During this current Overwatch seasonal event, Uprising, running from April 11th to May 2nd, I want to point out that these events have amazing potential to be evangelism hotspots.
What’s the potential?
Arcade and Loot
During events, Blizzard releases limited edition skins and in-game cosmetics - which means it’s likely that one of your favorite heroes is getting something exciting. Unfortunately drops in Overwatch are a bit like gambling. You have to buy or earn Loot Boxes, open them, and hope you luck out. While you could spend in-game Credits to buy items, the most efficient strategy is to get as many Loot Boxes as you can before the end of the event, and buy what you didn’t get in a drop.
Participating in the microtransaction model of Overwatch is an interesting way to jump into “serious” conversations with other players. In game, you can talk about what items you’re looking forward to, and invite other players to share stories of buying Loot Boxes. You can ask whether they got what they wanted, how long it took, how much they spent, and why they decided to spend that much money on cosmetic items.
For most people, though, the best way to develop relationships is just to play with them as they hunt for Loot Boxes. Players get one every time they level up, but they also get them for every 3rd, 6th and 9th win in the Arcade each week.
That means that during each event, the Arcade has a influx of players looking for wins to get their Loot Boxes, and chances at items.
This seasonal combination is a very specific environment that we can jump into and make deep connections. Between the already competitive, individual skill-based Arcade game modes like 3v3 Elimination and 1v1 Mystery Duel, and most players entering with a mindset of Winning = Reward, and how quickly these games go, there’s a unique potential to walk alongside players who share the same goal and take the same steps. What would it look like to meet players looking to make their gaming experience better and offer them deep relationships and authentic community?
What do we do?
Play 3v3 Elimination
The 3v3 Elimination queue will have a different crowd than the 6v6 game modes Mystery Hero or No Limits - they’ll be much more competitive, confident in their play, and a little more serious. This means we’ll have to step up our own gameplay, which might be difficult or uncomfortable for some.
The advantages, though, outweigh our own discomfort:
- Six people in the game is a magic number that makes it easy to have a one-on-one conversation with anyone at any time . You can freely comment on their gameplay or chat while waiting to respawn without awkwardly singling anyone out.
- Two other people on your team is just enough to open conversations and learn their play styles, especially non-verbally. You’re also more likely to find people playing alone.
- The narrow goal - kill the enemy team - places a high value on skill and clutch plays. They’re easy talking points and conversation starters.
- A simple strategy - healing is good - emphasizes player chemistry and communication skills, not just individual skill. They’re easier to learn and help produce wins.
- Downtime between rounds gives space to share stories, make jokes, talk (light-hearted) trash, and plan strategies.
- Short, small games mean that you have a high chance to play with the same people again if you queue up immediately after a game. Playing will with others means they might party up with you, or add you for more games later on.
Voice chat is not actually necessary. I’ve gotten to know a fair amount of people just using non-verbals and text chat. Your goal is to be someone people want to play with: if not through your in-game skill, through the ways you interact with players.
The environment is like a pick-up sports game. Everyone is playing seriously, but, for the most part, no one is at a significantly higher level than others. We are imitating professionals while well aware that we are not pros. We adapt to your teammates by following them around, anticipating their map movements, and knowing how to help. But, we know at the end of the day that it’s just a game and that we’ll all get our wins eventually.
With words (text or voice), here are a few specific actions:
Feel It Out
At the start of the game, see how engaged your teammates are by saying, “Let’s get this win!” or something similarly encouraging. Ask in all-chat how their games have been going, or how many more wins they need for the next Loot Box.
Tell them what you’re planning to do, and where you’re going. If you’re dead, use the camera to call out the other team’s locations. Encourage your teammates, own your mistakes, and make tactical suggestions.
You are the "hype man" of your team, and you try to engage the other team in some fun trash-talk. Reference things that happen in game, but remember that you’re not trying to bring anyone down. Rather, you want people to laugh - either at your over-the-top trash talk, or at their own mistakes. We want to encourage the other team to increase their effort without demoralizing them.
On the flip side of talking trash, this demonstrates our humility and that we’re only out to have fun and not being mean spirited. Talk trash about yourself when you’re killed (with bluntness - “wow I’m bad and missed every shot LOL”); compliment team-wipes, clutch plays, individual skill (especially when someone kills everyone), and good chemistry.
These tips don’t work with all games. Sometimes your teammates won’t talk, and that’s fine! You’ll find a new game and get to try again with a new group.
How do we follow-up?
So, best-case scenario, we’ve met teammates that we play well with and what to play with some more. What do we do from there?
Partner up and play more games! Ask to party-up before the game ends. Give an expectation of how many games you’ll play together so they don’t feel bound - “I have another 30 minutes,” or “I need 2 more wins.”
If you don’t end up in a party, but you enjoyed playing with someone, prefer them as a player (in the same menu as add friend) and queue again immediately. If you see them in your game, say hi, reference the last game, and start communicating.
Ideally, we add people to our friends lists, play a few games with them, and leave the door open to play some more. But just playing with people doesn’t actually lead to relationships. Our goal isn’t just to build a network of strangers to play with; it’s to open up space for God to build deep and meaningful relationships.
Try a few of these conversation starters:
- Find out why they enjoy 3v3 (and Overwatch in general)! Check out the Five Domains of Play for some better language.
- What other games do they play? Do you share any?
- Between games or rounds, ask how their night/day/week has been going.
- Offer to play again, and don’t be bound to just Arcade (like Competitive!).
- Give reasons when you go AFK - “brb need to get the door; brb pizza just came” - and use those to start conversations.
- Ask about what’s coming up in in the week. How does it affect when they play, and their mood/mindset when they come play?
- Find out if they have a stream or voice server; invite them to yours.
- Share stories of your other hobbies, and invite them to share too.