Communication and Teamwork in Overwatch

Watching the Overwatch League has made me want to play the game more than ever. Watching teams pull off these amazingly well-coordinated plays makes me want to assemble my own team. Not in order to compete at even the amateur level, but to play with that level of communication and trust. That being said, the league is still rife with examples of people doing their own thing, including both times that it pays off and times that it does not. Single DPS players have, with minimal support from their teammates, either crippled or halted an entire enemy advance. In juxtaposition, tanks have recklessly charged and players of all kinds have wasted ultimate abilities that would have been more useful if they’d saved them for a minute or less later. Often, the reckless tank and wasted support ultimate ability have led to the team collapsing. Interestingly, half of the team collapses I’ve seen have turned into times when a single DPS found the right moment and help the enemy team off.

The best teams, though, are the most coordinated ones. New York Excelsior, Seoul Dynasty, and London Spitfire are all the most coordinated on average and they’re all the best teams in the league in a general sense. Having actually tried to build a 6-player team in Overwatch, I can definitely say that team coordination matters. To be fair, you don’t need to have six people in order to see that, it just makes it easier to see. I love playing with one of my roommates the most because we’ve played together long enough that our play styles complement each other, we trust each other to know what we’re doing, and we can anticipate each other’s needs and movements in a way the really streamlines communication. He also plays DPS (damage per second) characters and I play tanks, supports, and filler characters (swapping around to meet the team’s current needs rather than sticking to one character in particular). Comparing our play to me playing with only one of most of my other friends highlights just how important that almost unspoken communication is to our success as a team.

I’m hopeful that, if the 6 of us play together often enough, we’ll eventually figure out the communication stuff. I have a hard time verbalizing my thoughts in generic specifics because I’m so focused on what is going on in front of me, so my ability to call shots and direct the team is at its best when I can either get the words out properly or when my teammates are aware enough of what is happening in the battle as a whole to interpret what I’m trying to say correctly. It can be annoying, to have a shot-caller who has trouble saying the right names for characters and coming up with the right word while it is still relevant, but I’ve got the best battlefield awareness of the group right now so working on communication is out top priority. For now, I am grateful that my roommate is one of the six people and that I can count on him to interpret and then translate what I’m trying to say.

As much as I try to relax and have a good time when I’m with a large group that isn’t communicating, it is incredibly frustrating. As a tank, a lot of my ability to do anything effectively, aside from soaking up bullets, is contingent on having the rest of my team performing their duties and following the called shots. The other day, I kept telling everyone to group up with me since I was using the other team’s expectations against them, by setting up patterns that I’d subsequently break. It was working great except that most of my team wasn’t following me. I’d call them over to me, see them around me, start moving into position, and then they’d all be gone, getting cut down somewhere else because their tank is off trying to set up a flanking team-fight that would pick off the enemy sniper and supports before the enemy DPS could be brought to bear against us. We were so close to winning so many times that match and we had no good reason for losing, only that we were never all together and focused on figuring out how to circumvent the enemy traps and defenses. That was kind of the theme of the night, really. Knowing we should have won and being unable to say that we just got outplayed is frustrating to me because I’m trying to become a better player than I currently am and those kind of losses don’t do anyone any good.

It isn’t all of my teammate’s faults either. If I’d followed them in and stuck with the grind-y team-fights they kept running into, we might have won. We might have come out on top with enough ultimate abilities left to hold off the inevitable second wave when they re-spawned and pushed to retake the final point they were defending. I played a little more aggressively than I strictly needed to, winding up with all of the gold medals for enemy kills, enemy kills around the objective, enemy damage, and time spent on the objective(s). No tank should ever have all of those. A good tank can often wind up with gold medals in objective time and objective kills, but the DPS should always have the other two.

I’m going to focus on trying to be a better communicator when I’m playing with less experienced players and people who don’t know how to interpret my non-specific exclamations. That is something I can work to improve in every match, regardless of whether or not I’ve got a team skilled enough to help me improve as a tank. As long as I’m improving, I think I’ll be able to accept and number of wins or losses.

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