If you’ve been playing for a while, you’ve no doubt heard of the Overwatch meta. Any competitive game seems to have a meta of some sort, especially if you have to build a team around heroes with specific strengths and weaknesses. A lot of conversations around the Overwatch meta will be complaints or otherwise lamenting having to stick to a specific build in order to be “viable”. But should players be forced to play to the Overwatch meta, particularly in competitive?
In this Play of the Fortnight, we’re talking about whether players’ hero choices should be reportable. What does that mean for the game and its competitive environment?
What is the Overwatch Meta?
First of all, I don’t want to go into this without first defining the “Overwatch meta”. You may have heard the term and be unfamiliar with it. The gaming community can’t quite agree where the term originated from. It could just be a reference to the term metagaming, which means to go beyond the realms of a game to make decisions by acting on information you got from outside the game. Alternatively, gamers have also decided it could be an abbreviation for “Most Effective Tactic Available”. Whether this is true or not, it certainly describes the meaning of “meta” in this context.
The Overwatch meta is simply the team compositions and playstyles that are considered most viable and effective. Playing heroes that aren’t a part of this are considered playing “off-meta” and can be frowned upon by teams in competitive play in particular.
Currently, the meta is less rigid than it has been in past patches. With the Mercy nerf came the rise of other less-picked supports. Other comps we haven’t seen in a long time started to reappear, such as heavy-tank comps and even “Deathball” where the team sticks together and wreaks havoc. Players still like the Dive comp. However, it’s not the only one that works.
The Problem of Choice
If you’re playing solo, you’re going to encounter some problems selecting your hero. This is particularly an issue in competitive. When you’re playing with friends, you can usually pick whatever you want. Everyone knows what the others are good at, and it’s easy to negotiate. When you’re on your own? Well, you’re on your own.
If you have a “main” hero, you may find they don’t really fit in with the team comp. Or worse, someone has picked your hero and you have to scramble to find something else that fits. If you pick an “off-meta” hero or even a hero who doesn’t fit the team comp, your team may be unhappy with you. But is that on you, or on them?
Maining a Hero
Some members of the community feel that having a “main” in competitive is a bad thing. However, if we look at the pros, a lot of them have a few go-tos and that’s all. While having one hero you play is often going to end in disappointment, having at least one per role and possibly a back-up for each of those is going to make a world of difference.
For example, I have a wide pool of heroes I can play to varying degrees of comfort. I can play Solider-76, Pharah or Reaper in the Offense category, and Mei or Junkrat in Defense. It’s worth mentioning that I rarely get to play either of these roles in competitive, though. I’m pretty comfortable in support, but I end up usually playing D.Va. If someone else picked her and we need a tank, this is where I start to struggle. Usually at this point, I open up to my team and let them know that I can take D.Va off the person who picked them. Alternatively, I offer up tank to one of the other people who has already picked and take one of their roles instead. Communication usually goes a long way and I end up not having to play Reinhardt and miss with my ultimate literally every time.
If I only played D.Va, there would be so many situations where I would’ve struggled in competitive. If you can only play one hero, you are setting yourself up for failure. That’s not to mention the five other people on your team who may struggle to carry you along as you play someone else entirely, or a hero who simply doesn’t work in that particular match-up.
Does That Mean Players Should Be Forced to Play to the Overwatch Meta?
I think that forcing players into the meta is a bad thing. This would mean allowing teams to report a player for choosing someone that didn’t fit with their team comp. While yes, that player should play with friends if they want to play Hanzo every single match regardless of what the team needs, it goes both ways. If you want to play with a perfect team comp every time, doing it with random players is going to cause disappointment.
However, ultimately Blizzard will always “force” a meta to some extent. Every patch, every buff, every nerf, will lead to shifts in what comps work. Heroes will work better together one day and then awful the next. There’s always going to be a meta, so players are always going to try and play towards it.
The question is whether they should be suspending people for not playing to it, and I don’t think so.
I can actually see them doing something about players who “one-trick” in competitive to the detriment of their team. It could easily be seen as disruptive to play if you are picking someone who obviously doesn’t fit the team or the situation at hand and are stubbornly refusing to switch while performing badly and letting down the side. I don’t think that a ban would be in order, but perhaps a warning and a temporary timeout from competitive to encourage more teamplay might be an option.
That is what it comes down to, after all. Playing one hero who doesn’t fit the team comp at all, performing horribly, and refusing to communicate with your teammates when they politely ask you to switch is bad teamplay. It’s intentionally disruptive, and players won’t learn not to do this if there’s no risk to doing so. Apart from the risk to your own SR, of course!
This doesn’t mean that playing a hero that doesn’t completely fit your team comp would be punishable. But, intentionally throwing a game by always only playing Torbjorn on attack, misplacing your turrets and ignoring your team’s pleas for you to switch, might be.
The Overwatch meta is complicated. It’s something that will always exist, and players will always end up playing outside of it. Changing that is going to be very hard. Should Blizzard punish players who don’t play to the meta in competitive?
Let us know what you think in the comments below! We’d be really interested in hearing more opinions.Related: Blizzard Entertainment, Column, First Person Shooter, FPS, Overwatch, Play of the Fortnight, Shooter