I love Play of the Game in Overwatch, that clip of someone doing something extraordinary during the battle you just had. I love the nervous little wait before you find out whose play has been picked. Will it be yours? Some games you know it won't because you had a stinker, but in other games - sometimes the stars align and enemies clump together like cat litter as your finger reaches for your ultimate ability. You think it's enough but has someone gone one better? Then there it is! There you are! The chosen one! Name in lights. Validation and recognition all in one smug lump.
Overwatch packages the kind of "OMG!" moments you tell your friends about, and it stores them temporarily in a Highlights section, meaning you can record them and share them wider among the community if you want. And people do. It's become a kind of language for the game, because, well, what says 'I did something awesome' better than a video clip of you doing it?
Not only are the videos easy for people outside of the game to appreciate - great skill is great skill, regardless - they're also good for giving tips to people inside the game. Look how player Kisner as character Reinhardt, who's a melee tank, takes down five people in this clip. He pops his ultimate that knocks everyone over and then he lines them up for his charge, which pins and kills them - and sends someone else over the edge of the map in the process. Top marks. I'll try that.
That's a good play, but this, by player Hysteriaava as the character D. Va, is incredible. The drawback of D. Va's exploding mech ultimate is that it swells before it blows, so people have time to get behind cover. But what Hysteriaava does is use D. Va's fly ability to send the swelling suit up and over a wall towards the central control point, and as the mech lands, it blows, taking out nearly an entire team with it. They had no chance. Unbelievable.
I could learn that, maybe, but I could never replicate the kind of sniping skill in this Widowmaker Play of the Game by Guilte. What's particularly impressive is that Widowmaker has to individually kill each target, although she has an ultimate that allows her to see players through walls.
Here are some other great Play of the Games I've seen: Enryu as Pharah using a knockback on herself to get quickly behind Reinhardt's shield before popping a rocket-spewing ultimate; Chocobo as support class Symmetra powering up her beam and combining with her turrets for multiple kills; and Sorceress as Genji getting a double reflect-attack kill before popping an ultimate and wiping out a couple of others.
The above demonstrate expertise but Play of the Games don't always. Some characters are simply easier to get Play of the Games with than others. The grenade-launching Junkrat has an ultimate that spawns a big, spiked tyre he can remotely steer into a group of people and detonate, usually killing everyone caught in the blast. Nine times out of 10 if it's a Junkrat POTG, this is what it will be. It gets boring.
Similarly Reaper, the dual shotgun-wielding flanker, has an ultimate where he spins and shoots lots of bullets at close-range, killing most people in the vicinity. Again if it's him in the POTG, this is probably what you'll see. Then there's cowboy McCree whose ultimate marks any visible prey and shoots them dead a second later; then there's Hanzo bloody Hanzo who conjures with a magical arrow a phantasmal dragon that passes through walls and drains the life of anyone caught in its path. I think I've seen more Hanzo Play of the Games than any other.
By contrast there are characters who really struggle - by design - to achieve Play of the Game because they're support characters whose ultimate abilities don't kill enemies, they help friends. There's Mercy whose ultimate resurrects dead allies near her; there's Lucio who puts a barrier on all nearby allies; and there's Zenyatta who radiates healing to people nearby. There's also Symmetra whose ultimate is a teleporter bridged with the team's spawn point but in open play she doesn't struggle to dish out damage. I have seen a Mercy Play of the Game for a resurrection but it's a rarity. Usually if these characters are highlighted it's for killing, which isn't their sole purpose.
Play of the Game needs more nuance, more factors it takes into consideration, especially healing and support. There are also moments when players do something like deny someone else's ultimate that would be great to recognise.
Play of the Game can also behave badly and choose bizarre plays that aren't any good at all. Look at this Play of the Game by turret builder Torbjorn, for instance - I have no idea what's going on (Torbjorn often pops up in odd POTG clips not seeming to do anything because his turret is doing all the work). Then look at this POTG by D. Va in which she dies. What?
Play of the Game isn't perfect, then, but it's already captivated many more people than me. It coerces ballsy plays out of people so they can be featured and clapped and admired like the others. It drives us to play one more game as we chase that devastating kill streak and opportune ultimate. There's even a kind of meta language popping up whereby people spray a wall with "well played", or pose, when they think they've pulled off a POTG, so you see it in the clip. Skilful bastards.
Play of the Game is a feature Overwatch will be recognised by, and with more work it can be brilliant. I can't wait to see what plays the open beta turns out come 5th May.
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