On tanks, habits, and changing your play (and life) style.
(If you’re not familiar with multiplayer online games, don’t fear – you’re gonna have a crash course in a minute.)
I’m playing Overwatch, and my team is almost ready. We’ve got 30 seconds before the match begins. Everybody’s choosing their character from the rooster – we’ve got offense and defense covered, and all that’s left is to pick the tank and the healer to have a balanced team. Another player and I still have to choose. I switch to D.Va, my favourite giant pink mecha, which makes the “No Tank heroes” disappear from the screen. The seconds tick by. We wait for the last player to choose the healer.
They choose Winston. A second tank.
What the heck, pal?!
If it were a training mission against the AI, I couldn’t care less. Even without a healer, most times we managed to win. (And even if we lost, it didn’t influence our rank.) But we’re in competitive mode, which means that we’ll play against very determined (and possibly very coordinated) human beings, which in turn means that without a healer we’re all freakin’ doomed, Winston!
9. 8. 7.
Winston’s still there. Everybody’s still there.
6. 5. 4.
C’mon, mates. You can still kill others as a healer. You can even win the play of the game as a healer!
Aw, shucks. No big deal. I switch to Mercy, my fave healer. (But you’d better greet me at the start of the match.)
The Story of a Main
In some video games, where you choose from a pool of pre-made characters, often you end up sticking to one or two in particular. Maybe you love their design or backstory. Maybe you play with them once and in that moment something clicks. Whatever that is, next thing you know, you’ve got 30+ hours of gameplay with them under your belt and how could I survive without you, really?!?
Congrats! In video game lingo, you’ve found your main.
In Overwatch, I started out as a D.Va main because I adored tanking. I’d look for the highest balcony around the battle area, then boost my way down into the enemy team, either pushing them off a cliff or nulling their special attacks. (Also, my aim was a disaster and D.Va had infinite ammo. I was a pink, walking bullet dispenser.)
Of course I tried other characters for fun, but my heart belonged to D.Va and there was no coming back. Until I tried playing in competitive mode.
Man, did I got whooped.
The enemy team kept on insta-killing me again and again. My mecha exploded more times than I could count, I couldn’t stick out of the balcony without being targeted by everyone at once, and not even my infinite ammo was enough to get the enemy tank down.
For a while, I thought it was a matter of experience. Maybe I just needed to play more battles, try new strategies, search for tips on the Internet. Yet, after a while, I had to face the cold, harsh truth. I wasn’t meant to main D.Va.
Some part of me resisted. I just love D.Va, why shouldn’t I play with her?!? (Because you want to win every now and then, that’s why.) I still tried, just giving another character a chance once or twice every day. Nothing was right. Nothing felt right. Until one day. Until I selected Jesse McCree, a veritable 21st-century cowboy with a horrid catchphrase (“It’s high noon”? Srsly??) and an even more horrid belt. (“BAMF”? What are you made of, old memes and country music? Are you even REAL?????)
Guess who won the play of the game?
One main, two mains, three mains…
Does it mean I am a McCree main now?
Well, yes. And no.
I main McCree. But when we have no healer, I main guardian angel Mercy. When we’re low on defense, Widowmaker au rapport, bonjour. And of course, no tank = D.Va online! (Because I still love my giant pink mecha.)
Truth is, now I delight in switching. Whether it’s because of the team’s composition, or the map we’re playing, or the mood of the moment, rarely there are two or more games in a row where I play the same character.
It’s not only about doing something new. Sure, it’s fantastic that I can experience the same map through different perspectives. (City map with narrow alleys and thousands of balconies = hilariously wrecking for a tank, but A+ for a sniper!) There’s something equally great in supporting your team in the best possible way.
It’s more about teaching myself how to be flexible.
You can’t always be the tank. (Or the healer.) Sometimes it works. Sometimes it doesn’t, no matter how many times you try, and your team keeps on getting whooped. At that point, you have a choice – either you go on or you switch.
That’s the same IRL, too.
We all have our “life mains” – default reactions and behaviors we select, more or less unconsciously, in certain situations. Sometimes, they work. Sometimes, they don’t. But when they keep on biting our butt, we have a choice – either we go on or we switch. Either we keep our “main” or we learn and change.
Of course, it’s not easy. Sometimes you can keep part of your playstyle, but most often than not, you have to learn everything again from zero. It’s scary. It’s uncomfortable. It’s painful.
But what would happen if, just once, you changed our main?
Maybe you’ll still lose, and swear to stick to your beloved D.Va the next time.
Or maybe you’ll still lose, but hey, healing’s a pretty nifty job too, why don’t I try it again?
Or maybe you’ll win, and discover that you were failing so hard at tanking because you were a natural born sniper.
Worst case scenario? Nothing changes.
Middle case scenario? You learn someone else’s perspective.
Best case scenario? Everything changes.
So… just once… who could you main?
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