Underneath Overwatch’s cartoony facade lies something sinister. It corrupts the hearts of good men and women, leaving them nigh-unrecognisable. This phenomenon has many names: tilt, rage, Hanzo main… just kidding about that last one. Kind of. But it’s best known throughout the internet as “toxicity”.

Most competitive games have some degree of it, but you can’t seem to step foot into a single Overwatch match without someone trying to ruin the fun. Instead of just name-calling and writing off the scene, maybe it’s worth giving the issue of toxicity a critical look.

Ego is probably the biggest contributor

It’s good to play with confidence in any team game. Going into a situation with a small chip on your shoulder can often yield favourable results. This is especially true in shooters like Call of Duty, where individual kills count for a whole lot, and TTK (time to kill) is very low. In Overwatch, however, “overconfidence is a flimsy shield,” as Zenyatta says.

Not only do you have to get those timely kills, but you have to play your position well. Tanks need to create space and have quality engagements. Healers not only have to keep their teams up, but they have to be able to duel and stay alive. Damage Per Second (DPS) heroes also have to choose their engagements wisely to ensure that the health trade is too much for opposing healers. There’s a lot to take into consideration, and you start with a 16% chance to screw everything up just by spawning. Why, then, is the community so hard on everyone?

Simply put, many people think their game knowledge sits on the top shelf when it doesn’t. That you need the 2-2-2 composition in order to win. That if you’re not pulling in gold damage, you’re an awful DPS player. That, for some reason, Zenyatta and Lucio make a bad healing combo even though that’s what every professional team runs with. If you do something contrary to what the toxic person believes to be true, they will throw a tantrum. Even if you dominate every round, they will go out of their way to let you know why you’re still a bad player, and why they’re better. They might even throw the game on purpose, hoping to have taught everyone a “lesson”.

Ego is the root of the problem. People assume they’re right and you’re wrong. Everything else stems from there.

Shallow game knowledge

Having a limited understanding of the game is understandable. There’s so much going on, no casual player can possibly be expected to know precisely why Winston is preferred in the current meta, for example. To compensate for this, toxic players supplement their own naivety for factual truth. When things fall apart, they prance around, taunting, “I told you so!” You can break this down by position.

  • Healing: People love Mercy for some reason. It boggles the mind when you think about it. She can only heal or buff one person at a time while being unable to do anything else. Unless you have Pharah flying around, she often can’t escape danger when people with reliable aim are present. Why wouldn’t people prefer healers that that debuff, attack while healing or put people to sleep? Oh, right. Resurrection. People want a crutch so that their own sloppy play can be excused. Why have ultimates that can keep an attack or bulwark defense alive when you can just die instead to wipe your hands of any pesky responsibility? Toxic people are convinced that dying is a viable strategy, and they get mad when you suggest otherwise. Yes, I know Mercy can be good, but she’s not the pillar of strength everyone wants her to be, and no one should request that someone switch off of, say, Ana, so that they can float around as a defenseless target.
  • DPS: Convinced of the significance of vacuum stats, the toxic player only looks at numbers and medals as units of measurement for player value. Don’t get me wrong here. I’m not saying you should aspire pull in bronze damage or anything, but without being able to fully examine a situation, you can’t really put all of that on one person’s shoulders. If you’re not calling out targets and roll in with a game plan for every point of every map, the likelihood of having appropriate followups to initial damage is low. In fact, it turns into a matter of luck. And that’s really the crux of the issue, isn’t it? When people are arguing about luck in terms of value and skill but don’t realise it, the toxic cloud thickens.
  • Tanking: Tanking is perhaps the most difficult concept to understand in Overwatch in terms of value, especially on the competitive ladder. Whereas healing and DPS are two sides of the same coin, tanking aims to disrupt that ebb and flow either by absorption, or by creating opportunities to deplete the enemy health pool. Of the three main positions, tanking is the easiest to fail at, and it just so happens to require the most group cooperation. At the end of the day, people don’t want to die (even though they do, apparently), and they want kills that don’t require teamwork (impossible). If you happen to try to give your team an in and die in the process, may the gods shield you from the flames.

Don’t worry, there’s high-level theory to back this up

It’s not my intention that you’re going to just take my word for any of this. Jake from Luminosity Gaming isn’t just one of the best DPS players in the world, he’s turning into quite the Overwatch theorist. I wrote something that incorporated some of his thoughts on Mercy that you might find interesting. He’s also had some insightful discussions with other Overwatch pros on Twitter about the issue of DPS follow-up.

Of course, there are also high-level fails

I’ve had a discussion with a high level player (top 500, unnamed) who is convinced that Junkrat’s ultimate suffers from unique issues. He’s so convinced that he made a video about it. Unfortunately, his complaints were a bit misguided. Junkrat’s ultimate suffers from two things: it’s flimsy, and it’s easy to disrupt its follow-up because of travel time. For context, think of how fast Pharah, another projectile hero, can ruin a team’s day in an instant with her ultimate. One of his complaints was that you lose your ult charge if someone kills you before the ultimate activates, and that Junkrat is the only character this happens to. Any character that has a few frames of startup loses most or all of their charge, including Reinhardt and Soldier off the top of my head. I’ll let you guess how much support he had, and how little I had in that thread.

At the end of the day, keeping an open mind and doing a little homework will help you overcome a lot of these toxic tendencies. Understand that there are many compositions that can work, including four DPS. Hell, we won a game the other night with five DPS and Sombra hacks for healing. Comfort should take precedence over meta-friendly compositions on the ladder. Unless you have spreadsheets out and are playing with a full 6-top, it’s very unlikely that you’re going to be able to take advantage of the Winston-D.Va combo while you’re running Junkrat and McCree, for example. Imposing your will on your team is the fastest way to keep spinning your wheels instead of making progress. Help the Overwatch community progress, not regress. Your precious SR will thank you.

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