According to what I see in Overwatch, I have never gotten a kill assist. If I do considerable damage to an opponent and someone else seems to do the final blow, it still recognizes it as a kill. I look at my kills, and the count has gone up by one. Why is this?
"Eliminations" includes both "Kills" and "Assists" in Overwatch. As long you helped damage the enemy, you will get an Elimination for it. Assists are different, and they're obtained by various means such as:
- When a teammate kills an enemy you've marked, either as Hanzo or Widowmaker.
- When a teammate you're healing or buffing gets a kill.
- When a teammate kills an enemy affected by your Discord Orb as Zenyatta.
I'm not sure if this is a comprehensive list, but it's basically anything that helped a teammate get a killl, while not being direct damage from yourself.
This is one of the ways that Overwatch differs in design from a straight up shooter (be it arena or what have you) - the game tracks kills you participate in rather than kills you complete. This is related to why you don't see other players kill and death counts.
Quite simply, Blizzard does not want players comparing KDR, as it is a largely irrelevant statistic to how well you're playing the game for several reasons. Amongst these is the fact that death can be the correct play, such as if Reinhardt pushes a Self-Destructing D.Va off the map or out of range; additionally, kill count tells you nothing about if a player is effectively playing their role - it can be high when the player is contributing little in broader terms of tactics or strategy (for example, failing to protect Supports), or low despite the player being very effective and valuable (pulling the tank out of position, good Support, taking out that one problem enemy reliably, or whatever else).
In other words, the two are not distinguished because the distinction isn't relevant.
And as an aside, this is part of Blizzard's aim to avoid the issues that plague the communities around most shooters, and it seems to be working so far from what I can see.
The player who performed the killing blow will have the largest icon on the left, while players who assisted will have smaller icons to the right.