I will be veering off anime this time, and focusing on something that started this year that has truly got me hooked: The Overwatch League.
I am not the best Overwatch player. My role is typically off-tank or flex support, so my mains are the likes of D.Va, Roadhog and Orisa, with my supports being Mercy, Ana, Brigitte (when she goes live on the main servers), and defensive Sombra. I leave the more important DPS roles to those who know how to play them. When I began on PS4, the furthest I managed to get was high Gold in competitive. It was around April last year when I had had enough of console Overwatch (I was getting tired of console players not taking competitive seriously) and decided to turn to where it belongs: on the PC. I began on training wheels, still playing the game with a controller. I don’t feel ashamed still using a controller; the SJWs and haters that are everywhere on Overwatch are not the ones who dictate how I play. I am well aware that accuracy is greatly increased with a mouse and keyboard, but I still feel more comfortable playing with a controller. There will come a time when I switch to mouse and keyboard, but that is not now.
I was already following professional Overwatch, when the major Korean tournament APEX took place throughout 2016 and 2017. This was around the time when The Overwatch League was announced and received a lot of criticism. Journalists, streamers and professionals were extremely skeptical of a region-based esports league taking off. As more news came out on the 12 teams that would take part in season 1 (9 US teams, 1 British, 1 Korean and 1 Chinese), the more people were won over. It was the pre-season games in December 2017 that sold esports companies and sponsors though.
Who I support
I began the League supporting my local team: London Spitfire. An all-Korean roster consisting of two former teams, Kongdoo Panthera and GC Busan, with the team owned by US esports org Cloud9. When this news came out, there was a huge backlash, with a lot of British Overwatch fans complaining that no Brits were in the lineup. It’s common knowledge that the UK is not renowned for its esports, and so what is really more important are the wins, and not some stubborn and selfish British pride. However, despite constantly doing very well in the League, as time went on, I started to find another team that was much more personable and friendly to the fans: New York Excelsior. Also an all-Korean roster consisting largely of the teams Luxurywatch Blue and Luxurywatch Red owned by the company who own the New York Mets. As a Brit, I also naturally support the underdogs, and thus Shanghai Dragons, who at the time of writing, have still not won a game, have a special place in my heart. They are also the only team so far with a female player in the roster, in the form of off-tank player Geguri.
The reason why I chose to side with New York Excelsior is purely down to their willing to interact with the fans, something that my local London team are currently falling behind on. The team member’s Twitch streams are all very popular, and their eagerness to learn English so quickly is highly commendable. Plus their uniform is less taxing on the eye than London’s and Shanghai’s.
Okay so, to be fair, I support nearly all of the teams as each game is so fun to watch. The only team I have a burning hatred for are Houston Outlaws. They are too cocky and arrogant for their own good, with team members who are essentially one-trick players, and who actually think teabagging in-game is a professional thing to do. They are the Marmite team; you either love them, hate them, or really hate them.
When the inaugural season ends, more orgs, companies and corporations are expected to jump in on this overnight success story. In the 12 weeks it has existed so far, the Overwatch League and their teams have already found some respectable sponsors: Toyota, T-Mobile, Twitch, Intel, and Hewlett Packard, with teams finding sponsors in Logitech, Starz, Jack in the Box and Razer. As London Spitfire are the only European team so far, cities like Paris, Berlin, Madrid and Stockholm are expected to jump in. South Korea may want a second team representing them, while other countries like Canada, Australia, Japan, Brazil and Mexico may want in on the action too. Also it would be unsurprising to see Russia and Dubai (both very rich places always eager to impress the world) want on the bandwagon as well. Since the first season takes place solely in California, it is expected that each team will head to their cities and play home and away matches in the next season. This may end up being a logistics nightmare, with teams having to fly to the other side of the world for potentially one match. Of course, with more teams will come more exposure, more sponsorship and more fans. Activision Blizzard appear to have shut the critics and naysayers up by pulling off an attractive and well-polished esports league. I for one got hooked straightaway, and am happy to stand by my three teams. When the London team eventually make their way here in the UK, I’ll be here to cheer them on. Now I just need to get my jerseys…
The following are a selection of matches I recommend to those new and curious to the Overwatch League. Each game is on Twitch, and is between 90-150 minutes long:
Stage 1 recommended matches
Seoul Dynasty vs. Dallas Fuel – January. 10. 2018.
Two rosters who already had history in their former teams (Lunatic-Hai and EnvyUs respectively) taking each other on in their new forms on Day 1 of the Overwatch League. This was the one game that silenced the numerous critics and naysayers of the League.
Los Angeles Gladiators vs. Los Angeles Valiant – January. 24. 2018.
The first battle of Los Angeles as both LA teams faced off to see which one was the better. While the Valiant was owned by a preexisting esports franchise (Immortals), the Gladiators was owned by the people who own the LA Rams (NFL), the Denver Nuggets (NBA), and have a major stake in Arsenal (Premier League). So this was also a matter of traditional sports company vs. esports company.
Shanghai Dragons vs. Dallas Fuel – February. 07. 2018.
Both Shanghai and Dallas were having rotten luck in the League at this point. Shanghai had still not won a game and were also facing rumors that they were overworking the team and coaches, while Dallas were having a lot of internal team problems, including the suspension of a tank player who caused a major controversy on his personal Twitch stream.
London Spitfire vs. Houston Outlaws – February. 10. 2018.
Today’s matches would decide who would win Stage 1 and bag themselves $100,000. London only just about managed to get into the playoffs by the skin of their teeth that day, and needed to beat a very strong Houston team to make it to the final.
London Spitfire vs. New York Excelsior (Stage 1 Final) – February. 10. 2018.
After dispatching Houston, London needed to beat the top team, New York, to win the stage. New York Excelsior had already qualified for the final due to being at the top of the league table, so London were facing another very tough opponent that day. At this point the London team were already exhausted after having already played two matches that day, and they managed to pull off the impossible.
Stage 2 recommended matches
Houston Outlaws vs. Philadelphia Fusion – March. 01. 2018.
A strong Houston team takes on a quickly improving Philadelphia team, where they proved that teams owned by corporations (Philadelphia Fusion is owned by Comcast) can still be better than those owned by established esports orgs (Houston Outlaws is owned by Optic Gaming).
London Spitfire vs. Los Angeles Gladiators – March. 10. 2018.
At this point, London’s top tank player decided to transfer to Los Angeles Gladiators when London couldn’t guarantee the play time he asked for, and LA showed London they weren’t as invincible as they thought.
New York Excelsior vs. Seoul Dynasty – March. 14. 2018.
The top 1 team versus the top 2 team. Both needed a win to secure a spot in Stage 2 playoffs, and neither team disappointed when they made the match stretch to 5 maps. New York had beaten Seoul before in a close game in Stage 1 of the league, so could they do it again in Stage 2?
Houston Outlaws vs. Los Angeles Gladiators – March. 15. 2018.
With their success in Stage 1, Houston had built themselves a very loyal fanbase…as did the Los Angeles Gladiators, whose fanbase only increased when their new tank player arrived. A 5-map match which got very surreal when players chose to switch their typical team roles around with the intent of playing mental games and confusing each other.
(As of time of writing, Stage 2 has not finished yet)
Esports appearing in an anime blog. Well the Overwatch League might end up becoming something I talk about on a regular basis here. There are plenty of video blogs and podcasts on the league and the teams, so I won’t add to them. Most of these videos are either rumor-spreading ones or meme ones, neither of which I like since the truth is more important. I’ll instead just occasionally whine about it every now and then alongside the anime…