Abandon Ship, Overwatch is Sinking
Overwatch: Ellie and the Gay Soldier 76

Overwatch is a sinking ship. I start this blog post with that statement as I’ve seen this before with another Blizzard game I used to be obsessed with. StarCraft II peaked in 2012, then floundered in the following years due to numerous issues. I’m seeing the same patterns now with Overwatch, but there’s a lot more going on with this one due to what is both its biggest strength and weakness—its expanding lore.

It’s confusing and frustrating to be an Overwatch fan. It’s like being the ball in a tennis match, being mercilessly hit up and down the court. The news day in and day out can give you whiplash, and most of it isn’t even about the game itself. Drama, controversy, and journalistic shitposting help maintain interest, but for all the wrong reasons.

Never mind the fact that video game journalism has become a “low” profession with little to no standards these days. But when most of the current interest in the game is from media narrative and not from the gameplay itself, that’s bad for the game. It’s bad enough that most gameplay discussions are on how broken the game still is.

But when the game is being lauded for something that doesn’t actually make the gameplay better, and everything else being talked about is on how the people behind the game are mishandling both its ongoing development and the competitive scene that supports it, then perhaps the ship is being loaded with too much cargo that’s best thrown overboard.

Maybe it’s time to abandon ship.

The Author Who Refuses to Die

The whole Gay 76 thing is a non-issue. All the power to the LGBT community, but anything can happen to a fictional character, even if it means dying or being turned into an eldritch abomination.

The problem with Overwatch and online multiplayer video games in general is the “make it up as you go along” approach to worldbuilding and storytelling. It maintains interest, but at the cost of lore integrity.

McCree still has a continuity problem. How old is he, really?

And it turns out this is a consistent problem throughout Overwatch’s lore.

Throughout the whole debacle regarding socks-and-sandals Daddy 76 being a full-on homosexual (not bisexual, apparently), I didn’t see anyone ask the most basic question.

Did Chris Metzen intend Soldier: 76 to be gay in the first place?

Chris seems to be okay with it, but I wonder if it was the direction he expected for his baby. Soldier: 76 is his character, and perhaps Michael Chu asked for permission before deciding to take him towards that direction.

Perhaps it bothers me that it wasn’t Chris Metzen himself who decided on it. Then again, he hadn’t been that into anything in Blizzard for a long time, even when he was still there. I say that as a former StarCraft II and Diablo III player.

Watch this video to learn more about the concept of “The Death of the Author”:

I’m not saying Soldier: 76 being made gay is like Dumbledore being made gay, but there are parallels.

A random online comment I read said it best—”Put it in the game, you coward.”

The Ellie Fiasco and Failure in Due Diligence

The conspiracy is the gay-ening of Soldier: 76 serves as distraction from the Ellie scandal.

I don’t think it goes that deep. I apply Hanlon’s Razor to this mess. I just think it’s a coincidence, but it does make you think about how much attention Blizzard’s Overwatch team was actually paying to the important details in the matter.

Judging by Activision Blizzard’s stock price, the state of Overwatch, and the community’s current attitude towards the game, desperation on their part may not be that improbable.

But the root of the Ellie fiasco is lack of due diligence on all fronts.

  • Blizzard failed to put due diligence into their investigation on the matter.
  • Video game journalists failed to put due diligence into their… journalism. (What’s new?)
  • The team who wanted to pick her up failed to put due diligence into verifying if she was legit.

This dumpster fire could’ve been avoided if the powers that be asked one simple question:

Who the fuck is Ellie?

All people really knew was she played Overwatch and looked to qualify for the Contenders league. Of course, I don’t buy it being a social experiment, which is pulling out the “just a prank, bro” card.

The precedent that set this up was the Geguri situation. A female Overwatch player in Korea was accused by a couple of male pros of her high ranking being fabricated, even staking their careers on them being right about her. She proved her worth live in a Blizzard-sanctioned stream and the accusers were forced to eat their words and retire from the pro scene.

Geguri would go on to join the 0-40 Shanghai Dragons. She got to play as a pro on a grand stage, at least.

Korea is a separate planet on its own. Shit that happens in the west wouldn’t be the same as what happens there. Ellie turned out to indeed be a fake. Go figure.

The media hopped on the sexism narrative because it was convenient. It seemed like a story that wrote itself and would get all the clicks—a pipe dream for hacks.

This happened because the Overwatch pro scene doesn’t really matter that much. It doesn’t matter as much as the fighting game scene, the MOBA scene, the Smash scene, or so on.

The only reason it matters is due to how much money Blizzard has been throwing at it. Without that direct publisher support, the scene will most likely tank. All the media coverage on issues that don’t really matter to the game itself only prove that point.

The Overwatch scene is being sustained by gossip, not gameplay.

Compounding Problems in Overwatch

I wrote about the floundering state of Overwatch late last year as a response to a video made by Seagull, a popular figure in the Overwatch community. I agreed with most of his assessment in that Overwatch as a game is beset by fundamental problems in its gameplay.

Remember that Overwatch is originally a salvage job. It’s ongoing damage control for the massive failure that was Project Titan. On the surface, it’s a fulfillment of the adage “Improvise, Adapt, Overcome,” making it a source of inspiration. That alone is respectable.

But getting back up after being knocked down is only good if you get to win the fight. It looks like they’re continuing to treat it as a salvage job, even after massive launch success. They’re still as fat and bloated as they had become during the heydays of World of Warcraft.

Diablo III sold very well. Look at what happened to that game.

The same is happening to Overwatch. Blizzard is a corpulent mess.

Conclusion

Sycophants scoff at such alarmist talk. If you’re one of them, take note that what you just read is about a video game, not international politics. There’s nothing wrong with still being able to enjoy the game, even if it has tons of problems. Just ask Star Citizen fanboys.

But still, it’s dark with no land in sight, and there are a lot of holes in the Overwatch ship.

It may be crass to say that the pandering is merely a cover for the game’s decline, but humans are attracted to praise. There are actual people behind all these decisions, and Overwatch hasn’t been lauded as much for its gameplay since its initial release.

Look at what happened to Heroes of the Storm.

Look at what’s happening to Hearthstone.

Look at Diablo III.

Let’s not mince words for our very lives depend upon truth—Blizzard has long lost their magic.

(On the other hand, StarCraft II is currently having a mini-renaissance of sorts.)

Blizzard used to be one of the greatest. They haven’t been since they became a public company. Once they’re beholden to their shareholders, their fans no longer mattered as much.

There are no stakes for me in saying that for I’m just a two-bit hack who wrote a crummy blog post. If I’m eventually proven wrong and Blizzard releases another beloved hit, I don’t really lose anything. I’ll most likely just buy that game and play it without a second thought.

What I wrote here is an expression of frustration, and I did so without scruples. Overwatch is my 2016 game of the year, and I still have a fair bit of affection for it. But this is what happens to everything you love. They eventually wither and die.

The best things about Overwatch are outside the game. All the fanmade content, wholesome or otherwise, are way more interesting than the game itself.

For now, the only reason I’m playing Overwatch is to play it with friends. Otherwise, I wouldn’t touch it. Many of the millions who bought the game back in 2016 feel the same.

Soldier: 76 being gay won’t change that.

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