Author’s note: This is part one of a two-part entry. Part one explains how college messed up my gaming habits; Part two will pick up with why I respect Overwatch as a game.
I don’t do multiplayer — Not anymore. Well… I didn’t until recently.
Once upon a time back in grade school, one could find me on Halo 2 nearly every single day. It didn’t matter if it was a school night; it didn’t matter if we couldn’t catch a win to save our lives — we just played. Our squad ran deep. The previous night’s events would be a source of discussion during the day, the daytime drama would be a source of discussion during game time. It was competition, it was social time, it was relaxing, it was everything I wanted to do at the time — it was fun. As the years passed by, we migrated to newer games such as Call of Duty: Modern Warfare; the battleground may have changed, but we were still the same group of friends spending virtual time together. Not too long after that, college happened.
We didn’t expect too much to change on the gaming side. Of course, all of us would be transitioning to the new aspiring-adult lifestyle. We knew it wouldn’t be as steady, as frequent. That being said, one night a week didn’t seem to be an unreasonable expectation, or so we thought. Then the unexpected happened. After moving into the UAHuntsville dorms, I realize that each room only has a single ethernet port. No biggie, I’m technologically competent. Finding a router isn’t that big of a deal. Router in hand, I retry — no dice. The machine just wasn’t having it. Xbox Live taunted me with errors or not being able to connect to the internet. It was then I would learn of my new oppressor, my new 5-letter taboo word — Cisco.
Cisco Clean Access Agent was software used by UAH to ensure that no outsiders intrude on their network. After connecting, the user would be redirected to a login page before they’d be capable of actually accessing the web. This solution doesn’t seem bad on paper, but when put into practice it’s a waking nightmare. Any device incapable of accessing the login page was, as they say, SoL. The Xbox 360 was one such device. My group kept playing, just with one less player. I suppose it was no longer “my” group. At the time, I wasn’t much for phone contact, so my college essentially Macbeth’d whatever remnant of a social circle I had left. I ended up meeting a few others around campus with the same dilemma. We heard stories of workarounds and sought to find a solution.
After trying a bunch of convoluted router nonsense, we were informed that someone managed to get online using another method. This technique involved logging into Cisco on your computer, unplugging the Ethernet cord from the PC, plugging it into the 360 (with the proper settings), and finally connecting to Xbox Live. This execution of this process was restricted to a 10 second time window and had a cooldown period to try again if it didn’t go well — but it worked. Finally, I was back online. I reunite with my old colleagues, ready to play some Modern Warfare. “You’re lagging”. After chugging across the maps badly for some handful of minutes, the game becomes borderline unplayable. Sometimes in life, you just can’t catch a break. I hate my new school, I hate the people in it, I hate Cisco, I hate a staple of my day being gone, I hate this stupid workaround I have to do to play with my old friends, and now I hate the fact that I even had hope before. Adamant to transfer after the 1st semester, I take the entire college experience thus far as a loss.
I decide to stay at UAH. Though that fact is arguably the biggest regret of my entire life (I still hate that school), I’d be lying if I said things didn’t improve at all. Eventually, another workaround was found, or the previous workaround improved to the point where some nights I could play a couple matches and everything would work. Of course, by this time, the rest of the group had actually adjusted to the actual college experience like the normal people they are, meaning they had better things to do with their evenings. Unlike them, I hated everything, so I did not. Playing with random people usually resulted in defeat, and that doesn’t mesh well with being a sore loser. I had finally got what I wanted, but everyone else (two steps ahead as always) had already moved on. I’d rather not play at all.
At this point, my hand was forced to make a change. My previous support group is gone; my current support group didn’t exist… What’s a boy to do? Get back into single-player games, I guess. Finally, the Gods of Time bestowed me a reprieve to catch up on the old back catalog. Alone, I continued on with my hobby. The diversity of experiences I gained by cutting off competitive games paid off with benefits. Slowly, team-based multiplayer games began to disinterest me. I’m not getting paid for any of this, I’m simply in it for the entertainment. I’ll just improve at everything on my own. This is fine.
College eventually passes by. My social circle resets once again. A new set of consoles come out, putting one more barrier between me and my old colleagues. I make a list of games to go through and let it decide my play choices. My hobby had, for all intents and purposes, been set in stone — then in late May of this year I hear murmurs of this game called Overwatch. Word on the street was that Blizzard made a team based shooter that wasn’t really a shooter. Every character was unique and needed to play their role to achieve victory. Intrigued, I decide to check it out on the PC.
Eh, this is fun, I guess. I play for a week or two before putting it down. The gameplay is as solid as it gets, but without a reliable group to play with, it faces the same dilemmas I mentioned above. While home for a wedding in June, I meet up with an old classmate for lunch. He mentions his recent PlayStation 4 purchase and his go to game — Overwatch. Could I hit the reset button on my gaming circle? I debate for a bit whether it’s worth double dipping to get the PS4 edition — but the opportunity was just too good to pass up. About a month later, I find the game on sale and decide to invest. We start playing and I see the game in a completely new light.
This ends part one. Part two will detail why Overwatch is one of my favorite games of the year.