How Overwatch became Calvinball, and why that’s kind of Bad

When I was growing up, I read the Calvin and Hobbes comics by Bill Waterson. One of the running jokes in that comic was that the 6-year-old boy, Calvin, had a game called Calvinball with seemingly fluid rules, in that they would change from comic strip to comic strip. These changes made it almost impossible to determine how the actual game was played, even though it did appear to be quite fun. This is where we’ve ended up with the current competitive Overwatch season. It’s a lot of fun to play, and the new changes to the characters make them a lot of fun.

The problem is, it sometimes makes them too useful. I’m a D.Va main, but mostly because I get bullied into not playing Sombra or another DPS. D.Va has always been very strong in every season’s meta, simply because she has such a versatile kit at her disposal, as well as a get-out-of-jail-free card in the form of her bailing out of her MEKA. Her new form is a lot of fun, and makes her a great duelist. It’s exhilarating to play her, and certainly makes her far less boring to play. My qualm is that she, in essence, is not the same hero anymore. The same goes for Mercy, and for my personal favorite big boy, Roadhog.

My problem is not the rule-change chaos, for the most part. I think that a changing game keeps it fun and exciting. The problem is that these reworked characters either get added or removed to the “mandatory pick list” every time they get a buff. As of right now, if someone on your team doesn’t play Mercy, you lose. If someone picks Roadhog, you lose. Essentially, all of these rule changes decide for you who you play as every round of every game for the entire season.

It’s not a recent thing, either- Lucio used to be a must-pick, but with all of the other healers getting more powerful, he’s resting at a 23% pick rate. Ana used to be a must-pick, but then she got her nanoboost nerf, making her the weakest duelist in the game with basically no ultimate. Reinhardt used to be a must pick, until he was easily countered by the dive meta. This creates a complicated meta ladder, where, if you want to win, you have to play as one of a select few characters. This makes the game stale and boring, because you’re either in the same situations round after round, or you’re getting your face ground into the dirt because you picked a giant ultimate battery with a big tummy. Going back to my first point, they’re too useful, especially when compared to the other heroes. For people to be willing to pick a healer besides Mercy, there has to be an equally powerful alternative. For people to be willing to pick Roadhog, he has to be as equally viable as any other tank.

In its current state, I love Overwatch. I love this game with all my heart, because it’s what so many other games fail to be. It’s fun, it’s strategic, it’s intense, it’s racially and sexually inclusive… but it could be better. It would be much more fun to play on a competitive level if we could play the full game. Instead, we have to play “Junkrat, Mercy, D.Va, Reinhardt, Pharah, and Ana”-verwatch instead of Overwatch. This strict negative reinforcement has conditioned a majority of players to be extremely against playing “off-picks”, heroes who do not fall into the meta. This leads to an extremely toxic environment, and discourages people from playing heroes who still can work very well against the meta. Overall, the game boils down to which heroes can counter the enemy team. If they were all on equal footing in terms of viability, then the game would become exponentially more fun. Until then, I’ll just have to settle for spamming the D.Va “GG” voice line because I can’t teabag when I’m in her suit.

Overall, Calvinball has been pretty fun to play for the past few seasons. It’s been hectic trying to adapt at the start of each season, and stale towards the end, but it’s still been a very entertaining experience in between. However, the game could be so much more fun and such a better experience if everyone could play the game as they want to, instead of trying to figure out the new, hidden rules to Calvinball at the start of every season.


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