My younger son loves Overwatch, and a few days ago he convinced me to watch tonight’s Overwatch League match between the Philadelphia Fusion and the Los Angeles Gladiators.
I most definitely entered a world as foreign to me as you could imagine.
The purple-clad Gladiators, five guys who looked to be a combined 100 years old, started the game with Hydration (that’s his character name) throwing a Ninja shuriken somewhere in the direction of the orange-clad Fusion players. It must have worked because my 14-year-old groaned.
As the battle (fight?) unfolded, the computer-generated characters went back and forth with guns and bombs in all directions. The announcers (yes, there are announcers) celebrated one character doing something well, whether he played offense or defense.
The Fusion’s defense was solid. The Gladiators won a point, but their overall success was limited. If the comparison to baseball is appropriate, the Gladiators scored one run in the top of the inning, offering the Fusion an excellent opportunity to win.
After perhaps 5:00, the equivalent of a time out took place; when the game resumed, it was the Fusion’s turn to be on offense. They did indeed win, with “transcendence” and strong “HP” pushing Philadelphia to a stronger result on offense. The scoreboard read PHI 2, LA 1, but the more important fact was that Philadelphia led the overall match, 1-0. If this were tennis, Philadelphia had won the first set.
The players then moved onto the second round, which my son described as “everyone on offense at the same time and trying to blast the other guys.” The computer-generated location of the game moved from somewhere in Japan to somewhere in Nepal.
All the players were guys, though my son tells me there are millions of girls around the world who play Overwatch. In fact, some of the characters the men play are women. (Tracer is a female, for example.) And if the Gladiators’ players looked to be a combined 100 years old, then the Fusion looked to be 120. In other words, this is a young adult’s game.
“Shields” and “blades” were important as the match unfolded. Los Angeles won the second map, 2-0, but the important part of the scoreboard read, 1-1.
The computer graphics are stunning, so good that they were overly stimulating at times. I thought at one point that my stomach would turn as one Gladiator stood atop a building raining bullet after bullet below. My son was having no such stomach issues; his emotions rose and fell as the Fusion’s success waxed and waned.
In case you haven’t already figured it out, Philadelphia is his favorite team. Why? “Closest to Pittsburgh,” he says. Makes sense to me.
The third map brought the players to Hollywood, with the goal now being gaining more terrain than the opponent. Almost immediately the Fusion’s sniper killed a Gladiator character (all killed characters do return to life as they do in so many computer games). Another Gladiator had a “stick” shortly afterward, and my son was sensing his Fusion were doing well. That momentum soon changed as he grumbled about a “triple kill and a quad kill,” as Hydration again was critical to his team’s success.
Once Philadelphia had its turn on offense, it needed to go 119 meters to win the map. (Los Angeles went 118.) The Fusion were winning the “widow battles,” and they were rapidly gaining terrain. One Fusion player had a “primal rage,” and that opened the door for the Fusion to win the round, 2-1, and to take the overall lead by the same score.
The final map had the players at Route 66. (I got to admit, the locations are rather cool, and they change with each match.) “Widow makers” again were supposed to be important, and that gave the Fusion a sense of optimism. The goal of this map appeared to be to reach specific checkpoints, and Carpe, the Fusion’s star “widow maker,” blew away some character with sufficient skill to make the audience’s “ohhh” easy to hear. (Yes, the matches are played live in front of an audience of game enthusiasts.) The Fusion defense prevented the Gladiators from doing anything; “Fragi” was a dominant as “Winston.”
Philadelphia took to offense with victory easily in sight. The Gladiators’ defense showed its mettle, and with less than 1:00, Philadelphia was not close to its goal. With mere seconds left, Philadelphia found the combination necessary.
It pressed ahead, won the map and the overall match.
As a rookie, I have no idea about strategy, no idea about tactics, and no idea why killing certain characters at certain times is critical. My son definitely does, and he says “we played very well, and Carpe was on fire the whole game.”
That’s good enough for me.