Why do we think critically about games? Everyone who’s ever held an opinion about a game is on some level a critic. The difference between a gamer and a critic is just that style of thinking. It’s the endeavour to not just decide whether or not we like something, but to consider why. What’s the value of the thing we enjoy? What does it add to the medium? What does it subtract? Is it a net positive or a negative?
It took quite a lot of thinking for me to settle on my game of the decade. 2009 was the year when Arkham Asylum came out and redefined what a licensed game could be. It was the year when Modern Warfare 2 came out and began the decline of one of the industry’s most universally acclaimed products. In some ways, it feels like almost nothing has changed. In other ways, it feels like almost everything has.
Overwatch is not the best game that came out in the last ten years, nor is it the worst. But I do think it is the game that most defines where games are for me now. How do you talk about Overwatch? Do you start with the vibrant, Pixar-esque visual design or the focus on hyper-repetitive multiplayer matches? The wide cast of characters and play styles that mean that no matter where you lie on the spectrum of race, class, sexuality or skill you can find something to enjoy? The infestation of loot boxes it started and the accompanying brutally slow grind of levelling to try and persuade you to part with your hard earned cash?
Overwatch is everything right with games and everything wrong with games perfectly assembled into a single package that I simply can not put down. It is the game that for better or worse defines exactly where we are now. Perhaps in the future we can move past those negatives while preserving those positives, but for now we can apply our critical skills enough to know what those things are.
If you have read any of the work published here on Ready Up, that’s what we have been trying to do in our own ways.
Thanks for taking the journey with us.