Overwatch proves Blizzard are masters of addictive gameplay
Screenshot from Overwatch, the game

Overwatch has made the phrase “just one more game” my daily mantra

Whether launching mystical dragons at the opposition as Hanzo, or blinking behind enemy lines as Tracer, I simply cannot get enough.

Overwatch does this by drawing you into its bright and colourful world; a world further accentuated by its eccentric cast of 21 characters.

Couple this with addictive gameplay mechanics that prove easy to pick up and difficult to master, and you’ve got a game that few can resist.

A new compulsion

In Overwatch, matches only last a handful of minutes, and it’s in these short bursts of high octane competitive action where Overwatch really shines.

Blizzard manages to take a familiar competitive formula and turn it on its head by crafting a nuanced experience that lends itself to spectacular moments, where you compete to out-wit, out-manoeuvre and out-shine your opposition.

You’ll valiantly defend objectives or ferociously attack the opposition to usurp their supremacy.

But this isn’t the first time we’ve seen Blizzard masterfully weave addictive gameplay into their latest blockbuster. Oh no.

Blizzard has a huge repertoire of titles that showcase consistent quality, and demonstrate the studio’s ability to create some of the most addictive games out there.

Overwatch may be Blizzard’s latest outing, but we’re talking about a seasoned developer who knows exactly how to keep you going back for “just one more game”.

World of addiction

From their origins in the early ’90s, Blizzard has used their years of experience to mature and perfect the keenest elements of absorbing gameplay

Probably their greatest flagship title in this regard, and the shining example of that winning formula, is World of Warcraft. At its zenith, Blizzard’s fantasy behemoth charmed even the most iron-willed gamers into its infinite embrace.

When South Park dedicates an entire hilarious episode to just that, you know you’ve struck pop culture gold.

What makes World of Warcraft so addictive is that behind the scenes of the alluring fantasy setting, Blizzard has crafted a deep and rewarding progression system.

By including an experience bar that accumulates as you progress, promising rewards for each level attained, this visual representation of your progress helps intensify that sense of reward.

Each time you level up you’re treated to visual and audio stimuli; a flare of gold enshrines your character, followed by large glowing text and an audio cue that boldly signifies your progression, triggering the pleasure centres of the brain.

Feels good doesn’t it?

Well, this sense of achievement triggers a little chemical in the brain called Dopamine; the neurotransmitter responsible for that euphoria you just felt when leveling up.

Blizzard knows exactly how to employ this powerful reward mechanic to great effect.

Deep dedication

These days, modern games all employ a sense of risk with each action you take. Failure can often mean the loss of a life, progress, or even rank, and it’s this sense of risk that makes the reward even more satisfying. Classic carrot and stick.

But another way Blizzard leans on carrot and stick mechanics is by employing ever-elusive loot and treasure mechanics. From Diablo to Hearthstone, there are random loot and treasure rewards in the back catalogue that have a distinct, powerful whiff of ‘gambling’ about them.

Hearthstone

The allure (and risk) is in never knowing what you’ll get, so you part with your hard earned coins, or perhaps undertake an arduous mission, all in the hopes of obtaining a legendary item.

Overwatch is guilty of this too. And with little evidence to support my optimism, I’m still hopeful the next loot box will have that legendary skin I’m after.

In the same vein as levelling up, when you finally receive that loot box or open that treasure chest, the rush of excitement is palpable. And if it happens to be a rare item?> Oh man, that carrot tastes even sweeter.

Further into the abyss

Outside of the core game mechanics, Blizzard titles also benefit from thriving communities, and dedicated gamers that span a range of skill levels. Teaming up and interacting with like-minded players to complete an objective is its own reward.

Whether striving to achieve a specific level, gain better loot/gear or focusing on character and class mastery, it’s this intense focus and drive that Blizzard’s community demonstrate, fuelling the desire to keep playing.

In turn, Blizzard continues to release updates and expansions that keep things fresh, and have players returning again and again.

Screen grab from the Overwatch theatrical teaser, source: YouTube

Each Blizzard title is infused with fantasy elements that overlay complex gameplay mechanics designed to keep you playing – and the studio continually demonstrates an ability to craft an impressive cocktail of compelling mechanics that enhance every facet of gameplay.

Anyway, that’s enough blogging for now.

I’m off to play some more Overwatch.

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