Originally posted at http://unlifecomic.com/2016/08/09/08092016-the-illusion-of-control/
For a game in which I originally claimed to have only a passing interest, the prestige star I finally earned in Overwatch says anything but. Having cracked level 100 and clocking in at 75 hours of gameplay (which, side bar, holy shit), it’s safe to say I am firmly within the game’s gloriously addictive grasp. And, much to the dismay of my wife, I don’t see myself putting it down any time soon (then again, No Man’s Sky is out now, so…).
Overwatch’s greatness as a game is most often revealed in the unique moments and stories each match presents. Teams coming together or falling apart at the seams. That one well timed play that makes all the difference, or the one misplaced emote that destroys the entire match. It’s endlessly and imaginatively intense because I can really feel myself there, experiencing it side-by-side with my friends. It’s an endless TV series we can gab about, but more gratifying, because we’re also the stars.
But for all those perfect moments, there is something else I have experienced over and over again, which never fails to break my heart. It’s a moment that will probably be familiar to anyone who plays a support class, but this is specifically about my time playing as Mercy.
Mercy is a healer in Overwatch. She acts (and appears) as a guardian angel, flying across the battlefield to boost health and heal damage. Playing as Mercy, you work behind the scenes, above the fray. A well placed Mercy can make a team nigh unbeatable, and a good half of my hours in Overwatch have been playing as this character.
Personally, I always like Mercy because it makes me feel like a more important part of the party. When I’ve played similar games in the past, I’ve always ended up soaking up more damage than I could dish out, making learning and participating all the more frustrating. But when I’m Mercy, it all just clicks (almost literally, since there’s an auto aim feature). I am actively healing and boosting the potential of my team, and when I do, I feel a sense of pride. I feel like I’m helping someone who’s down and needs a hand. I feel like I can save them. Like I can save anyone, even from death itself.
But with a bad team, no one is there to save you. Mercy is only as good as the people you play with, and if no one is around to back you up, or if you zip too far into the battle for a mistimed heal, the effect is your lifeless body being flung across the field, followed by an angry wait to respawn. And when you finally do, so begins the aforementioned harrowing experience.
That slow as hell run back to the battlefield, never fast enough, as you watch every single person on your team die.
You can see the health of your teammates through the walls, specifically turning from green to red as they receive damage, until their death marks your screen with a skull. Running agonizingly slowly, never fast enough, failing to uphold the duty you took when you first picked support, you watch as their silhouettes dance, struggling to survive, as their colors fade and blink away. One dies, then another, and then another, dying out before you’re in range to revive even one of them. You reach the battlefield too late, and your tardiness is punished by the opposing team. They kill you, you respawn, only to find that the team has already bounded on ahead. The cycle continues.
Sometimes I get there in time. Sometimes I revive them and save the day. But when you are out of sync with your team, when you’re just chasing people rushing into death, what can you do to save them? Can you do anything to save them? Or are they simply doomed?
I suppose I could wait by the spawn point for the eventuality of my team’s demise, but… I guess I want to have more faith in them than that. I need to trust them and do my best to run in and save them, as futile as it sometimes feels. Because I can’t stand back and do nothing. I need to try.
Because if I don’t, who will?
Addendum to this: After writing this post, I played a quick game and had this exact same scenario, except when I got there, the Mei on my team put up a wall, keeping her and the team protected while I was left to die. I think I’ll be sticking with D. Va from here on out…