A Little Love For The OWL Side Dishes
It’s the return of the Overwatch League, and the lead up to the opening weekend has been absolutely scrumptious. The Overwatch League community has been on fire this past week, with so much excitement for the start of the 2021 season that the collective joy and anticipation feels like it’s going to burst. So much hubbub and bustling, it feels like we’re all part of a kitchen brigade for a restaurant at peak hours on a Friday night. Everything from the hottest of takes, the spiciest of power rankings, and the volatility of the scrim bucks market, are being added to this pre-season stew that’s reached its absolute boiling point.
This was the most amount of life the Overwatch League community has had in a long time, but really, who wouldn’t be excited looking at what’s on the menu this season? So many good players, so many intertwining narratives, and most of all, this looks like the tightest season the Overwatch League has ever had. It feels like shaping up to be this delicious gourmet meal, that will absolutely deliver on taste, substance, and spice of the pre-season hype. Every ingredient is going to pop.
Try a new healthy serving of super-team Washington Justice, a sample of the Shanghai Dragons redemption arc, or the modern take on an old-time classic with the Chengdu Hunters.
This year it really feels like there’s something for everybody, that everyone can take a bit of storyline and enjoy what this season will have to offer. However, some key components to the recipe have been a little bit lost in all of the hype for this pre-season. It got its brief glimpse of recognition when it was announced, but it slowly went away as all the focus went back to the meat of the season - which teams are going to be the best.
Yet, you can’t have a full meal without all the supplementary ingredients to come along with the main course. Where’s the love for the crispy fries for the New York strip, the peas and bacon to the pasta carbonara, the lobster tail for the risotto, and what about the lamb sauce? As hype as it is to anticipate the forthcoming games, it’s also great to anticipate the arrival of some fresh and familiar faces to the broadcast team that will be delivering these matches to us every weekend online.
To truly appreciate the Overwatch League’s fourth season, we have to give a little love to the newest and returning broadcast members who are going to bring that extra bit of flavour and spice to make this year all the more special.
VIKKIKITTY JOINS THE BATTLE
2021 will mark the first time that the Overwatch League English broadcast features a woman on the commentating lineup. Victoria "VikkiKitty" Perez will join the team this season to cast alongside fellow Overwatch Contenders alum Jack "Jaws" Wright, as the duo that GGRecon will officially coin as - KittyJaws. While Jaws made his debut last season, VikkiKitty will be one of two new faces on the broadcast this year, and with it, she is bringing a considerably heavy suitcase of casting experience.
While fans of Overwatch esports may only be familiar with her work as a caster for Contenders in 2020, Perez has been in the commentating business for more than five years. If you’re deeply invested in OW history, you might remember VikkiKitty from the casting desk of the Overwatch Heroes Rumble event in Taipei way back in December of 2017. However, the bulk of her experience has been casting for Nintendo games, from smaller scenes like ARMS, Pokémon, and Splatoon 2, to noticeably larger titles like Super Smash Bros. Wii U and Ultimate.
Not only was she putting in the work and expanding her ability cast for multiple esports, but VikkiKitty made herself no stranger to the stage, casting at some of the largest events her scenes have had to offer, including three consecutive years as a commentator at EVO, the largest fighting game tournament in the world.
VikkiKitty is a gem for the Overwatch League, a true maverick of the craft, and a woman who has put in years of hard work to always deliver when she’s on the mic. She’s smart, professional, and totally capable of bringing the hype to any of the key games we’ll be treated to this season. It’ll be a safe bet that as the season goes on, fans will grow to love and appreciate Victoria for her strong technical capabilities on the cast, her grasp and strong narration, and her crisp and sometimes speedy delivery.
The second newest personality joining the 2021 team, is none other than long-time Pacific Overwatch expert, Kevin "AVRL" Walker. Some fans might recognise AVRL from the time he and Contenders co-caster Matt "Pixie" Carroll covered a few APAC matches during the 2020 season, but more dedicated viewers will know AVRL as the voice for the Korean and Pacific Contenders broadcasts from as far back as 2018.
One of the most unique things about AVRL is just the variety of experience he has with Overwatch. He’s been a player, a coach, and a broadcast member, basically running the gambit of how much you can accomplish within an esport. Even though those experiences happened years ago, and in terms of Overwatch, it’s most definitely ancient history, AVRL still finds a way to bring that type of mindset to his style of commentating. One quick look at a broadcast or even his personal stream will show you that AVRL is deeply ingrained with the strategy and decision-making behind a match.
He’ll highlight why a Tracer player might use specific pathing or timing to harass a backline, why a team might be struggling to take control in a team fight, and he’ll give insight into the potential dynamics of a team’s playstyle in a way no one else really does. Alongside this, his years of experience following players and teams from Australia, Korea, China, and the South-East Asian regions make him one of the brightest minds for discussing the storylines and players that a lot of fans might not have been exposed to otherwise.
Make no mistake, this man has been living and breathing Overwatch for years now, primarily focusing on the regions where not a lot of Western fans may normally be paying attention to. That makes him one of the most engaging and knowledgeable casters in the game today, and it can be a huge bridge to teams and players where the league may have fallen short of closing that gap previously.
DEAD ON ARRIVAL ONCE AGAIN
In a move that surely came as a curveball to many fans, it was announced that Erik “DoA” Lonnquist would be returning to the Overwatch League after a season-long absence in 2020, to be casting alongside Andrew "ZP" Rush. Not only does DoA get to bring his trademark silliness back to the OWL broadcast, but ZP also gets to add another caster to his Infinity Gauntlet-like resume, further increasing his power and reign as the greatest Overwatch caster of all time. It’s a win for everyone.
In all seriousness, DoA making his way back into the league is a treat for everybody. DoA has probably been one of the most iconic casters of the past decade, being the voice behind some of esports’ biggest and most legendary moments, across multiple titles. StarCraft II, League of Legends, Overwatch, throughout all the games he’s cast, DoA has this impressive catalogue of incredible calls and moments that will surely resonate with fans of any game. “Look At The Moves”, “Big Boss Pine”, “Your Home For Dank Memes And Crushed NA Dreams”, there are so many classic DoA moments that really put a smile on your face whenever you hear them.
Even beyond the casting mic, DoA was key in a lot of the supplemental content for the league, especially with the 2018 version of Watchpoint. Classic skits like Dr DoA, Emote Control, or What’s Your Sign, were funny vignettes that really helped create engaging content for the broadcast, and maybe this year, the Overwatch League can look to bring back this atmosphere with the talented members they have at their disposal.
Even if it’s just behind the microphone, DoA’s creativity, funny personality, and all-around easy demeanour is going to make those early morning APAC matches all the more fun to wake up for.
DON’T TOUCH DANNY LIM’S MIC
Finally, we have the OG. He is the king of style and the guardian of the microphone; Danny Lim will be returning to the Overwatch League after a season-long absence in 2020. For the first two seasons, Danny was the interviewer for post-match interviews with the league’s Korean players, and he instantly became a fan favourite for his genuineness and ability to play off comfortably with the highlighted player. This year, he joins the hosting desk as its fourth and newest member, meaning he’ll most definitely be playing a more central and prominent role in the broadcast, but hopefully, we get to see the type of rapport he can build with some of the league’s newest and brightest stars.
Danny was a presence that was sorely missed last season, as his ability to build a connection between the players and audience through his interviews was all too important. Danny was there for the post-match interviews with key players from the Vancouver Titans and San Francisco Shock after those big showdowns, and a lot of credit has to be given to him for helping bring those players thoughts and stories to the forefront.
Part of the reason that rivalry became so iconic and so integral to the 2019 season was because, after every big moment, we got to hear directly from the players about their thoughts and what those moments meant to them. Danny became the storyteller of that season; he helped explain the narrative to the audience in the arena and at home. Every week we got to see a fresh fit and a stellar interview from Danny, and in 2021 it can be a sure bet that he comes back bigger and better than ever.
The newest additions to the lineup, some new and some familiar, are all going to play an integral role in the success of an important year for the Overwatch League. This new season-long format, these tournaments, the new and improved rosters that should be almost certain to deliver; they’re going to need a show and a broadcast that really drives home the main storylines and narratives for the fans at home.
The talent crew need to build those connections, need to give everything they've got to make this season the stepping stone for an incredible 2022. With this lineup of talent, it sure seems like they can pull off something special.
Images via San Francisco Shock | BeyondTheSummit | Blizzard Entertainment