A growing trend in media is the scavenger hunt. Everyone likes to play Sherlock Holmes, everyone wants to be a detective. Sure, Easter eggs in movies are fine and we all look forward to our Stan Lee cameos in Marvel movies. There’s an ongoing hunt across both seasons of Mr. Robot as viewers scramble to uncover clues about what, exactly, is going on. And over the last month or so, we’ve gotten maybe a glimpse as to who Sombra is.
Overwatch is a character-centric team-based shooter where you battle for control of a point for an extended period of time, capture points from the defending team, or defend then escort some cargo. It’s pretty tried-and-true, as there are other games like it that have done very well over the last decade. It’s no surprise that these types of games come with dedicated followings. After all, it’s a Saturday morning cartoon, and everyone’s got their favorite character.
In case the very plain comparison to Team Fortress 2 was missed, here’s the deal. Initially both games started out the same way. You pay up front and have a chance to earn unlockable things. The way the two differ, however, is in the way they presented their characters. Now, I’m not saying one is better than the other, but at least when Valve released their last ode to the characters of TF2 it didn’t send fans into mania.
First up, we’ll cover Valve. Team Fortress 2 was released in 2007 as a successor to their team-based FPS Team Fortress. The main changes were the style and the emphasis on character personality. TF2 looked more like a cartoon, and Team Fortress looks a bit like a low-res Counter Strike map. Over the next several years, all the way up to 2012, Valve put out videos in the “Meet The…” series. It was a jovial look at the personality of each character; what made them tick, if you will. But Valve had every one of those characters as a playable class from the beginning.
Blizzard, on the other hand, had a set character roster at the outset of Overwatch. Currently, one character has been added: Ana Amari. Her reveal was a bit unceremonious, although not silent. Blizzard released the character on their public test region (PTR), then into the base game as part of a larger update. Simple. We got to know her, and the history she has with other characters.
And then Blizzard started teasing players. One by one, clues for a mysterious hacker started cropping up. Edit an image a certain way, and there’s a clue. Look into the source code of one update’s patch notes, another clue. And so Sombra was hinted at for so long. Over a month, in fact. Fans speculated that once the countdown found on amomentincrime.com, Sombra would be released. It’s over now and all that’s left is another clue. As of October 25th, there’s even more, promising something big next Tuesday.
For the most part, it’s tiring. Just release the character. Please. At this point it’s a conflict of interest between Blizzard and the Overwatch community. From a casual player’s standpoint (hi that’s me) it just seems like a shallow attempt at getting people to play Overwatch. And people do still play it. Blizzard is not ceasing development due to a dwindling player base. Overwatch, like every other Blizzard game, will stay in the niche that it fits into. And it will do well in that niche.
Game devs do not need to go to great lengths to engage their players outside of the game. Guess what? It’s a video game. You’re engaging your audience through it. There’s no need for a scavenger hunt to extend the realm of it. Whether it’s due to the lack of immersion or some other angle, it all seems so extra.
Then again, I did praise Mr. Robot for doing this exact same thing. The show’s crew, namely Kor Adana, saw the potential for it to be hackable. A show about hackers, itself, being hackable. It’s a match, and it works. And it makes sense. Mr. Robot’s entire premise is that viewers do not know what’s happening. Viewers don’t interact with video games the same way they do with TV. There’s no mechanical input over a course of time. There’s no engagement further than what the show makes viewers think about, so capitalizing on that absence isn’t over-the-top.
Is there a niche of players who love ARG puzzles and want the trend to continue? Sure, I bet there is. There’s also a whole band of players who think that over a month of teasing for one cryptic character release is unnecessary. Information about updates from game devs needs to be told in absolutes. Are we getting something? Yes? Cool, when?
Cover image from iTech Post.