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Blizzard Entertainment is famous around the world for the high-quality games they produce; from the successful Warcraft/World of Warcraft franchise and its multiple expansions of gameplay, the Diablo Trilogy, and the StarCraft franchise, the video game producers struck gold once again when they created a first-person shooter (FPS for short) hero-based game that spans three main gaming platforms: PC, Xbox One, and PS4. Overwatch, released on May 24, 2016, hit the gaming community with intricate game play, characterization, and a storyline that slowly but surely reveals itself one clip at a time. As an avid player of the game myself, I quickly fell into the rabbit hole that is this hero shooter FPS where much of the game is defined by the characters and their individual attributes instead of merely aiming a gun and hoping to hit the mark.
Overwatch originally held 21 playable characters but has since expanded to 28 and almost all characters span from very real countries all around the world (Mercy is a primary support character who is of Swiss nationality whereas Genji and Hanzo are attack characters who hail from Japan) to robots with sentient personalities (Zenyatta, a robotic Tibetan monk, for example). Each character has a background viewed in various short clips and digital comics that add on a layer of understanding that is separate from gameplay. Not every playable character is a hero, but there are those who have their own ulterior motives for why they do what they do, and it gives a sense of relatability to the player. The game itself has been such a hit that in just 2 years the game has spawned over 35 million players according to the official Overwatch Twitter account on October 16, 2017.
The 6-man team-based game is all about team building and choosing a character that you not only enjoy but will round out the overall stats of the team. I find this process different from other FPS games because all the team’s weapons are relatively the same or have the same stats, but each Overwatch character is completely independent of each other. There may be similarities in abilities, but those specific abilities are specially catered to one person. For instance, each character has an ultimate attack that levels up throughout gameplay by firing a weapon and taking down the enemy team; no ultimate is the same and each is based on whether the character is a tank meant for protecting the team, attack characters that deal damage, or support characters who have the primary job of healing.
Along with each character, there are a plethora of outfits, or skins, that are available through purchasing loot boxes for new extra content, or leveling up which results in earning one free loot box. Although loot boxes are also in-game transactions, it is not mandatory to pay, but it is a perk if you simply want to get the specialty skins that come out during holidays and seasons. The skins are a fun way to customize your specific character to the way you want. There are skins, voice lines the characters speak, poses that can be shown when your team wins, and individual sprays that a character can spray paint to the walls in the game map. Even maps are stylized after a character or characters as being a place a character originated from.
It is fascinating at the impact Overwatch has had on the gaming community in such a short time. Not only is it the first product Blizzard Entertainment has introduced outside of their primary games, the following has spawned merchandise, concept art, illustrative books that dig deeper into the characters and their very personal lives, cosplay, and a very competitive e-sport league. So, really, what is the fuss about Overwatch? Why do people play? The answer is simple: this game has given a genre of gaming, hero shooter FPS, a refreshed feel and more prominent role in the gaming community. The characters are all stylized and come from different backgrounds, have different ethnicities and morals, and are scattered across the Overwatch plot; to play is to be a part of something much bigger.