Overwatch: A sport?

Overwatch-Launch-14

Now, I know what you’re thinking.  A video game as a sport?  Where are the athletes?  Where’s the ball?  What defines a sport?  Aren’t sports always about physical activity?

So, this is where I come in and say “Overwatch has become a sport.”

While League of Legends was deemed a sport by many countries three (or more?) years ago, Overwatch still has yet to gain that status officially.  But here’s where Blizzard, the makers of Overwatch are succeeding, where Riot games, the makers of League of Legends failed.

For one, as the article below states, Overwatch uses a very simple rule set and play style to draw in more viewership.  The more people that can easily understand what’s going on in a game will be more likely to enjoy it.  For example: I never got into baseball or football as a kid.  I never understood what was going on, and I never had anyone explain it to me.  Soccer on the other hand was a lot easier to understand.  Past the fake injuries, I understood most of the game aside from off-sides.

Overwatch keeps its rule set and characters simple.  The players choose from a set of pre-made characters with their own small belt of skills and weapons that are easily seen and understood.  That girl is carrying a sniper rifle?  I guess she’s a sniper!  The gorilla shoots electricity and jumps?  Cool!  Harambe!

Despite being simple to understand on a basic level, the game itself has a deep sense of strategy, teamwork, problem solving, and critical thinking.  This makes the true understanding of it complex and intricate.  Enough so as to make a football enthusiast enjoy Overwatch with the amount of planning and thinking that goes into every “play.”

The maps bring a sense of complexity as well.  Positioning, like in any sport, is an important part in Overwatch.  Like when a soccer team makes a beautiful pass and score, the position of the players was just as important as the players actually having the ball.  If you have no one to pass it to, or no where to run, there’s no point in having the ball other than to keep it away from the enemy team.  This is entertaining to watch, as seeing the positioning of players before the play happens and determining what would happen is a great part of fun in watching sporting events.  Even if you don’t notice it, your pre-conceptions about how a player is going to go and seeing it actually happen (or not) is why you watch.

The teams in Overwatch need to position well to win.  If everyone is in the same small ball, running into the enemy team, there’s a high chance someone will use a skill that gathers them even more, or destroys them all with one hit.  A common occurrence in professional play.  Watching a team get destroyed from positioning is the same thrill that people get when they watch a football team position themselves just right to get a touchdown.

Another factor in how Blizzard has created a great eSport is in the map design.  Each map has its own simple rules and paths of travel.  One mode is easy to understand: One team moves a vehicle by standing around it to and end point down a series of roads to win.  The enemy team must keep them off of the vehicle long enough in order to win.  With this simple rule set, we can easily see how it could be a very tense, and adrenaline fueled game to watch.  when the clock is ticking down to mere seconds, and the team you are rooting for is having trouble keeping up with the enemy, you know the gloves will come off and there’s going to be an amazing play coming up.  The team all re-spawns after the last death with 30 seconds on the clock, just enough to get back to the vehicle.  They rush in, adrenaline spiking, into the enemy team.  They made a last-ditch effort to win, and even if they lose, the last play is always the best to watch.  Desperation, just like in other sports, is a huge win-factor.

Blizzard is making a huge push to become the next famous eSport everyone plays.  Riot games became that, but made many mistakes along the way I’ll probably point out in another post.  Blizzard, and Overwatch on the other hand, are making all of the right decisions.  Not only are they making good game-design, they’re piling in a huge amount of money into the marketing, and publicity for Overwatch as an eSport.  I’m excited to see where it leads them, and what becomes of the eSports scene.

Next time you turn on ESPN or a streaming site, maybe take a few minutes to watch an Overwatch game?  Who knows, it could become your next favorite sport!

Link to referenced post: http://www.polygon.com/2016/11/16/13650584/blizzard-overwatch-blizzcon-esport