The polemic Seagull’s video about the current state of Overwatch touched on a very popular subject and, since then, reignited a discussion that is as old as the game itself: the lack of proper in-game statistics.
The overall consensus is that the players would benefit from not only more detailed statistics but also from displaying them to all teammates. Overwatch is, however, first and foremost a team game. Victory is achieved through joined efforts, whichever they may be, not joined scores. The casual, friendly look of the game hides a deep strategy core element that can be overlooked by the pursuit of individual top-performance. Blizzard wants the player to push towards synergy and combos above the carry potential that is to be expected in a shooter game.
There are two conflicting goals: the player’s quest to outperform others on an individual level and the game’s focus on team play and distinct roles. The solution currently implemented into to the game, the medal system, tried to fulfill both needs but it seems to have failed to meet either of them. Nevertheless, it has been unchanged since launch.
Are the players misguided thinking they want something that might only increase toxicity? Is Blizzard stubborn by keeping a system that gives the player an illusion of good performance sheltering them from the truth? Is this a component of the game that should be prioritized or another Overwatch heated topic that is bound to fade away some time without real consequences?
The goal of this article is to establish an anchor point for further discussion. Do we need more statistics in Overwatch? If so, how should they be implemented? Let’s start by considering how important this issue is.
The Role of Statistics in Overwatch
The desire to see our performance quantified is embedded in our very own nature. We want to improve; we want to do better. Statistics and game data are fundamental in professional play, but even a casual player craves for that rush upon seeing proof of their increased skills at this game. More than just a tradition on all kinds of games, it’s a natural manifestation of our competitive side.
Should Overwatch be different? Should statistics be nothing more than an extra?
Shortly after the game’s release, websites and apps like Overbuff offered an extended visualization of the game’s statistics and global ranking became popular and continued to be so to this day.
The demand for stats is real. So what’s Blizzard next move?
Image: Blizzard Entertainment
In an interview, Jeff Kaplan revealed that the game used to have a scoring system but ultimately decided against it.
“The scoreboard that a lot of players want is what I call the spreadsheet–it's just rows and columns of everything, and they're like, ‘Let us figure it out.’ But that feels like a give-up moment to us”. Due to its FPS/MOBA hybrid nature, the bigger number doesn’t always mean better performance. A good example would be a Widowmaker that focuses on tanks rather than supports: sure the Widow player will have a better accuracy stat and more damage done, but in most cases, the damage done to tanks is easily healed if the supports aren’t under pressure. However, in some cases, to focus the tank first is the correct move. Either way, statistics alone are not enough to “tell the complete story of who's doing well and who's doing not.”
We can assume that a scoring system will only be adopted by the Overwatch team if it’s able to display statistics that don’t need for player interpretation.
So why do players search for ways to get more data?
Overwatch League had amazing tools players wished they could get their hands on the replays, the face-to-face analysis, the statistics we don’t get access to and many more. It showed something that would fit into the game so perfectly and yet; they’re absent.
Sometimes when we play it feels like information is lacking, it feels we have nothing to base our performance on besides the end screen showing “Victory” or “Defeat”. Ultimately, this is why players search for a third-party application. Stats enables us to get more enjoyment out of this game; stats give us another reason to come back, stats make us want to do better. The medal system provides only a summary of a player’s performance, and it feels incomplete and misleading. Players crave something they can rely on: an absolute proof of how good a player’s performance is, how much they contributed to the team, something that quantifies performance just like we see on the Overwatch League.
Why avoid displaying statistics, then?
Are you familiar with the curious case of the 4 Gold Medal Moira? This meme illustrates how the less informed players can be misguided by high numbers leading them to acquire bad habits. It’s hard to imagine how a scoreboard could eliminate the problem.
Other cases might affect your stats: mid-game hero swaps, role changes, counter picks done by the enemy team, changes in your teammates, changes of team composition and even the change of the current objective and how you and your team adapts. With so many variables, so many different cases that produce a whole new context for each number, how do we quantify good performance?
Statistics are essential and very valuable to more analytical players. However, having them available to teammates is a potential distraction from the actual game and opens a new door for toxicity to flow through.
Overwatch is a complex game. Statistics alone are not enough to tell if a player is performing well. It may worsen the problems of the medal system when two player’s interpretations of said data don’t match. Still, all data can be used for self-evaluation and is crucial for established teams and high-ranked players. It also gives the player an extra goal, a visible proof of improvement.
We often forget that the vast majority of the player-base does not have an in-depth knowledge of the meta, the best way to use a hero (i.e., Brigitte on the DPS slot can be confusing) or even the ability to interpret statistics (i.e., the “4 Gold Medal Moira” case). A direct comparison can help the players if there’s a way to distinguish players without any need for interpretation. If no such way is found, the more casual player-base – the 99% – will be given food for toxicity, something we, as a community, are fighting against.