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BROverwatch

As seen in CALMzine issue 27, a group of young men use a shoot ‘em up game to watch over their bros, with an alternative, inclusive and empathetic form of masculinity…

Words by Jamie Drew

Illustration by Sam Darlow

Let me tell you about Overwatch.

Overwatch is a video game that’s all about teamwork. A lovely multiplayer first person shooter, it sees players gather into teams of six to secure a point on the map before the other team do. There are 25 characters, all of whom play in such diverse styles it’s like you’re playing a different game than your teammates, all of whom have different roles in the team composition, and all of whom require a certain level of technical knowledge and improvisation skills on top of the communication skills you’ll need to win a match. Widowmaker is a blue sniper; Soldier: 76 is your Call of Duty soldier man; Orisa is a robot centaur crossing guard built by an eight-year-old African girl; Junkrat and Roadhog have their own kind of Mad Max thing going on.

As you play, you gather loot boxes, which contain cosmetic items like graffiti templates you can place on walls or entire costumes (“skins”) for your favourite characters.

“It looks like a Pixar movie, it plays like a dream and someone smarter than me once described it as “nerd basketball”

It looks like a Pixar movie, it plays like a dream and someone smarter than me once described it as “nerd basketball”. I’ve been trying to get my friends to play this with me for almost a year – you get a 20% group bonus towards those loot boxes – and a few months ago it worked. I finally dragged JP, Duncan, and Carl down to my level, the playing-at-3am level, and a funny thing happened: we started talking.

“We’re all in that weird, liminal period of our lives, feeling stuck in careers and relationships, feeling hard-done by the state of the world right now, feeling kind of alone”

By that I don’t mean, “how was your day?”; I mean, “how was your day?” We’re all in that weird, liminal period of our lives, feeling stuck in careers and relationships, feeling hard-done by the state of the world right now, feeling kind of alone in the world, and at some point the group chat moved from tactical movements in a “Protect the Payload” session towards a more frank and open place in the real world. And we’re recording it for a YouTube series called Broverwatch.

Duncan’s friend fed back after our pilot episode: “it’s surreal to see men talking so frankly about their feelings.”

It’s hard to disagree with that: for the couple of years while I was working with teenagers in a semi-therapeutic position, I pretended to be a hardcore Blackburn Rovers supporter, keeping tabs on matches over the weekend, arming myself with the knowledge before a session and jettisoning it straight afterwards. I did this because it was the only way two young men, smiling awkwardly across the table from one another for ninety non-consecutive minutes a week, could relate to one another.

“The man sitting across from you right now is not a strange man,” I was saying, in a language my clients could understand. “The man sitting across from you has your best interests at heart because he is more like you than your parents and your teachers. This man is a good man, a kind man. This man understands you.”

It’s not a lie, exactly; I followed the Rovers until their 1997 season. Since then, I’ve been standing at the sidelines of barbecues, holding on to warm beer, nodding and grinning and uh-huh yeah-ing my way through loud conversations with taller men. I don’t make many male friends.

And what happens when you can’t relate to the people around you, the people you think could be like you? You become isolated. You get lonely. Then you latch on to the first community that will accept you, but maybe you don’t find one that does. The cycle continues. You stay lonely. You can look inwards, which is hard, or you can look outward, which is easy, which is convenient, to say that your loneliness isn’t your fault but the fault of those who shut you out, failed to relate to you. Luckily, the nerds at my high school chess club took me in before it got too bad, like a pack of wolves finding a helpless baby, but that was a few years before YouTube.

“Right now, if you’re a young man struggling to find his place in the world, the internet is full of young men just like you, which is a blessing and a curse”

Right now, if you’re a young man struggling to find his place in the world, the internet is full of young men just like you, which is a blessing and a curse.If you’re a quiet kid who likes movies and video games, you’re spoiled for choice, but the choice is spoiled. You can find someone who speaks your language pretty easily, but you’ll easily stumble into the echo chamber of the self-styled “alt-right,” a hyper-conservative collection of young people yelling the same Nazi-esque rhetoric into their webcams for their viewers, whose numbers would make Arthur C. Nielsen weep.

See PewDiePie: the most popular English-language YouTube personality by a long shot, recently dropped from his lucrative multi-channel network deal for racist and anti-Semitic jokes.

This alt-right echo-chamber will make you think that women are against you. Minorities are against you. They’re not like you, so they don’t give a fuck about you, so why should you give a fuck about them? They want your slice of this pie we call ‘life.’ It’s easier to look outward. It’s easier to accept that you’re not the source of your own problems.

“If you’re having problems, you can find people who are talking about men’s issues, sure, but that talk is often in opposition to women’s issues and the issues non-white communities face”

If you’re having problems, you can find people who are talking about men’s issues, sure, but that talk is often in opposition to women’s issues and the issues non-white communities face. You’ll hear about men’s issues like you’ll hear about a war; there’s winners and losers to be decided, and these guys won’t lose. Only one group of people can have problems and only ours are valid. Issues are wielded like weapons: the male suicide rate is higher than the sexual assault rate; the white man isn’t allowed to say whatever slurs just happen to pop into their heads; we are forced to accept whatever pronouns a person decides for themselves.

Then: GamerGate, doxxing, death threats, violence. Smarter people than I have talked about the real-world impact of angry young men online.

So we started recording our conversations and putting them on YouTube as a way to reach some of those young men. Sometimes we’re not okay, sometimes men aren’t okay, and it’s okay to talk about that without being a dickhead about it.

 

BROverwatch is a demonstration of an alternative, inclusive, empathetic form of masculinity.We play Overwatch and sometimes we win, sometimes we lose. Sometimes we get sidetracked and talk about ghosts, and the talk gets heated, but when we need it, we love and support each other the best we can. The other stuff doesn’t really matter.

Follow the lads @LetsBroverwatch

Disclaimer: The views expressed in this article or in the comments below, are not those held by CALM or its Trustees unless stated, and liability cannot be accepted for such comments. We encourage friendly and constructive debate, but please don't share personal contact details when commenting and exercise caution when considering any advice offered by others. We don’t allow abusive, offensive or inappropriate comments or comments that could be interpreted as libellous, defamatory or commercial and we will remove these without warning as and when we find them.

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