Why Nerfing a Game To Death Can Suck

Blizzard just recently announced a new Public Test Region patch that drastically changes Overwatch’s healing sniper, Ana. Her Biotic Rifle will now only deal 60 damage instead of 80. Her Biotic Grenades will only do 30 damage instead of 60, and its healing effect is now only 50 instead of 100. The nerfs have been made alongside many other characters buffs, supposedly in an attempt to balance out the game for the newest character, Orisa.

Ana's nerfs have caused an Overwatch fan frenzy however, as they have held a “funeral” for the character. Fan art and memes are popping up in various places across the web, with in-game characters “mourning the death” of the sniper. Originally Ana wasn't very popular, but she quickly became a fan favorite. These nerfs will potentially bring her right back to the bottom of the totem pole, though. 


Game balancing is incredibly important and often difficult. You don't want too many overpowered characters running around, and of course you don't want too many underpowered characters either. There is a very fine line that game developers walk in this regard, and any little change can feel gargantuan in scale, depending on the game.

Nerfs and boosts in video games tend to work much like the butterfly effect. Make one small change to one character, and it could give another a huge boost. Give another a simple positive change, and it could mean the downfall of a different character. In Ana's case, changing the amount of damage she can do and the health she can recover is a one-two punch directly to the chest. With one of these changes, players might have been able to remain loyal, but this is a fatal blow to the Overwatch heroine.

The nature of online games is fluid. Things change over time. This is both the best part and sometimes the worst parts about them. When we're playing games, we want new content. If we've put dozens or even hundreds of hours into a game, there's rarely something left to keep us there. That's where new content, new maps, and new characters come in to hold our interest. The only trouble is the introduction of new characters always means some changes to the old ones. We can't just plop in a new character with a bunch of weapons that the others don't have access to without giving them some kind of buff. 


Those new changes tend to drastically change the playing experience, though. If you have a favorite character and you've been playing them from the beginning, you know exactly what to do to get the most out of them. You'll know the best weapons for said characters, the most effective moves, and which moves work best against certain other players. Even small changes will throw off your groove. The benefit is relearning a character you love, but sometimes we don't want to do that! Sometimes there's nothing wrong with the same old, same old, am I right?

There are of course changes that can work out for the better. There are other Overwatch characters getting buffs right now to offset the introduction of Orisa. These characters, who might previously have been a little short on love, will get to shine in the adoration of fans that they might not have otherwise. These buffs that exist in other games are the positive side to change. Sure, you'll have a little learning to do, but in the end, you'll get the benefit of a more well rounded character.

What do you think about the Overwatch buffs and nerfs? Are you mourning Ana's “death” as well, or have you given her the pass from the beginning? Let me know in the comments what you think about nerfs and buffs in video games.

April Marie
April Marie

Contributing Writer
Date: 03/13/2017

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