Observing how communities develop – the intertwined networks, where trends lie – often provides insight to the health and trajectory of the community. In sports, leagues attempt to dictate transitions based on community evolution, interest, and feedback. The MLB will never be fast paced action, but dictating more homeruns peaks interest. Both the analytics crowd and casual fans are thrown into the homerun controversy with equal enjoyment and passion – communities are healthier when interests are at the core of the sport. Esports, and specifically Overwatch, is a competition growing in interest; thus, understanding the support communities around the meta of the sport is quintessential to shaping the future. And there is no one with a better reflection on the evolution of a community than those whose job is to interact and observe community trends. In an interview with the Overwatch University subreddit moderation team, they provided an exclusive look on the progress, evolution, and nuances of a competitive Overwatch community growing together to build the competitive scene.
The Evolution of a Competitive Community – Overwatch University Interview
First things first, Overwatch University is a community fundamentally about developing a better understanding of the game’s technical aspects, and in some regards, can be considered an amateur esports Overwatch league. In the near future, this could be a path to a more serious position in the competitive scene. A mix of casual users, simply looking to become better teammates, and competitive users, looking to develop succinct strategies, have joined together to evolve a fun, learning environment.
Two moderators from the Overwatch University community took time to discuss the nuances and growth of the community. The Politburo and Fusinn provided two unique perspectives due to their roles in the community.
Politburo has been with Overwatch University since the inception of the community. He began as CSS Design moderator, bestowing Reddit the subreddit’s personable design. However, as time went on, the two original owners of the subreddit stepped down, leaving Politburo and teammate Matsgd to control the communities’ trajectory.
Fussin’s perspective is a bit different. He joined later in the Overwatch foray, roughly one year ago as an active user. His initial aim was to simply become a better teammate in the game. However, he has since become a moderator (of a month ago) after generating and administrating the successful Scrub Cup. The Scrub Cup was developed for tiered players of 2500 SR or lower – making it the perfect learning environment for competitive play.
Development – A Meta Perspective
Overwatch University has an intriguing inception, born after the Overwatch beta announcement as one of many communities. As Politburo observed, this made growing the community a bit difficult at first.
“Since the Overwatch closed beta was announced, was when Overwatch University started. And in tandem came a lot of subreddits, delivering the same premise. So, a whole bunch of them spawned, and you know you couldn’t compete with a diverse field.”
Overwatch University needed to grow, so the team began in a unique way – a generous way. The two original moderators hosted giveaways on the subreddit and reached out to the main Overwatch subreddit in order to generate traffic.
Thus, Overwatch University began on generous terms; a community fundamentally about generosity and helping others, a mission carried to this day. Generosity naturally attracted a plethora of users, and made Overwatch University the essential educational platform for learning how to play.
“And I guess after a while we were the most popular, we got 10,000 in a month,” Politburo reflected. “That sealed the day. Ever since then we calmed down on the giveaways, and focused on what the original admins planned about Overwatch.”
With the unique approach to growing the sub, came a community that naturally grew itself. Few rules existed in the beginning, and thus, few rules still exist today.
“I would say that the community built itself more than we had influenced the subreddit. So that was actually quite interesting to see. And we still do the same thing today. We don’t have that much influence other than to remove stupid posts. We like to keep the discussion open and free as long as it is related to Overwatch.”
And with that intrinsic development is where the users like Fussin become so essential. Although his history with the subreddit is not as lengthy, the future programs he is developing are the grassroots of success.
“I feel like discussion has become a bit more technical in a way, more technical aspects of the game, instead of just people discovering, they are now teaching advanced stuff,” Fussin added. “Certainly, growth in the competitive aspects of the game, and essentially the community developing like that, they are working toward that esports level.”
The Scrub Cup is essential to that growth, carrying the intrinsic health and future of the community as new players are welcomed into an atmosphere free to make mistakes, learn, and improve together. In short, representing the beauty of what community provides.
Combining Casual and Competitive
There is an interesting split in the Overwatch University community that would seem dichotomous at first – those who play for the casual fun, but want to get better at fundamentals, and those who are seeking serious esports progression.
“It has a casual player base, but it also has players and team that are going to get more serious aspects of the game going. So, players getting into tournaments and stuff are getting more serious,” explained Fussin. “Even just to see that watching over our subreddit you can see people are playing casually and improving their game, and just thinking of all sorts of stuff as a technical thing like sensitivity.”
While the perceived dichotomy may be difficult to manage, or let cohesively work together, both groups benefit each other. The more casual players have a base in Overwatch University where they can make new friends, improve fundamentals, and learn how to work together as a team. From that outset point, casual players can test the waters in the Scrub Cup and be introduced into communicative team play.
One of the most difficult things about Overwatch is communication, for in standard quick play matches, users stray from using voice chat. Yet, in the Scrub Cup, or any match derived from Overwatch University, team work and networking insistently are key to developing strategy. After learning team fundamentals, casual players may re-enter quick play competitive matches in game while applying those fundamentals to uncommunicative teams.
In that point of learning fundamentals and critical thinking is where the competitive esports crowd plays an important role. In the same draw that the professional Overwatch League is being developed for entertainment, watching Overwatch is an important part of learning how to play. Making Overwatch no different than any other sporting league where prospective players learn from the professionals.
In the nature of offering nuanced gameplay to learn from, Overwatch University has built other cups for players of all SR.
“We have the Overwatch University league, it goes as the same principles of the Scrub Cup, but it has players going from all SRs,” Politburo explained. “All players are casual, but in this casual environment they play competitively. They do all sorts of stuff: talk, strategize, that you never have time to do in the regular games.”
Watching and playing throughout this league is essential to learning how to learn from mistakes and create advantages from those mistakes, an important skill in any competition.
The Process of a Match
Perfect practice makes perfect is a cliché yet true quote that rings for the game of Overwatch just as any other competition. Teams gather together in closed lobbies and develop their specific strategies per map, enjoying the process of learning their hero line up. According to Fussin, this is done so talking is limited in games.
For example, if an opponent presents a different outlook than what was expected, their team knows exactly what hero needs to be subbed in, and what new lane needs to be attacked. With games lasting only ten minutes per match, talking must be limited and critical thinking maximized. The more practice time, the quicker and easier executive decisions will come during the match.
Politburo explained what the specific discussion that occurs, “Strengths and weaknesses, what roles one would fill. You would talk about weaknesses and build off of those weaknesses. The length of string matches. Reviewing the replay.”
Fussin offered his own insight into the Overwatch movement system, “[I analyze] deeply into the movements of people. So how they are moving, it can give away what their intent is. In a very simple example, if you have a Zarya at the front of the team, you can expect for her to shoot a graviton very soon.”
“I would suggest that a player should practice mechanics first, learning how to aim, learning how to jump, all the simple stuff. And once you get the basics, you can get into the advanced techniques,” Fussin offered on how to start taking play to the next level. “Just play in the competitive league and get SR. And what best reflects a player is how they can see their mistakes, and I think competitive is the best place to do that.”
Thus, the start to learning Overwatch, one should start learning the basics such as movement of the different hero sets. Starting small is essential to making big steps later.
Starting in Overwatch University
Overwatch University is one of the best places to start learning how to play. For new players, the upcoming Scrub Cup would be a great place. In fact, sign ups begin today, and matches begin the weekend of October 28. Even if not a participant, watching and learning will be a delightful and insightful time.
“Tune into the Finals and the Scrub Cup,” Fussin offered. “Just to watch how players develop as a solo player, and get put into a team of people they don’t know; just to see how technical they become.”
Overall, Overwatch University is the go to community for developing the competitive spirit and technicalities of Overwatch. Both Politburo and Fussin recommened to keep scanning the community both for simple questions and technical questions. No question is a bad question in the process of practice. Further, occasional YouTube reviews and pro-player breakdowns will appear that deliver specific mechanic fixes.
And what makes the community involvement and discussion so special? Politburo closed in his explanation, “Our subreddit is very lightly moderated, and I actually like that we don’t have many rules. It allows for a variety of posts to go on our subreddit. The community is very diverse, so I think at this point it is running by itself. The community evolved on its own.”