Season 3 of the in-game competitive Overwatch ladder starts tomorrow and as I mentally prepare for the battles to come, I also reflect on how Overwatch has changed my life in just a few short months. Overwatch quickly became one of my all time favorite games. I tried Blizzard’s hero-based shooter for the first time on my PlayStation 4 during the open beta in early May and have played it almost exclusively since its release later that month. I played almost every night. I still do. Overwatch allows me to reconnect with friends from high school, college, and past jobs. It is mostly a social experience that enables me to make new friends and create memories through jokes told over voice chat. Not every experience with Overwatch has been positive, but a few toxic people aren’t enough to sully the game for me.
I noticed myself getting better at the game but never realized how good I became until my roommate sat next to me to watch me play. He is a fellow Overwatch player who I’ve always assumed to be far better than me because he plays on PC and speaks more analytically about the game than anyone I know. He always happened to catch me when I was having a really good night and often complimented my overall sense of awareness which is what separates the good from the decent. It impressed him how I was able to consistently land headshots on opponents using Mei’s icicle gun, for instance, requiring me to calculate where the enemy is going to be about a second into the future given their proximity, running patterns, and movement speed.
In Overwatch, there are seven skill ranks for competitive matches: Bronze, Silver, Gold, Platinum, Diamond, Master, and Grandmaster. After my placement matches, I ranked right below the threshold for a Platinum ranking. If I were to assess my own skill, I would have placed myself near the high silver or low gold range, a little bit below the average skill of my friend group. For all his big talk, I ranked several hundred skill points above my roommate. Through a series of wins and losses, I earned my Platinum rank during a tussle at 3am. I celebrated by screaming before immediately falling asleep right where I was positioned in bed.
Truth be told, Platinum isn’t that impressive when you consider there are three ranks above it which scale exponentially in terms of skill required to achieve them, but earning this ranking is significant to me because it makes me feel like I’m a part of a gaming community again. I played competitive Smash Bros. in high school and built a big part of my identity as a competitive gamer. I was never appreciated for my athleticism or getting the top marks, but I built a reputation for myself by being the best Smash player on campus. Now I find myself engaging with Overwatch the same way I did with Smash Bros. Brawl by watching strategy videos on YouTube and tournament streams on Twitch, developing a vocabulary and sense of humor unique to the game’s community.
Chapman University’s eSports club recently hosted a casual tournament for both Smash Bros. and Overwatch, bringing my favorite competitive game from days old together with my new love. Symbolically, the tournament felt like a torch passing ceremony, reminding me that even as an adult, I can still invest in these gaming communities if I wanted to. I’m thankful for Overwatch and how it reignited my flame for competitive gaming, a big part of my life that I had long since placed on the top shelf.
Even though I play Overwatch for fun, it is nice to feel like I’m a part of a competitive gaming scene again. Blizzard is tweaking the ranking system so Platinum rank will be far more difficult to achieve this time around but I want to try. Given my limited leisure time, it’s a pipe dream, I know, but trying is half the fun and it wasn’t that long ago when I thought