An Open Letter To My Jerk Overwatch Teammate

Dear person whose name I already forgot (but it was probably something like xxShadowK1ller or BradTheMadDogBongster), we need to talk.

Last night, we were on the same Overwatch team. You may not have noticed me. You seemed pretty preoccupied typing, “YOU GUYS SUCK,” “PUSH HARDER AARGH FUCK,” and “THIS IS BULLSHIT” in chat. I imagine all that straining and grunting and failing to stop playing McCree even once was very hard on you. I hope you’re well.


I feel like we got off on the wrong foot. It’s just that, when I tried my best to politely (and I do mean that; I keep my passive-aggressive rage in my brain and articles) suggest that perhaps we were losing because we didn’t have a formation, I was the only support, nobody was tanking or flanking, and it seemed like everyone assumed that our seventh teammate, Casper The Friendly Ghost, would push the payload, you didn’t offer much in the way of constructive feedback. Or anything, for that matter. You just kept running back into the fray and yelling at everyone when, MYSTERIOUSLY, we didn’t make any progress.

But I don’t think it was entirely your fault. Let me clarify: I think it was disproportionately your fault, and I don’t like you as a person, but I don’t feel like you were wholly to blame. See, Overwatch matches have a way of falling apart if you’re not playing with friends or one of those instantly well-oiled machine teams where, for a couple precious games, everyone just clicks. Increasingly, I’ve come to believe this is a result of Overwatch’s own systems fraying at the seams just as much as it is toxic player behavior.

Allow me to explain: Overwatch bills itself as a game that’s all about teamwork and strategy. Both of these goals are supposed to be accomplished through frequent hero switching and plays that benefit the team as a unit—even if they sometimes come at the expense of your personal elimination count, damage dealt, objective time, etc. Then the game’s lightning-quick matches conclude, and the game contradicts the hell out of itself.

Video courtesy of OneAmongstMany.

I don’t mean to beat a dead horse, but it all starts with Play Of The Game, which heavily favors individual kill streaks over teamwork, tanking, support, or the myriad of other things you can and should be doing in Overwatch. People can win POTG for saving lives or denying ults, but it’s a rarer occurrence. Regardless, POTG doesn’t tell the story of the match. There’s little context, nothing to learn from beyond DO THE COOL KILLS.


I can’t count the number of matches I’ve been in where the real Play Of The Game—the pivotal moment that decided the outcome of the match, whether it was smart use of a hero pick, great team play, or something else—went totally unappreciated. I’ve posted about a fan mock-up of a POTG system that zeroes in on moments of great team play, and I really do believe the game needs something like that. Without it, the subtle lesson is, “Be a lone wolf. That’ll get you instant gratification.” It’s a lesson already embedded in FPS mechanics, and reinforcing it flies in the face of everything Overwatch tries to accomplish.


Post-match commendations and medals, meanwhile, focus on your accomplishments with individual heroes as opposed to providing a more complete picture of your overall impact on a match. Both systems track of various numbers (damage output, healing, objective time, eliminations, etc) with each hero you played. Again, the lack of context kills. If you want to get on the commendation board or win medals, it simply makes more sense to stick with one hero for a whole match (ensuring your numbers are better) rather than switching, even if the moment calls for it. Granted, you’re missing out on that nice XP boost for, you know, winning the match, but there’s not too huge of an XP disparity between a win and a loss in Overwatch.

Both of these systems also favor DPS-driven offensive heroes or cavalier plays (a crazy Reinhardt charge, etc) over more subtle roles, further discouraging people from switching to a character that might be able to turn the tide or save the day.


None of these systems alone push Overwatch in a direction that leads to dickhead rage-fests and salt avalanches, but taken together and lumped atop a first-person shooter—a genre notorious for facilitating lone wolf play styles because instant gratification is baked into the very act of playing one—it adds up. When a game is at odds with itself, there’s bound to be friction.


Maybe things will be better once competitive mode (now in beta) properly launches. It will naturally attract a crowd more focused on winning and skill over playing Overwatch like it’s any other shooter. Granted, competitive modes have a tendency to create their own sorts of toxicity.

Still though, a lot of players are put off by the pressure that comes with a competitive mode, and I think it’s kinda ludicrous that they might have to look there for players who’ll prioritize even the game’s most basic objectives and team dynamics.


All that is to say, Blizzard has work to do. So I get it, xxShadowK1ller or BradTheMadDogBongster. I understand why Overwatch can be especially frustrating. It often feels like you’re doing the right things—because the game is telling you that you are—but matches still aren’t going your way. In that light, a nuclear meltdown over the fact that your team doesn’t exist simply to carry your shit-spewing ass is almost forgivable.

You’re still a dick, though.

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About the author

Nathan Grayson

Kotaku reporter. Beats: Twitch, PC gaming, Overwatch.