My very first hour of Overwatch has been enough to reinforce a long-held suspicion:
Put me in a multiplayer situation and I will always choose the support character… and genuinely enjoy it.
This statement wouldn’t normally warrant its own post, but I have a feeling that many other gamers have found themselves drawn to an innate ‘default setting’ when it comes to class and character selection in cooperative gaming. Based on anecdotal evidence I’d also say that relatively few take the sidekick route, and its my intention to uncover the reason why it sits so well with me and less so with the gaming majority.
My own preference for the support role has cropped up in a range of contexts, including:
- DOTA 2, in which I would creep stack with Lion or Pugna whilst my vastly more experienced siblings carried.
- Team Fortress 2, in which my Medic clocked up the lion’s share of active duty.
- Destiny, in which I transitioned to the Titan’s Defender subclass as soon as it unlocked (despite still playing solo at that stage… go figure).
- And now Overwatch, in which at least 90% of my free-play-weekend has been spent zooming around as Mercy and healing those under fire.
So what exactly is it about these support cast characters that draws me in each time?
Is it altruism? Have the years of Sunday School and church sermons extolling generosity shaped me into a more team oriented gamer? The parents, school teachers and sport coaches of my formative years certainly espoused selfless teamwork as a virtue, so maybe this is their doing.
Is it for popularity? Perhaps – as in my musical life as a bass guitarist – there is bit of a desire to play a role that may be perceived as the most simplistic on offer but to do it excellently. ‘Under promise, over deliver’ right? When everyone else is looking to make the big shot plays there is guaranteed appreciation for a decent support player that keeps them alive and empowered for longer.
Is it realism? Knowing that my thumb/mouse skills are far from elite, the decision to play a role that doesn’t rely on precision shooting and lightning reflexes makes a lot of sense. If your value to the team can be based on just doing a job no one else wants to do and using experience, knowledge or cunning to excel then that seems like a sensible path to take.
Having gone to the effort of putting these thoughts to paper, it is pretty clear that my support class preference arises from all three of these basic elements. This indeterminate solution is fine, as thanks to the combination of these traits I still get a kick out of staying out of sightlines and supporting more damaging heroes as they rack up the kills.
Now the real question is what classes I would gravitate towards were I to have thousands of hours of training and the reflexes of a teenager? Guess I’d better go to work now and ask a few…