I think fell in love the first time I watched the promotional trailer, knowing full well that this was not in-game footage, and that this was not at all what the game itself would be like.

Generally speaking I'm not a huge fan of multiplayer online games. Although I have been playing video games for as long as I was able to push a stool up to the Pac-Man arcade cabinet at our local pizzaria while waiting for our food, it wasn't until I was in college that I was first introduced to multiplayer in the form of online role playing games presented in a text-only format. Post-college, the only significant time I spent playing a multiplayer game over the internet was in the late '90s, and the game in question was Starsiege Tribes. It is also worth mentioning that I was pretty terrible at defeating my opponents in Tribes, although I did have a knack for disabling defenses and taking out the enemy base infrastructure.

There are any number of articles out there on the internet that can go into significant detail about Overwatch, but the main takeaway is that Overwatch should not the kind of game that I would be interested in playing, namely a team-based, massively-multiplayer, first person shooter. Historically I have avoided online game play due to the toxicity that tends to occur while talking to other players in the game, and I've never been particularly skilled at playing games that fall under the category of "First Person Shooter".

There are a few factors that make Overwatch stand out. The biggest impact is the lore of the game. What was my hook? That look Tracer gave to Brian in the very first trailer when he sheepishly hands her the Doomfist gauntlet he used to punch Widowmaker halfway across the room. "You know," she said, "The world could always use more heroes," before blinking away. Moments like these that causes the hairs on my arms to stand on end. With the release of every new hero or special event for Overwatch, the lore of the game trickles out in the form of more videos, comics, and even alongside cosmetics for each of the heroes. Every little bit makes the story that much more compelling, and I often like to discuss with friends what may or may not happen next.

I did not participate in the beta, nor did I purchase the game right away. It was not until I realized how much fun everyone was having in Overwatch during their first Halloween event that I felt like I was seriously missing out on the good times. I took advantage of the Black Friday sale and nabbed a copy of the basic game at half price, along with a copy for my oldest because it was something she wanted for Christmas. Into the fray I went.

By the end of December I had had enough. I wanted to play the character Tracer, but my twitchy aim skills were not nearly good enough to be effective with the character. Mercy became my go-to hero of choice, in part because there was clearly a serious lack of support, and in part because her kit did not require as much skill as the attacking, defensive or tank role heroes. I also started to play D.Va, but this was before her very first nerf so I suspect my performance on that hero was a bit inflated. Even so I regularly found myself struggling to keep up with my team, and the one thing that to this day caused me to "tilt" was when my own teammates became overly critical of my performance when it was their own poor decision-making that was to blame.

I stopped playing Overwatch until the extremely popular Uprising event was almost over. On a whim I decided to sign in and play as Mercy, and fell back in love with the game again. It was the story that had sucked me back in, and my crushing disappointment that Uprising would not stay a permanent part of the game was mirrored by other players around the world.

PennyArcade on Uprising

During this I made a decision to be the best possible Mercy I could be, and turned to some online guides, tips and tricks to figure out how to best play as the character. While this resulted in my being considered a "one-trick" Mercy player (reviled by the upper tiers of the Overwatch community) I found a certain level of satisfaction in being the core reason behind many of the wins, and made friends with a number of players in the game as a side effect. It didn't hurt that Mercy has a unique cosmetic "skin" that makes her look like a valkyrie from Norse mythology (I have a valkyrie tattoo, if that gives you any idea of their importance to me).

Over time, I started trying out other heroes in the game, starting with D.Va, Reinhardt and Ana, and then expanding to other heros such as Orisa and Symmetra. I found Symmetra especially fun to play, but I noticed the better I played the less useful she became to the team. Eventually I reached a point where I realized I would not be satisfied until I learned how to play Tracer. I also had decided I no longer wanted to be known as a "Mercy main", which to many in the Overwatch community is a bit of a derogatory term, indicating the person in question has low or no skill at Overwatch (this couldn't be further from the truth but it's difficult to change the perception of players who never play heroes in a support role).

Over the next several months I played as Tracer to the exclusion of almost every other hero, with a few exceptions when other players picked Tracer from the roster before I had a chance to select her (in those cases I avoided playing as Mercy, because I had the intention of becoming a Tracer main instead). At first, I found playing Tracer was a struggle - I had difficulty consistently aiming and tracking, and therefore unless an opponent was already damaged I found it nearly impossible to win a fight against them. I also struggled to learn how to better utilize Tracer's cooldowns, and remember to not jump into a fight without her recall or blink abilities available to get me out of trouble.

The more I played, the better I became. This was especially difficult because of the skills of the other players I fought against, because they were already familiar with their heroes of choice where I was still learning. Even with that steep learning curve, I kept at it, tracking my performance over time in Overbuff.

At the time I started tracking this performance, my rating on Tracer was 2%. For sake of comparison, my rating with Mercy was over 60% (compared to other players who play as Mercy in the game), and my rating with Symmetra was almost 70%. It's worth mentioning that Tracer is considered a 2-star difficulty hero to play and she's extremely popular, whereas Symmetra is not very popular among the player base (so I am rated against a smaller pool of players) and Mercy is rated as a 1-star difficulty hero to play, and significantly easier. The accuracy of Blizzard's difficulty rating system is debatable, but regardless it was clear early on that my skill playing as Tracer compared to other players was significantly low. I would not be satisfied until my rating reached 50% on Overbuff.

This process took several months as I generally only play about an hour of Overwatch on any given day. Even during the seasonal events (with the exception of Halloween) I played as much Tracer as I possibly could, trying to reach the point where muscle memory would help me excel as the character. I finally reached this goal, the goal to make Tracer my main and the 50% rating on Overbuff.

With those achievements under my belt, I started branching out further to learn other characters such as Reaper, Winston, Soldier 76, Mei, Moira and the latest hero to be added to the game - Brigitte. This has brought about new insights about the game and how it's meant to be played - which is to select heroes who will better counter the situation that your team finds itself in if and when your team starts to struggle. While I still play a lot of Tracer, I have found that increasing the pool of heroes I know how to play only makes the game that much better. Even though it can be frustrating at times thanks to the never-ending toxicity of playing games with strangers over the internet, Overwatch is still my favorite game of all time.

Watch Wyrdsmyth's Play of the Game reel from Wyrdsmyth on www.twitch.tv