Overwatch: Best of Both Worlds

While the title of my blog is “Games for Kids”, with the purpose of such being to discuss games often overlooked by my age demographic, that does not mean I do not also play more “mature” games, such as the likes of Call of Duty or Grand Theft Auto. In fact, I would consider the former a hallmark of my middle school years; Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare was the first M-rated game I ever played, and I remember being pretty blown away by how realistic the graphics looked (for the time, that is). However, after the stellar Black Ops II, the series started to become rather stale, stagnating once it moved from the PS3 and Xbox 360 to their next-generation counterparts, the PS4 and Xbox One. As such, I lost interest in Call of Duty, and have not followed the series as of late.

The bottom line: I actually do enjoy shooter games, but I had been somewhat dissatisfied with the “rut” in which many triple-A games in the genre had fallen into, often feeling like the “same game every year”, with little improvement to the core gameplay mechanics, uninspired, generic storylines, and feeling increasingly like watching a movie rather than playing a video game. Game developer Blizzard Entertainment likely took note of all this when developing their take on the first-person shooter, Overwatch. Already famous for their work on World of Warcraft, Blizzard’s newest game was met with glowing praise when it released in 2016, lauded for its unique spin on the genre.

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Naturally, I was intrigued, and after looking at a few reviews online, I asked for Overwatch for Christmas of 2016, which is how I received it. Almost immediately, I was hooked. Not only was it a fun, polished experience, but it was aesthetically very pleasing; unlike the typical gritty, realistic graphics of most modern shooters, this game, as many have said, “looks like a Pixar movie”.  Although this may be a turn-off to some, I find that it makes the game run better overall, as less detailed textures leave more resources for it to run at a silky smooth framerate. Besides, the more upbeat and lighthearted atmosphere of the game as a whole is certainly a breath of fresh air.

In addition to the visuals distinguishing themselves from how they look in similar types of games, I greatly admire the variety and myriad of options that Overwatch provides to the player. Instead of having the choice between, say, an automatic firearm, a shotgun, or a sniper rifle, you have the option to select one of more than twenty superhero characters (pictured above), each with their own special abilities. For example, one character can “rewind” herself back to a previous location, whilst a robot can transform himself into a stationary turret gun. These characters make for a different experience each match, keeping the game’s admittedly low amount of maps fresh.

I see Overwatch as a “best of both worlds” sort of game; you have the basic, mainstream template of a first-person shooter combined with “Nintendo-esque” creativity and lightheartedness. As such, it is a game that a very wide audience can enjoy, and I personally recommend it to other gamers as an “introduction” to the type of game I like the most.

How Breath of the Wild Parallels my First Semester of College

Being more than nine months late to the hype train that was the widely-praised The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild, I finally received the game shortly after coming home for winter break as a reward for keeping my grades up that semester. Immediately, I popped the shiny new cartridge into my Nintendo Switch, eager to see what all the fuss was about. As I soon found out, the excitement was well-warranted, and was absolutely blown away when given a panoramic view not unlike the one below of the game’s open world mere moments after booting it up; I knew I was probably free to explore everything in my field of view, and then some.

Image result for breath of the wildThe freedom I was given was initially overwhelming, especially since I knew the land would be infested with various hazards and enemies, and all Link, my character, had when waking up was a pair of shorts. I had very little health and stamina, no armor, no weapons, and no map; I was all on my own. However, the beginning moments of this game were particularly resonant with me, as I was reminded of my own personal experiences when witnessing it. More specifically, having my first semester of college newly under my belt, I could relate to Link’s situation of being presented a strange, new world with minimal hand-holding.

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Despite my concerns, I proceeded with my game, holding onto the hope that Link’s near-helpless condition would soon improve. Given my character’s then weak state and inexperience with the game, I obviously went through much trial-and-error, making silly mistakes and dying repeatedly, often to a frustrating degree. At times, this made me want to rage quit and yank the television cord from the wall, as was the case during the times in which I was down on my luck and was tempted to give up during my first semester.

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It was during these times in Breath of the Wild where I was most worried about how I would even think to complete the game if I was so “terrible” at it. I noticed that I got a similar nervous gut feeling from this concern as I did during one particular predicament I had experienced in college: the time in which I absolutely bombed my first calculus midterm. I remember constantly worrying about how terrible my final grade in that class would be, how it would destroy my GPA. The advice my academic adviser gave me was to take things “one day at a time” in math, and I decided to heed her word. I made sure to set aside time each day to study for that class, making sure I deeply understood the material bit-by-bit, and as a result, I crushed the weekly quizzes, which in turn led me to do much better on the second exam, as well as knocking the final right out of the park. I completed the course with a solid “B”.

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Likewise, I applied the same philosophy to my experience of Breath of the Wild, not worrying about how I will win in the grand scheme, but instead focusing on each small victory, much like my weekly quizzes in math that past semester. I took satisfaction in completing each puzzle, seeing Link’s health and stamina increase little-by-little, accumulating stronger armor and weapons, and seeing my map expand as I charted new territory. The funny part in all of this: I still have not completed the game, yet I am feeling extremely confident in my abilities to do so, and am, most importantly, having loads of fun along the way.