Alright, here goes. Four things.
Orderly, Disciplined Play
I’m a Starcraft player. One of the things you learn in Starcraft is the idea of playing “safely.” “Safe” play is play that seeks to avoid risks. You seek to give yourself some room for error, and win over the long haul rather than rolling the dice and hoping for a home run. If you are improvement-oriented, randomness is your enemy over the long term.
Symmetra epitomizes this style to me. I hear people talk about how she can’t carry, and I think, “Don’t you have a CoD game to go join?” I don’t want to carry, I want to win. In the vast majority of my games I’m astonished at how reckless my teammates are—trying to facetank chokes as Junkrat, etc. They’ll kamikaze Bastions, die, and then have the nerve to tell me that I’m throwing.
The autoaim goes well with this theme. “Who would want a gun that could miss?” Sym would say. “What kind of fool would take that chance?”
There’s a Magic:the Gathering card, Null Rod, that stops other cards from working. The flavor text on it is something like:
Gerard: But it doesn’t do anything!
Hanna: No—it does nothing.
Sym isn’t so much about “doing things” as she is about saying “No” to the enemy. No, you cannot go through this choke. No, you cannot dance around for twenty minutes killing my Mercy. No, you cannot stop us from coming through this choke. No, you cannot snowball one lucky pick into a teamwipe. No, you cannot sit there behind that shield.
Now, I’ll admit: she also says “No” to allies as well. No, I can’t dive with you. No, I can’t shoot down that Pharah. No, I can’t heal you.
Order and discipline? Who wants that? They’re playing a game to get away from that, right?
Well, sorry. Competitive gaming is going to demand that of you eventually.
What I wish they’d understand is that the stability and control Sym offers allows you to do much wackier things if you work within her framework. Want to leverage attack Bastion? Sym can make a nest for him. Want to go triple-tank + Reaper? Teleporter will make that extremely scary. Want to run three flankers with Halo shields? Photon Orb will keep the enemy separated so you can get 1v1’s, and Shield Gen will help you win them.
People complain about games feeling coinflippy and swingy. “How do I climb” is the title of every third post on /r/OverwatchUniversity. It’s not even that people are “bad,” they have no clue what “good” even looks like. Well, a big step in the right direction would be playing a few hundred hours of Sym, Torb, Orisa, or Ana and getting frustrated at how your allies can’t seem to just chill.
I’ve made Sym sound like a fairly joyless character to play, always saying “No” to people. But this isn’t the case. Sym is all about looking at the battlefield and imagining what it could be. In a way you’re not even playing a shooter, you’re building a castle of harmony. And, well, this is fun, just as blowing things up with Junk is fun, zipping around as Tracer is fun, and roleplaying Robot Invasion as Bastion is fun.
This “castle of harmony” business is one of the things I find sorely deficient about the rework. Symmetra lives in her head—in this intellectual, abstract, architectural, theoretical realm. Playing her is like designing a plane, or playing Factorio(h ttps://store.steampowered.com/app/427520/Factorio/), or writing code. Can you imagine if, while programming, several lines of code disappeared after ten seconds? What the hell? And this is how I feel about E teleporter and Q Photon Barrier. These are one-off tricks, not building for the long haul. They’re so…hacky. They’d feel more natural on Sombra. And the Sombra/Symmetra dyad is one of my favorite in the game—Sym seeks to create systems, and Sombra seeks to break them. I love playing both of them, for exactly opposite reasons.
Probably the best feeling as Sym is when your team has done well enough that the enemy team is under time pressure and starts throwing themselves at the point. It seems like she’s doing work at this point, but actually all the work was done 20-30 seconds ago, and this is where you’re reaping the reward. The time interval between the two explains a lot of the “Schrodinger’s hero” phenomenon where allies think she’s throwing and enemies think she’s OP.
All this “order” and “discipline” stuff is pointless if it doesn’t lead to some whammo effect. And TP/SG are definitely that. The last piece of the system, the part that makes it complete, is Sym’s ult. Powerful, subtle, stationary, and beautiful. It adds a strategic layer to the game, forcing players to think at a larger scale than a single teamfight. If they don’t—if they’re “trapped within their own minds”—then they’ll be unable to break through the forever regenerating shield HP, or they’ll fight endless waves of teleported enemies.
This macro level is a good thing. It makes Overwatch a deeper game, and opens up alternate styles of play.
A Principled Stand for Teamplay
Sym is an engineer. She’s not meant to be some 1v1 goddess. I have no patience for the idea that “her 1v1/mobility is terrible, therefore she is terrible.” FFA deathmatch is right over there for those who want to be 1v1 gods. By being the exact opposite of a “combatant” — slow, squishy, low-range — Sym is a, err, Sym-bol that Overwatch is about more than “Imma carry u nubs.” The talk I hear about “low-skill auto-aim char” and “low skill ceiling” only reinforces my suspicion that the main body of criticism she gets is coming from short-sighted, individualistic players. Why should I care what they think of her, except that somehow they seem to have gotten Blizz’s ear?