If you’re like me, you probably looked at your 5th Season starting score of Overwatch and wondered what the hell was going on. In the past, whether I’ve done great or poorly, the SR numbered I earned reflected on what happened. One season I started a miserable 3-7 and got 1208, the next I went 8-2 and got 1510. This season I went 7-3 in my placement matches, but started at 1051.
Clearly, something was a miss, but there weren’t any indications that I did a poor job, and I actually did better with gold medals across all ten games than the previous season. And I’m not the only one as those complaints have flooded the game’s forums. Well… turns out there’s an explanation behind it: Blizzard is pulling a psychological trick on you to make you feel better about your skill.
Compete published an article yesterday in which they spoke with Overwatch principal designer Scott Mercer about what the hell is actually going on. There’s a lot to take in about how the system rates you and your performance over the course of the entire game and every mode you play, especially in competitive where you’re judged each season. When you start a new season, you’re not getting a “fresh start” no matter how well you play, you’re getting a new ranking based off how well you improved compared to last season.
The game is essentially ranking you lower so that when you do rise through the ranks, you psychologically believe you’re getting better. I put this theory to the test and tallied up all the games I’ve played of Overwatch in my off time between game reviews. Of the past 20 games, I won 17, lost two, and had one draw. My SR rose from 1051 to 1427. So despite being given a low ranking, I was put in a position to improve, or at least improve by the game’s standards of where I stood with thousands of others.
Is it fair to rank people lower based off how they did in the past rather than grade them season by season on performance alone? Probably. I’m sure there are equal schools of thought toward this issue. But I say this: If you’re on a winning streak and you feel like you’re improving, don’t question it. Enjoy the game for what it is and strive to improve, but remember to have fun.