How to Improve In Overwatch
Video production, editing and voiceover: Tyler Colp
Script: Nico Deyo
It’s finally time for Competitive Season 10, which means once again everyone has to decide about whether or not they want to go through the stress of skill rating again.
Whether it’s grinding to a new rank or even just getting through their 10 placement matches, for many people, competitive can be stressful and often leave you wondering if you’re good enough for it. While there’s many guides and services out there to help people identify particular issues holding them back, a lot of more casual players will be left wondering how exactly to get better.
While there’s no one way to do this, for myself, changing how I thought about what “getting better” meant helped me improve. Here’s just a few guidelines and tips that I’ve used to not only become less anxious about my performance in Overwatch, but let me have more fun overall.
If you ask any top competitive player about how to get better at aiming, many of them will just answer, “practice.” Setting up a routine with your fundamentals is a pretty good way to improve, especially if you do a little each day. In one of my earlier videos, I gave some examples of how to use custom games in order to help you work on things like aiming and ability usage, and that tip still applies. What many people don’t realize however, is that practice isn’t just drilling yourself day in and out and seeing a jump in skill, but rather appreciating that you can always work on a variety of things in the game. No one gets to a certain point and stops; there always be something to learn or refine, whether it is a new hero or a particular technique. Time spent working on the mechanics works both in and out of matches and can give you something to focus on besides wins or losses. It’s okay if you’re never the best, so long as you try your best.
Some of the most frustrating games I’ve played are when I’m dying over and over. This can’t always be helped, but often what tips the scales from you being dead to not being dead is putting effort into keeping yourself alive. When learning a new hero or even on your main, a big skill is surviving long enough to make an impact on the game. Sometimes all your team really needs is enough people to take less damage overall, disengage from a fight when needed, or to not feed ultimate charge to the enemy team. If you find yourself having trouble with dying, spend a few matches in Quick Play just attempting to stay alive as long as possible. Whether you play a tank, DPS or support — there’s always something you could be doing to die less. It may mean you use cover more, or pulling back when most of your team is killed, or positioning yourself in anticipation of an incoming ult so you’re not caught in it. Once you start thinking about it, it can become part of your normal match routine and can even help stall a point.
Help Your Team
A post on Reddit I once saw involved a person who thought they weren’t very good at the game talking about how all they focused on doing was “helping their teammates kill things” and the first reply was basically, “That’s it. You’re playing the game.”
If you are less mechanically adept, you can still do well just by being aware of what your teammates are trying to accomplish and participating. Because so much of what we see on social media or on Reddit are often the singular clutch plays, we lose sight of the fact that those things are the work of five other people making that moment possible. Strive towards doing the smart, consistent plays: finishing kills, going with your team to the objectives, helping to peel by using abilities or even just being around. Communication is also another big part of this and one that’s hard for a lot of people — if you are on voice chat, be clear and concise and importantly, positive. Don’t call people names, use bad manners or argue. Report or avoid teammate if you need to. If you cannot be on voice (which can be for a number of reasons), pay attention to what your team is doing and think about what you can do to make victories possible.
Overwatch is a game that moves fast and many players feel like they have to always be doing something, and that things are always happening. Take some matches and really be present in the moment and be aware of what is happening and what your role in that is. Think about why things are being done, rather than how. What is your team doing? What do you think the enemy team is preparing to do? I approach it as a game of opportunities (or advantages) and denials and focusing on the moment to moment and what you can do to give your team an advantage or deny the enemy team one in the next 5, 10 or even 20 seconds can win a fight, or even the match. Advantages can come in the form of things like positioning on high ground, early picks in a fight or counter comping the enemy team.
It can seem useful to use abilities or ults “on cooldown” or spamming them when you are first starting out but being thoughtful when figuring out the right moment can really go a long way. When I was learning Tracer, I made a point of conserving my blinks. It’s such a basic ability to the hero but being mindful of when and how to use them can be the difference between getting killed early or one-clipping a support and getting out alive.
Ability usage also doesn’t stop at just yourself but even your teammates and enemy players. A team fight can start off of one ability being put onto cooldown by the enemy team, because it gives your team the advantage, as I talked about earlier. Same thing goes with ultimate abilities — learning when and how to use them or how to combo with teammates is crucial as you move up in ranks. Learning how to anticipate enemy abilities, particularly ults, is also a good skill to learn — see my video on how to do this.
This might be the most controversial tip but being flexible can help you just as much as refining your play. This includes everything from learning a wider hero pool, which is the most obvious, to more meta-game ideas like changing up comp mid-match in order to give yourself a better chance to win.
A wider hero pool might seem scary at first, especially if you only play 1 or 2, but try out and familiarize yourself with a variety by playing Mystery Heroes for fun, or even take a test drive of one particular one in Quick Play.
Knowing more heroes will also allow you to figure out good swaps in case you need to deal with a particular problem on the enemy team — Junkrat for Soldier, if the other team has a problematic Pharah for instance. It also can help you with particular maps that are better for certain heroes, like Widowmaker on Ilios Ruins.
Be flexible with how you approach team comp as well as it helps a great deal — for yourself and other team members. A single off-meta pick will not automatically cause a loss (like a Hanzo or Sombra) nor will someone automatically be able to carry your team to a win. Getting out of this mindset will allow you to work with people you see as performing outside of the expected roles and not against them.
Lose With Purpose
It is always the case in every match that someone will lose, or at the very best, draw. Instead of being afraid of losing, and getting frustrated, channel the wise Zenyatta and use matches as practice for many of the things listed in the video. Sometimes losses happen and nothing you could do would change that fact, but leaning into every match as a way to improve can really help manage both your expectations and your emotions. Pick a goal and focus on that: getting better at jumps as Winston, finding good positions as Ana, blocking a Shatter as Mei.
Always try to win, but even if you don’t, always try to learn.
Be Kind To Yourself
All of the other tips aside, improvement isn’t just a straight line of playing a game better, but thinking better about yourself. A lot of what can hold anyone back, including myself, is letting self-doubt and self-criticism rule your brain in the moment. Let yourself have bad days, bad matches, goof-ups and try to see them for what they are: typical and understandable. Everyone is on a journey and this game is supposed to be fun. Have fun! You are not your Overwatch profile, nor your Skill Rating. As Zarya says, it is only video game.
If you like this video, I have a whole bunch more on this channel that will help you with your Overwatch games, and if you want to see more, please subscribe. See ya next time!