Why are my friends so surprised that Overwatch is fun?

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I've been playing a lot of Overwatch 2 since its launch. As an avid Overwatch 1 fan, I've spoken at length about how I don't agree with some of the changes made to Overwatch 2 and fear that this version of the game won't have the same spirit the original did. Nevertheless, I'm going to be playing Overwatch 2 because Overwatch 1 is gone (opens in new tab), and I want to see how 2 develops and improves. Now that the game is free to play, several friends have jumped in with me despite having sworn they'd never try it and, wouldn't you know it, they're having fun. 

I'm a little confused. I stuck with Overwatch even when it had long past its golden age. During lockdown when my friends played games I didn't play, like DOTA 2, Warzone, Rainbow Six Siege, I'd quietly be clicking heads as Widowmaker while we chilled out in Discord. The joke on the server was always that I was playing a dead game, and I didn't mind that. Ask cool kids on Twitter about Overwatch and they'd have said the same thing because it's a meme. Similarly my little sister always swore Overwatch wasn't a game she would enjoy⁠—she instead opted for Valorant, which I also spent a good amount of time playing with her over the last year.

So Overwatch 2 comes out and there is a lot of not ideal news about the bugs in the game, server issues, hero exclusions and the battle pass (opens in new tab). Yet many of my acquaintances jumped in just to see what all the fuss was about, maybe hoping they could dunk more on 2 than they did on Overwatch 1. Many of them have asked what I think of the game, expecting me to profess my love for it, and are surprised that my adoration for Overwatch hasn't prevented me from criticising its sequel. 

(Image credit: Tyler C. / Activision Blizzard)

My sister, the anti-Overwatch vanguard, is now saving clips from the game, laughing gleefully at hectic team fights

So the anti-Overwatch 2 naysayers in my life downloaded the game, ready to rinse it, and yet, they've all suddenly realised the game is pretty good. Odd that. 

I'm having quite the time seeing my friends and my sister delving into Overwatch 2 and coming away feeling satisfied with the game, the characters, play of the games, and the desire to hop in again the next day. My sister especially razzed me  over how much I liked Overwatch for years, always refusing to  give it a go when I begged her. 

She messaged me just the other day telling me she had finally tried it out after years of dismissing it. My response was shock mixed with a helping of fury that I wasn't there to see her reaction.  My sister, the anti-Overwatch vanguard, is now saving clips from the game, laughing gleefully at hectic team fights and surprise PotGs. She'll show them to me, eyes bright, waiting for me to laugh too. It's kind of sweet. 

(Image credit: Future)

Dead Game

I had to then stand in the kitchen of our place and tell her things about Overwatch the game hasn't explained, like how the payload heals you as you push it and that shooting at Zarya's shield powers her up. And off she went on her merry way to play more, and tell her friends these new details too. 

What I find so funny about this is that so many people seem to be shocked that they're enjoying Overwatch 2. It is a good game. As good as the original? Depends on who you ask. But Overwatch 2's foundations were built on what I and many others would call the best hero shooter of the 2010s. The first earned many game of the year awards back in 2016, it led a lot of gamers down the path to enjoying FPSes, myself included. Overwatch was always a great game right up until it went offline this month but when other hero shooters like Apex Legends came out, people just seemed to forget that. 

Overwatch as a "dead game" became a running joke of the online gaming community, "no one played it anymore," they claimed, and in turn, those that never tried Overwatch believed that it wasn't worth their time. The premature reveal of Overwatch 2 didn't help because why would anyone buy a live game when the sequel was on its way? And let's not forget the massive hit to Blizzard's reputation in the wake of its unresolved sexual harassment scandal (opens in new tab),  a fairly understandable deterrent to new people trying the game. 

(Image credit: Tyler C. / Activision Blizzard)

With 2022 having been a quiet year for releases the anti-Overwatchers in my life have finally given Overwatch a go. They've found that, despite it being Blizzard, despite server issues, despite controversial design decisions, despite everything, Overwatch 2 is a pretty good game. I can spend all day talking about how much I don't like some of the new audio, that I preferred some of the maps at their alternative time-of-days, how annoyed I am that new players have to earn their heroes or how much grind seems to be involved in the game as a whole. However, now that I'm playing Overwatch with an active community again, I didn't realise how much I missed that.

I'm less smug about it than I am relieved. There are of course millions of Overwatch fans, but in recent years it did feel more like Overwatch was known more for instantly recognisable characters than any merits as a multiplayer game to sink your teeth into. And of course with the constant controversy surrounding Blizzard, good will towards the company and its products had rightly been eroded. I'm really just content to know that Overwatch still is, at its heart, a fun game. Overwatch 2 is far from perfect and I think it's missing some of the soul Overwatch 1 had, but a game built on the foundation of Overwatch 1 has to be at least a little bit fun. 

Imogen has been playing games for as long as she can remember but finally decided games were her passion when she got her hands on Portal 2. Ever since then she’s bounced between hero shooters, RPGs, and indies looking for her next fixation, searching for great puzzles or a sniper build to master. When she’s not working for PC Gamer, she’s entertaining her community live on Twitch, hosting an event like GDC, or in a field shooting her Olympic recurve bow.