In October 2022, the classic online multiplayer shooter game Overwatch got officially replaced by its successor: Overwatch 2. While the game hasn’t changed much, it’s now free to play for everyone.
Because of its unique heroes and colorful design, kids have always been interested in Overwatch. Now that the game is completely free, it’s much easier for young users to get involved. But is it safe?
Well, yes, but there are some things that parents should know. Overwatch comes with several risks:
- Despite its fun design, it’s still a first-person shooter game that can negatively impact kids emotionally.
- The game relies on contact with strangers, which creates all sorts of privacy concerns.
- The Overwatch fandom has a reputation for oversexualization of female characters.
Overwatch is a very popular competitive, team-based, multiplayer shooting game that initially released in 2016. Players face off against each other in teams to conquer and defend different objectives in online shootouts.
With the recent release of Overwatch 2 — a reimagining of the original game that’s completely free to play — Overwatch is gaining new traction, especially among younger players. What is it about this game that keeps people coming back? And is it safe enough for your kids to play?
In this guide for parents, we tell you everything you need to know about the Overwatch game, including the 2022 reboot. We also discuss some of the riskier elements of the game as well as safety tips for fun and responsible online play.
What Is Overwatch? What Parents Need To Know
In 2016, Overwatch won the award for Game of the Year, one of the many accolades to its name. It’s one of the most popular eSports games with millions of players worldwide. It even has its own competitive tournament, known as the Overwatch League.
Owing to its resounding success, a sequel, Overwatch 2, was launched in October 2022. It’s virtually the same game, with some graphical improvements and new maps and game modes.
Categorically, Overwatch is a first-person shooter (FPS) game that’s played exclusively online, similar to Fortnite. An FPS is a shooting game that’s played from the perspective of the protagonist. You experience the game through their eyes.
In Overwatch, your selected protagonist belongs to one of three classes: Damage, Tank, and Support. Each character comes with its own strengths and weaknesses. The game is team-based and played exclusively online, allowing players to communicate with each other.
One of the main reasons Overwatch is so popular with kids is because of the FPS genre and because of its stylish aesthetics. While the FPS genre is violent by nature, the Overwatch graphics are more colorful and pleasant than many of its competitors. Visual gore is limited. On top of that, the imagery and characters are very futuristic.
If you level up in the game, you’re rewarded with cosmetic goods that you can show off in-game. These don’t provide you with any advantages; they’re purely for aesthetics.
Cosmetic additions and loot boxes can also be purchased in the in-game shop. Overwatch often releases “limited edition” skins, and there have been cases where players end up spending a significant amount just to get these items.
Overwatch Age Ratings
In the United States and Canada, the Entertainment Software Rating Board assigns content ratings to video games. Overwatch is rated as suitable for children 13 years old and up.
The rating is based on the fact that Overwatch players use a variety of firearms (pistols, machine guns, laser blasters etc.) and the way combat is “frenetic with realistic gunfire, cries of pain, and explosions.” Apart from this, Overwatch has mostly non-realistic looking violence.
This rating is on par with the European PEGI 12 rating, which scores Overwatch as suitable for ages 12 and up. The violence depicted in Overwatch has a cartoonish touch, but it is still a video game focused on combat and aggression.
The Video Standards Council, part of Games Rating Authority that administrates the PEGI system, which administrates the PEGI system, claims that, “While blood is portrayed, there are no visible injury details.”
At VPNOverview, we agree that Overwatch is primarily suited for teenagers. Older kids will also be most likely to actually enjoy the game.
Is Overwatch Safe for Kids?
In general, yes. It doesn’t use predatory practices to get people to buy items, and there are robust content moderation filters in place to prevent any kind of profanity or abuse in game. But, there are some important factors that parents should know about before letting their kids play Overwatch.
Online multiplayer environment
Overwatch can only be played online. There’s no offline version of the game and the single player mode exists exclusively as a practice mode. This means that your child will likely have a lot of contact with other players, sometimes from all over the world, often over voice calls.
Many players also use Discord to communicate with one another. The obvious risk of the online multiplayer environment is that kids will be exposed to toxic or dangerous behavior.
However, Overwatch does allow players to mute others. Of course, kids can also abandon the game when they don’t feel comfortable. However, in order not to ruin the game, they might not be inclined to do so.
Compared to similar games, such as Call of Duty and the Team Fortress games, mature content in Overwatch is limited. There’s no graphic language, innuendo, or sexual content in the game itself.
However, your child may still be exposed to graphic content if they engage with the Overwatch fandom outside of gaming. This can happen through contact with other players, for example in private group chats that you, as a parent, might be unaware of.
Overwatch also has a history of controversy surrounding its depiction of female characters. While the game developers have put in effort to represent different nationalities, races, and sexes, many have said that the characters are oversexualized.
Moreover, Overwatch has one of the highest ranking searches on pornography sites. Gaming platform Kotaku reports that, following the release of Overwatch 2, the search term “overwatch dva,” referring to the character D.Va, shot to the top spot on PornHub, indicating a disturbing trend.
The game itself is relatively age appropriate. However, for parents, it’s important to be aware of what your children might encounter outside the game.
In terms of violence, there are worse games than Overwatch. Modern gaming has pushed in-game violence to be more explicit and realistic, which is a contrast to Overwatch’s colorful, cartoonish and heroic aesthetic.
Still, it has all the elements of a classic shooter game. Weapons are prominent, as well as the continuous objective to harm others. There are cries of pain, explosions and moderate blood spurts, as you’d expect from any gun-based game.
For the most part, though, Overwatch has non-realistic looking violence. Once you defeat an enemy, however, they fade away (no visible injury details) and the overall level of gore is considerably low.
Overwatch might not be quite as kid-friendly as the Nintendo Switch Splatoon series, in which characters shoot ink from toy-like weapons. But for older teenagers, the level of violence in Overwatch is generally age appropriate.
Competitive game play
Overwatch, in essence, is centered on competitive class-based play. Depending on how well your child deals with losses, this can cause some issues down the line.
Moreover, it’s impossible to pause Overwatch while you’re playing it. While you might be inclined to think, “It’s a just a game,” your child will likely disagree. As a player, your team is dependent on your presence, so you can’t just leave the game whenever you want to.
A game in Quick Play mode might last about 10-15 minutes, but a Competitive game can last twice as long. Keep this in mind and set appropriate limits for your child when they log on.
How to Keep Your Child Safe While Playing Overwatch
Depending on the age of your child and the types of games they like to play, you might decide that Overwatch is not appropriate for them.
However, if you don’t want to ban the game completely, there are steps you can take to make it safer. Below, we offer tips and tricks that protect your kids while playing Overwatch. First, we’ll dive into the options that Overwatch offers for parental support. Then we’ll move into more general tips for gaming.
Blizzard Entertainment: Parental Support Tips
A great advantage to Overwatch is that its developer, Blizzard Entertainment, has designed parental controls. You can learn more about these controls via the support page for parents, but we’ve outlined the main features below.
1. Set play time limits
You can decide how long your child gets to play Blizzard games on a daily or weekly basis. As soon as your child reaches the limit, access to the game will be blocked.
It’s also possible to create a custom gaming schedule with specific times your child is allowed to play.
2. Receive play time reports
Blizzard will send you weekly play time reports to inform you how much time your child has spent playing games. Go to the Parental Portal and toggle on the Receive weekly Email Report bar.
3. Control in-game purchases
You can choose to enable or disable in-game purchases (loot boxes) via the Parental Portal. All controls are accessed via the Account Settings of your child’s account.
Tips: Better Gaming Practices for You and Your Child
While Blizzard’s parental controls are a great mechanism to stay involved with your child’s gaming habits, it’s just a start. In order to create better practices together with your child, here are some more things you can do.
1. Talk to your kids about gaming
The best way to stay informed about Overwatch, is by talking to your children about it. Make sure you know the ins and outs of the game (more on that below), so that you can discuss it with them.
Not only does this give you an opportunity to talk about what’s appropriate, it also signals to them that you’re interested and want to learn more. Kids are more likely to open up if they feel they’re being heard.
This means talking to them about the risks, but also about their favorite characters or game modes.
2. Balance is key
When it comes to limitations on gaming and screen time, remember that balance is key. Your child doesn’t have to be rigorously limited in order to stay safe online.
Rather, get to an agreement about how your kids should behave online. Since Overwatch can’t be paused, consider setting limits on the amount of games they can play, rather than exact times.
In order words: modify your restrictions to fit the game. For example, allow your kids to talk to their teammates on a call, but only when they’re actually in battle.
3. Teach and model online safety
Kids, and teenagers especially, should get to enjoy a degree of online autonomy. As a parent, the safest thing you can do is teach your child digital skills.
Show them what they can do when other players misbehave or harass people. Teach them reporting mechanisms. Inform them of the risks of phishing and identity theft, and make sure they don’t share personal information with strangers.
For increased safety during gaming, download and install a gaming VPN. This will encrypt your connection and make your network less vulnerable to cybercrime.
If your children are still learning the ropes, you can also consider using web filters or parental control software to monitor their online behavior. But always discuss this with them upfront and don’t track their every move.
Children and Gaming: What Are The Risks?
Games like Overwatch are not entirely without risks. As a parent, it’s important to be aware of the pitfalls when it comes to multiplayer shooter games such as this one.
Much has been written about violent video games. According to the American Psychological Association, there is no clear evidence that violent games actually cause violence. Excessive violence in games, can increase aggressive tendencies, though.
On the cognitive level, research shows that boys show higher accessibility to aggressive cognition than girls. On top of that, witnessing excessive violence can have a negative impact on kids’ mental health.
Recent research into virtual reality gaming shows that young children are more likely to have trouble distinguishing between reality and gaming, for example. There’s also a risk of kids becoming desensitized to violence due to prolonged exposure.
Games can be a great way for children and teenagers to explore different themes and interests. However, exposure to certain content at a very early age, can be damaging, for example when it comes to sexual content and cussing.
As a parent, it can help to talk to your children about the sorts of games they like. Try to keep the conversation open rather than restrictive. In turn, you’ll be able to explain why you feel certain things are too inappropriate at this age.
Contact with strangers
A key question to ask yourself is: who are the people interacting with my kid online? In multiplayer online games like Overwatch and Roblox, your child will have a lot of contact with strangers.
When you start up the video game, you are automatically placed in a voice chat channel for your team. Sometimes contact also extends to platforms such as Discord.
On the one hand, this can be a great opportunity for your child to connect with others and make new friends. On the other hand, cybercriminals often take advantage of games and platforms that attract a lot of kids for nefarious purposes.
Your kid’s IP address may also be exposed during gameplay. For this reason, we recommend using a VPN while playing Overwatch or any other online competitive games.
Most online games like Overwatch allow players to spend real money on items and gadgets that can be used in the games. Sometimes it’s also possible to buy playing advantages, which will be tempting to competitive kids (not in Overwatch).
If you’ve got a credit card linked to your child’s account, they might be able to spend excessive amounts of money without your knowledge or your permission.
Finally, excessive gaming can lead to video game addiction. Developing any sort of addiction to online gaming can have long-lasting consequences for a child’s mental and physical health.
Excessive gaming has been linked to insomnia, anxiety, and depression. Kids with ADHD or ADD tend to play games more compulsively, too.
How Do You Play Overwatch?
If you’re trying to decide whether your child should play Overwatch, it can help to know what playing the game is like. We’ve summed up the main elements for you.
In the near future, Earth is recovering from a global war against artificial intelligence, known as the Omnic Crisis. The international peacekeeping agency that ended this conflict is Overwatch, which was created by the United Nations.
While the heroes have continued to try and shield the world from harm, thirty years later the organization has fallen apart and the reputation of many heroes is tarnished.
But with new forces of evil on the horizon, the divided team of human and fantasy characters needs to find their way back to each other. The world needs Overwatch to fight off villains more than ever.
The Overwatch universe is very expansive but the game is not very story-driven. You’re introduced to the world the first time you play and there is some limited dialogue between characters, but combat is the main focus.
On the official Overwatch YouTube channel you can find additional content, though, including cutscenes that take you deeper into the story. On top of that, Overwatch has a very large online fan base, with many websites, books, and blogs dedicated to the game.
If your child is a big fan, it’s likely that their interest will extend to the wider fandom.
Overwatch has several different game types that you can play on different maps. The game type determines the objective of the game.
There are more aggressive game types such as Deathmatch and Team Deathmatch, where the objective is to get more kills than your opponents, either alone or in a team.
There are classic battle game types such as Arena (a 1v1 or 3v3 battle), Assault (one team tries to take control of a series of objectives while the other team defends these) and Control (two teams compete for the same objective). There are many variations on each of these game types.
Finally, there’s the more lighthearted Capture the Flag. Overwatch 2 also includes more story-based maps.
Each game type can be played on a certain game mode. This determines how you can play the game.
- Practice Range: Here, solo players can battle computer-controlled opponents to learn a hero’s skills.
- Practice vs. AI: This practice mode simulates the real game more closely than the Practice Range.
- Quick Play: In this live multiplayer game Overwatch will match players based on their skill level. You can move up in levels, but you don’t rank competitively.
- Custom Game: This game mode allows you to modify Overwatch, for example by letting a hero heal faster.
- Arcade: In the Arcade mode you can try out different custom modes that have already been curated.
- Competitive: If you play on competitive mode, you’ll partake in the official rankings. Winning in-game competitions gives players points that can be used for in-game purchases.
One of the more unique features that Overwatch has in comparison to other FPS multiplayer games is that the game offers a large cast of bold, charming characters. Each of these heroes has their own skills. Players can find a hero that suits their individual playing style best.
What sets Overwatch apart, too, is how diverse the cast of human and fantasy characters is when it comes to gender, race, culture, and sexuality. For kids and teenagers, this is a great change from the non-descript all-purpose characters in many other games.
Overwatch uses class-based competitive play to structure each team. The different roles — Offense, Defense, Tank, and Support — come with different playing styles:
- Offense: high mobility characters whose objective is to lead everyone in offensive attacks and make kills for the team
- Defense: responsible for protecting areas and objectives from the enemy team
- Tank: sustaining and protect the team by drawing enemy attention and disrupting the opposing team
- Support: taking on the task of healing teammates and keeping everyone alive
Teams have to cooperate and make use of each other’s skills in order to advance in the game.
Should I Let My Kid Play Overwatch?
All in all, Overwatch can be a great game for older teenagers who know how to keep themselves safe online. The benefits of the game include its diverse set of characters, accessibility, and heroic aesthetic. For a first-person shooter game, the violence is kept to a minimum.
Still, Overwatch is not without risk. Players have a lot of contact with strangers, the game is centered on aggressive and competitive online matches, and oversexualization is not uncommon in the Overwatch fandom.
If you’re a parent trying to decide whether your kids can handle Overwatch, ask yourself the following questions:
- Will they be able to handle the level of violence?
- Do they know how to deal with strangers online?
- Are they old enough for the mature content related to the game?
Keep the conversation open and use online resources. If you’d like expert advice about children and internet safety or you have questions about Overwatch, leave us a comment below.
Do you have any concerns about Overwatch and whether your kids should be playing this game? Check out our FAQ below for some quick answers.
The official Overwatch age rating is 13+ in the United States and Canada and 12+ in Europe. For older kids, Overwatch can be a fun, though combat-heavy game that’s not without risks. There’s a lot of contact with strangers and the fandom tends to oversexualize the female characters.
However, in comparison to similar games, Overwatch has very colorful graphics, no mature or graphic content, and a great set of heroes to play as.
Whether Overwatch is safe for your child ultimately depends on your personal perspective.
No, it’s not possible to turn off blood in Overwatch. After you’ve made a kill, your opponent does fade away and blood does not remain on your character or the environment. But it’s not possible to get rid of it completely.
The main reason Overwatch is inappropriate for young kids, is the fact that the game can only be played online with strangers of the same level. This hugely increases the chances of cyberbullying or a child falling victim to online predators.
On top of that, Overwatch is still a shooting game, despite the fact that it’s a more lighthearted take on the genre. The level of aggression and competitive playing style is not suited for everyone.
Yes, you can turn off voice chat in Overwatch. Go to “Sound” in the “Options” menu, then switch “Team Voice Chat” to “Off.” You can do the same for Group Voice Chat.