firing a single shot.
It’s refreshing! You can play as the healer with cool roller skates, and do nothing but hang out on the backlines and keep your buddies alive. You can be the dwarf with a Scottish(?) accent, who builds turrets that do all the shooting for you. Even the heroes that do require a bit of marksmanship offer a low point of entry, as the game doesn’t punish you with a bucking target reticle or hide your targets in a drab, grim color palette.
That’s not to say that the game is too easy. It presents plenty of difficulties, but dealing with them does not require the spastic nervous system of an over-caffeinated tween. Learning how to take advantage of the dimensions of the map, which heroes best compliment and counter each other, and how to be a good team player is a much more rewarding experience than mindlessly pulling the trigger until your eyes go bloodshot and your jaw goes slack.
This is my call to all the dads without enough time in the day, the young adults who find themselves squinting a lot more than they used to, and the schlubs who prefer to play video games while lying supine on the couch. Come play Overwatch with me, where we can be free from the tyranny of rude children with spry fingers.
Image via Blizzard