One of the most incredible parts of Overwatch is its celebration of all parts of the world. At its core, Overwatch strives to be an international game, both with its heroes and with its maps. Not so coincidentally, Overwatch’s professional league, the OWL, is also internationally-minded and will be taking concrete steps to further that in the 2020 season. The question I want to pose is, why can’t the league and the game synergize more, moving forward, especially when implementing new maps?
Activating Home Cities In-Game
When the OWL goes home next season, what if each of the team’s respective cities were available to play in-game? This is something that is far from attainable for next season, sure, but wouldn’t that be amazing? Wouldn’t it be great for each team to be able to deck out their arena to be themed like the map that coordinates with it?
Or, to even go a bit further, it could even get to a point where, when you play the home team, the tiebreaker map would be their local map. This would require all 20 OWL teams and any future expansion teams to have their own maps, which is a lot of work for artists and game developers. But, if this is going to be a league that lasts, why not think big picture?
And, conversely, wouldn’t it be exciting to see the maps themselves, in-game, celebrate the OWL team from that city. Give us a Soon poster in Paris or a Spitfire flag waving in King’s Row. Doing so could further bring fans of the game into the OWL sphere and would likely have a similar crossover effect as the OWL team skins and the Zenyatta MVP skin.
Essentially what I’m getting at is, if skins get crossovers, why don’t maps?
This would be one thing if OWL cities were in places void of rich architecture or history, but that is far from the truth. These OWL cities could provide incredible new maps of all different kinds stretching across a wide range of different landscapes. One the one hand, imagine a map running through the heart of Brooklyn and Manhattan, with Times Square at its center. On the other, imagine a rugged, wilderness-filled forest map sprawling through the landscapes near Vancouver.
On each of these maps, there could be unique additions that give OWL fans something to smirk about. In Vancouver, there could be a green, rogue sasquatch roaming through the shadows of the forest. In New York, there could be cabs with the NYXL logo on them and even a pop-up shop or two to celebrate the team’s intentional steps towards streetwear culture.
This sort of collaboration would, again, not only give current OWL fans something to smile about while playing the map but it would also give casual fans of the game more and more connections to the OWL. Seems like a win-win, right?
Counterpoint: Taking Away From the Lore
A necessary point to address in opposition to what I’ve said here has to do with the lore and the world of Overwatch. Would bringing an NYXL pop-up shop into the game take away from the immersion of the world created? I think, honestly, its fair to land on either side of this question.
The reason I say that has to do with skins, the current standard for OWL and OW crossovers. When you’re playing with an Atlanta Reign Torbjorn skin, that has nothing to do with the world of Overwatch. But, it doesn’t feel strange to me when I see heroes representing OWL teams with their skins, even if they have nothing to do with the lore or history of the character.
Basically, I think OW has enough depth in its lore to handle these map crossovers. I think the benefits outweigh the costs in the casual players that may see things and become interesting in the OWL. As long as these additions were subtle, I don’t see the world of the game being cheapened or affected in a negative way.
Achieving a Vision
Overall, much of what drives me to constantly make these connections is because of the vision I, and many fans alike, have for Overwatch and the OWL. Right now, Overwatch has players from all over the world, playing on maps that represent all corners of the world with heroes from all over the globe. Next season, the OWL will be played, you guessed it, all over the world by professionals from a wide range of different countries.
All of this, for me, is exactly the vision I’ve always had for Overwatch and what got me into the game in the first place. It’s truly, at its best, a place for everyone that celebrates everyone. I understand it still has a long way to go in that regard, especially as it pertains to heroes, however, I also don’t want to miss out on celebrating what has already been done. The game is truly an international mosaic.
I hope that Overwatch and OWL continue celebrating all kinds of players from all over the world. As the two aim to form more and more crossovers, it would seem like a missed opportunity not to include maps in that conversation.
[Originally published on July 30, 2019]
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