The Overwatch League can be a very stressful place for the professional gamers.
In many ways, this is just an unavoidable reality of a high stakes competitive environment made infinitely more competitive due to its popularity and public nature. The results of Season 1 show a clear correlation between victory and players who are able to manage the stress of fulltime league play while protecting their sense of enjoyment derived from playing Overwatch.
However, if someone were to have tuned in to an Overwatch League broadcast for the first time last weekend, they would have experienced a completely different form of entertainment separate from any of the pressure or fatigue that OWL insiders are so keenly aware of. The most lasting impression on this new viewer would be about how fun Overwatch is and how the games pro players absolutely love their job.
The pictures speak for themselves:
Amid a growing concern that competitive Overwatch isn't always the most enjoyable experience, it was refreshing to see the game stripped down to its most entertaining elements. The Atlantic Division team won the main event with a 4-1 final score, but the spirit of the weekend was really wasn't about winners or losers. Seeing players, who so commonly walk on and off stage with furrowed expressions, visibly relaxed and enjoying themselves on the main-stage was a welcome sight and something fans should get to see more often.
The Talent Takedown
One of the most surprising and successful elements of the All-Star weekend was the liberal amount of trash talk and playful banter on display during the Talent Takedown portion of the event. With the roles of players and casters reversed, OWL pro's Custa and Bischu delighted in the opportunity to critique the performance of the very same group of people that meticulously analyzed their own play over the course of the season.
With an entire season of bragging rights up-for-grabs, the Talent Takedown struck the ideal balance of frivolity and try hard antics. The hilarious gap in skill between the OWL professionals and the casting talent only made the situation more entertaining and the sheer volume of trash talking in that single day was more than fans had throughout the entirety of OWL Season 1.
The Talent Takedown was so amusing, it even spurred a serious conversation online regarding the lack of friendly banter and trash-talk among the actual OWL pros.
Whether you chalk it up to proximity or maybe Blizzard's overarching culture of "play nice, play fair", it is still fair to say that OWL is starved of any real rivalries. The OWL rivalry that consistently produces the most memorable banter is the "Battle for LA" between LA Gladiators and LA Valiant. Even then, the emphasis is placed more on the fans and regional pride than players personally popping off.
The All-star league wasn't just an excuse to goof off on the main-stage, it also acted as the final farewell to the inaugural season of the Overwatch league. It was only fitting that some portion of the weekend would be spent remembering one of competitive Overwatch's most ardent supporters.
It's bittersweet to think of the impact that Dennis “INTERNETHULK” Hawelka could have had on the Overwatch League. However, his influence on the scene lives on through his former teammates, one of them being Mickie of the Dallas Fuel. The moment in honor of the fallen Overwatch player and Mickie's subsequent acceptance of the Deniss Hawelka award words was especially appropriate considering how community focused and good spirited the event turned out to be -- all things INTERNETHULK strived tirelessly for in the beginning of the games life cycle.
Fans want more
Competitive Overwatch doesn't have to be the same standard 6 vs. 6 every event. Fans with a good memory may recall the OW Heroes rumble event of last year and the overwhelmingly positive response some of it's most entertaining moments received. In a similar fashion last weekend, the Widowmaker 1 vs. 1 and Lucioball showdown had zero resemblance to what professional Overwatch actually looks like, and yet they were among the most immediately (and easily) entertaining broadcasts the OWL has ever had.
In addition, a recent community Widowmaker tournament (organized by Jayne) also created a buzz thanks to its raw entertainment value. Certainly, it is reasonable to look at the success of these non-standard events and conclude that there is room in the OWL competitive ecosystem for more of them.
If you missed the weekend live, don't worry. You can catch all of the matches and special matches on the Overwatch League Twitch channel under past broadcasts.
Photos Robert Paul for Blizzard Entertainment
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