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Overwatch’s Lúcio is a Cure for Multiplayer Anxiety

When I first dropped into Overwatch’s open beta, I was convinced that I wouldn’t enjoy it. As an introverted and anxious person, my gaming is largely a solitary affair designed to let me unwind in my own company. I rarely touch online multiplayer, and Overwatch seemed particularly daunting thanks to its focus on teamwork–it’s one thing to embarrass myself by playing badly in front of witnesses, and another still to feel as though I’m letting a group of people down.

But there was so much buzz surrounding the beta and I was drawn in by the vibrant, playful design. I figured that since it was free, I wasn’t losing anything by trying a couple of rounds and confirming to myself that this game just wasn’t for me. And at first I was right. Testing out a few different characters I found myself dying often, dealing very little damage to the opposing team, and generally just not having any fun at all.

And then I discovered Lúcio.

Lúcio was a complete antidote to every way that Overwatch had previously made me anxious. This is certainly intentional on the part of the developers at Blizzard Entertainment, who have tried to make the game accessible to a wide range of people in many ways: the inclusion of varied playstyles; colourblind settings and button remapping to help less able gamers; bright visuals and fun backstories to appeal to people who don’t often play online shooters; and the ability to celebrate players even if their team loses through Play of the Game and commendation cards. But it was Lúcio that tapped into exactly what I needed to begin enjoying the game.

Lúcio is a support character, which I always prefer to play as being helpful to a team is a great feeling. But what first drew me into Lúcio’s playstyle was that it was carefree and calming. His ability is to either heal or speed up any team members who are nearby, which removes the usual pressure on support players to choose which teammate to heal or boost. This holds true for some Overwatch characters, such as Mercy, but Lúcio is at his core beautifully simple to play: stay close to your allies and stay alive.

And Lúcio is one of the easiest characters to keep alive. He’s usually not an obvious target because there are more threatening team members around that get prioritised. Even if the other team does start shooting at you, his mobility as both a fast character and one that can skate along walls make him unpredictable and difficult to hit. Moreover, his healing ability works on himself so a stray shot won’t have a lasting impact. Finally, his speed boost means that if you do die, you don’t have a long and boring walk back to the point to think about your failure–you’re almost immediately back to being helpful.

Furthermore, since you know that you’re keeping your team on their feet, you can always feel a tangible sense of pride if your team wins. Yet if they lose, it’s more difficult to feel responsible than if you were playing some other characters. If you missed an important shot as Widowmaker, or failed to kill anyone with Junkrat’s explosive tyre ultimate, you’re more likely to be disappointed with a loss because you can see a specific moment where you might have turned the game around, whereas Lúcio was dealing out healing and speed no matter what.

Yet it’s also more difficult to lose on a team with a Lúcio present. I felt strongly that he was underrated in the beta but he is now consistently listed as a top tier character. Personally, I’ve had several games where switching to Lúcio has turned the tide–or at least that’s my perception! Perhaps it’s not true, but the feeling alone is incredible when you consider how terrified the game originally made me. Many players also seem to be learning how useful he can be and whilst he’s still rarely chosen–that “no support heroes” warning always seems to pop up for me during team composition–they will often work hard to keep a Lúcio alive, both making you feel valued and reducing the frequency of those disappointing moments of death.

Thanks to all of this, within a few games I was in love with the feeling of playing as him. Inevitably, I played more and more matches like this, and I started to get good. I began to understand when best to deploy his rare ultimate skill, which gives a huge temporary health boost to both himself and nearby players–perhaps when surrounded by the opposing team or needing to make a push forward past a chokepoint. I improved with his weapon, which fires bursts of sound, and started to get a few kills of my own. Then I combined this with a better understanding of his mobility and mastered flanking and sending opposing players toppling off the map using his weapon’s knockback ability. Suddenly every game had at least a few little personal successes to give me that all important dopamine boost.

This was the point at which Overwatch really got its teeth into me. Freed from constantly worrying, I was able to actually enjoy mastering these more difficult elements in between being emboldened to try new characters. I bought the game on release day and digging into the lore again solidified Lúcio as my favourite character–the charismatic and joyful musician-turned-freedom fighter is easy to love and seemed perfect for the carefree experience that I was having playing as him. It’s no coincidence that he’s one of the few people smiling on the character select screen!

Now that I’ve spent more time with the game, you can find me in any of the four classes, and I have a particular soft spot for D.Va at the moment. But I will always be grateful to Blizzard for giving me Lúcio as a gateway into the game and washing away the stress that I thought it would inevitably cause. And I still return to playing as Lúcio often, because a team needs a good support and I need that same reinvigoration that I felt the first time I chose him.

Photos provided by meigender on Tumblr and playoverwatch.com.

Jay Castello
Jay is a freelance writer who specialises in cultural examinations of video games. You can find her on Twitter @jayplaysthings.
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Jay Castello
Jay is a freelance writer who specialises in cultural examinations of video games. You can find her on Twitter @jayplaysthings.

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