Symmetra is the original Overwatch hero that has changed the most since launch. She has had her moments and her frustrations over the past year, but has never quite found her place in the game.
At first, she was used solely to cheese the enemy team with stealth turret placements. After her update, which gave her a second ultimate ability and a shield projectile, she was able to buff her allies with permanent shields ... and still cheese enemies with her turrets.
While her update made her a far more desirable teammate and a far more dangerous foe, there is still something that bothers me about Symmetra: why is she a support hero?
She offers no healing, unlike all of the other supports, and brings very powerful defensive utility to her team. Sure, one of her ultimates is a shield, but that is far more useful when defending a point than keeping a specific ally alive. Similarly, her teleporter makes for an easy return to the defending team’s objective. She offers turrets, a projectile barrier (not unlike Orisa’s) and a powerful close range weapon.
When actually comparing Symmetra to other supports, she doesn't stack up well at all. She offers no healing, and her survival utility is far less meaningful to a team. I say this in the nicest way possible, but Symmetra’s playstyle is inherently more selfish than that of a Mercy or Lucio.
To play support well in Overwatch, your team’s well-being has to come first. You help where you can with damage (especially as Zenyatta, what with his immensely powerful orbs), but keeping your friends alive is your number one priority.
Let’s compare Symmetra to some of the defensive heroes instead. How about Torbjörn and Bastion? Both of these guys deal in turrets. Their strengths lie in finding a safe place with a lot of traffic to hang out in before using all of their firepower to waste as many enemies as possible. Symmetra varies a little bit, mostly using her turrets to lock down small corridors and corners, but the principals are the same.
Next: Hanzo, Widowmaker and Junkrat. These three heroes use the environment to better destroy their enemies. Their mines, ricochets and traps spread death around the map. After all, how can the enemy siege the point if they are dead? Symmetra is no different. Along with her turrets, she can use her shield wall to open up a path for her teammates. She is able to control one area of the map entirely by turning a two-sided battlefield into a one-way street.
Mei is the easiest of the defense heroes to compare Symmetra to. More utility than the average class-mate (slows, ice-wall) and an impossible to dodge left-click with a ranged projectile on the right-click. Mei and Symmetra even fill a very similar role on the team. They both provide defense and weaken the enemy for their more offensively inclined allies, even though both of them are more than capable on their own.
Symmetra is different. In order to be the best Symmetra you can be, you must be offensive and cunning. Often times your missions to place turrets will pull you away from your team, somewhere you do not want to be when playing support. Symmetra’s utility should come as a bonus to her team, it should never be her primary focus. Her goal is to keep the point for her team at whatever cost. Her current categorization as support forces an expectation for her to fit a playstyle that she was never designed to fulfill.
The class-placement of an Overwatch hero may seem like a silly thing to argue, but the distinctions exist for a reason. The class distinctions help new players learn. They make for a simple checklist when building a team-comp. Placing a clearly defensive oriented hero like Symmetra into the support category can cause confusion that could not only hinder a team’s ability to succeed but could also damage the identity of support heroes in a specific player’s mind. The perception and understanding of a character’s strengths and weaknesses is core to the Overwatch experience. That understanding in some way also extends to the class that the character belongs to.
Seasoned players know that Symmetra is not a support when she gets picked. There is no role confusion in your ranked games. However, new players need that infrastructure to understand the roles. Symmetra being listed as a support hero damages the identity of all supports. Changing her listing would likely not affect the majority of players, but it could mean the world to people opening up the game for the first time.