I’ve mentioned before that I’m not a gamer. I live with gamers, but I’m not one. My husband, Tod, and four kids are huge Overwatch fans. The three oldest play with their father while the youngest watches, eager for the day that he too can take his ranks among them. It is great bonding time as they are actively doing something together.
When Tod first told me that Blizzard (the creators of Overwatch) was creating an Overwatch League, a competitive e-sport, I didn’t have any real feelings on it either way. We began to watch the First Stage of the games and I could see that it was really important to him. I was completely lost though. I had no idea who any of the characters were, their abilities, the objective of the game, or anything. But my husband wanted me to watch it with him and the kids (family time!). So, I sat and watched for a couple weeks, often fairly bored, not getting it, and only watching because I love him and our children.
I wanted to get more into it, but didn’t know how to do so without actually playing. (I have a lot of feelings surrounding my experiences playing games so decided it wasn’t a good idea right now). While discussing this with Tod, he informed me that Blizzard actually created story-line videos, with specific vids for each character. As a writer, this is where I knew I’d find my love for the League. We watched as a family all the videos for every character.
This really helped me to begin integrating into the Overwatch League world. Just knowing the backstory of the characters got me more engaged in what I was seeing.
Now, the competition environment/set up is important here. There are twelve teams, each with coaches, a manager, and an owner. Every team plays against all the other teams during each Stage. There are four Stages in the regular season. At the end of the four Stages the top teams go to the playoffs until there is an overall winner (think football with their Super bowl). Best part? There is a Blizzard Arena in Los Angeles where every game is played with an audience and casters! There is something called the Desk, where they break down the game for you. During the game play there are casters talking about what is going on. And, interviews with a player from the winning team at the end of every match. Lots of moving parts that really add to the experience.
Once I started to really be active in the watching experience, several things happened. One, I would focus on what characters were being played and notice the fighting abilities I saw in the videos, which made it more fun. Two, I started to really love the casters. I began to get my favorites and enjoy the banter between them. Third, I also started to recognize the players, whose on what team, and again, favorites started to emerge. We have our family team, which I’ll talk about in a moment, but then there are other teams that I root for. The underdogs, Shanghai Dragons! The ones who had a rough patch but came out stronger like the Boston Uprising.
You also begin to build a relationship with the various players! Like Jjonak who looks like my brother in law in Korean form aka Korean Tim, or Pine who had to leave for a few weeks to visit his family cause he was home sick (so sweet!), or Rawkus whose dad died so he dyed his hair green cause it’s his dad’s favorite color, or Mickie who is just a goofball, or Geguri the only female player and who is fierce, etc. The human aspect of the game is hugely compelling. Particularly because this is a sport which means these guys have to be high performance players which adds a great deal of mental, and physical, stress! They are impressive in their skill, in how they handle losses, and in how gracious they are with their wins.
Now to promote the greatest team in the league. Our family team is London Spitfire. The first players I really started to know were London players, Birdring and Profit. These guys are magic together. As I continued to watch I’ve come to appreciate all the players on this team. Though they will “trash talk” the other teams, they are so humble about it! Which just adds to the like-ability of these players. In the standings they are currently in fourth place. We just started Stage four. I now understand the emotions of sports fans! I want London in the finals so bad! I watch them play and am on the tip of my seat with held breath waiting for the outcome. It can be emotionally exhausting!
Am I now an expert at the game? No. Do I still get lost sometimes? Yes. Do I enjoy watching the games and getting to know the players/casters? Absolutely. I had to step out of my box, but I’m so glad I did. It’s brought a whole new appreciation to sports and to gaming.
P.S. Now onto the finals! These will be played in New York at the Barclays Center. London Spitfire against Philadelphia Fusion! Aces High!