His history. His story. His time to shine. BERNAR has arrived.
Shin "BERNAR" Se-won is a name that often slips through the cracks when veterans of Overwatch are brought up. Working on his fifth year of competitive play, it is safe to say that he has seen more than the vast majority of the competitive player base. From the heights of the APEX era to finally debuting in the Overwatch League during the 2020 season, from before role lock up until the hero pool system, BERNAR has truly seen it all. However, let’s not mince words, 2021 is a defining year for BERNAR.
Four years in Overwatch tangles him up in an elite knot and with the context of him working on his fifth, separates him further from his peers. He battles his own narrative, his own trajectory that should see him bounce back after a disappointing performance in 2020. As the sun continues to pass overhead, as Overwatch continues to alter and change, as new players step up to the plate, BERNAR battles the contest of time. And finally, BERNAR battles with the spectre of his past. Former allies turned rivals, former competitors starring across the aisle just like old times. With that in mind, BERNAR is truly battling his roots.
Debuting with BK Stars in 2016 during OGN’s Overwatch APEX Season 1, BERNAR made a name for himself as a spectacular Zarya player. In a 2017 interview with EsportsHeaven, BK Stars coach, Go “NamedHwi” Se-Hwi revealed how he approached coaching BERNAR and his then-teammate Chae "Bunny" Joon-hyuk on heroes outside of their comfort zone of Zarya and Tracer respectively.
“I trust in Bunny’s Tracer and BERNAR's Zarya, so I always try to come up with different ways we can use them on those heroes most effectively, but at the same time a wide hero pool can make the team stronger,” NamedHwi said. “As the coach, if I tell them to practice other heroes, they have to listen; however, they don’t insist on playing Tracer and Zarya.”
To put into context just who BK Stars was, you have to start with their core. BERNAR, who was a promising flex tank in his own right, stood shoulder-to-shoulder with someone who was contesting some of the best Tracer players at the time and was a tank duo with someone who would go on to become an award-winning support player. These three, especially early on in their history as a team, would be the frontrunners to their success. They would end up finishing APEX Season 1 with a respectable third-fourth place finish, however, in the seasons that followed, BERNAR and BK Stars failed to recapture that same glory.
Continuing to flounder, BERNAR landed with WGS Laurals Nine during the advent of Overwatch Contenders but found himself winless. Ending Group B with a staggering five losses out of five games played, BERNAR found himself viewing an international transfer as a real possibility. One that would come to fruition as he joined the Philadelphia Fusion’s academy team, Fusion University, for the second Overwatch Contenders season of 2018.
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Don’t call it a comeback, BERNAR really has been here for years. At this point, he and Fusion University reigned dominant over the North American Contenders region for three seasons straight. To cap off their achievements, they would also dominate 2019’s Atlantic Showdown, one of the only events were amateur teams would face international competition. After their win, the team would then take an optimistic trip to South Korea to compete domestically, and while they battled many legendary teams close, fans and viewers were left with an odd and frankly bitter aftertaste. This was not the Fusion University that stood above the clouds in the west. BERNAR and the team had truly been tested. However, he would not have the time to rally and further Fusion University’s dynasty with a South Korean title; the Overwatch League awaited him.
2020 saw BERNAR debut alongside the London Spitfire. He and DPS ace Lim "Glister" Gil-seong were the darlings on a frankly disappointing team. To gift a glimpse behind the curtain, concerns and rumours of poor performances loomed over this team before they even set foot on stage. This proved to be fairly on the button as BERNAR, and the Spitfire took a nosedive. The inaugural season champions not only finished last in the Asia playoffs but ended the season with a 6-15 record. Sure, the stress around hero pools and the COVID-19 pandemic and the relocation from North America to Asia undoubtedly took its toll on this team, that cannot be understated. However, the performance was lacklustre to put it plainly, and by the looks of BERNAR’s plans heading into the new year, it seems to be a foregone thought.
2021 aims to be considerably different for BERNAR and his new team, the Hangzhou Spark. Even the talk around this team is striking opposed to what it was last season. Now he surrounded by a slew of experienced players like Kim "GodsB" Kyeong-bo, comparable aces like Park "Architect" Minho, and rookies that are hungry to make a dent in the Overwatch League such as Zheng "Shy" Yangjie and Lee "MCD" Jeong-ho. His luck is likely to flip once again this coming year, but only time can truly tell what fate has in store for him.
In an interview with InvenGlobal during APEX Season 2, BERNAR was asked about the effects their final match had on him, one that nearly relegated his team to the promotional matches. What’s striking is that he almost seems prophetical in handling the pressure of being pushed just shy of the edge. “I tried not to get too much pressure,” he said. “I guess the game went smooth because I was just like ‘if we lose today, I’ll do better in the promotion tournament.’”
Even if today is ruined or in shambles, tomorrow is another day.
Not only is that great life advice, but it tracks his career extremely well. BK Stars rose during some of the earliest days of competitive Overwatch, and receding months after unable to place well enough to make the second phase of group play. However, as sure as the tide, BERNAR returns alongside Fusion University and retreats with the London Spitfire. Following this trend, BERNAR is due for a return to form and the 2021 Hangzhou Spark look prepared to be the vehicle for that reprisal.
However motivational BERNAR was, intentionally or not, our days are not guaranteed, and in that way neither is his trajectory. He’ll be reunited with the grindstone and have to put in the hours alongside the Spark to see the curve tick upwards. Nevertheless, the tide of time continues to ebb. Not to say that he’s getting old by any stretch of the imagination, but BERNAR has given four years of life to Overwatch. A game that has seen its fair share of fundamental changes. On top of that, there is always a promising rookie nipping at his heels. While we won’t prescribe anything on BERNAR, that is a stressful list of demands that only compounds as time goes on. That said, he does seem to be equipped with a healthy attitude towards pressure. If you combine that with the amount of experience he has, perhaps he can continue to flood his veins with ice and continue to compete until the lights go out. Until then, he chases the dream of glory, of true mastery of his craft, a goal that many familiar faces join him in doing.
With nearly five years under his belt, BERNAR has seen his fair share of rivals. While Overwatch has a shallow history when compared to other esports titles, a lot has gone on, and BERNAR has marched in lockstep alongside it. Interestingly enough, the 2021 Overwatch League season will pair him off against a slew of former opponents and teammates alike.
There are faces from the APEX era stretch to Contenders competitors that have tangled their stories around BERNAR in some fashion. However, one stands as the focus, a former organisation that will be joining the frat in Asia. The Philadelphia Fusion has announced that they will be competing in the Asia-Pacific region for the upcoming 2021 Overwatch League season. Not only will he be competing against the team that passed him up, but he’ll be standing across the stage from former teammates like Lee "Carpe" Jae-hyeok and Kim "Alarm" Kyung-bo.
In that way, BERNAR’s roots have not only looped back and come full circle, but they tower over him from a position of privilege. All across the 2020 regular season, the Philadelphia Fusion were in discussion for the best team in North America and with their grand finals appearance, they match into this next season as early playoff locks. That’s not to say that BERNAR and the Spark will falter, just that this season and the region they’re situated in is an incredibly tough topsoil to penetrate.
The regrets of BERNAR’s past and his recent performances sit as jewellery in the glass-case of time. They might complement one another, and they are mutually exclusive, however, they both reflect that time waits for no one. Tomorrow is not a gift, that is why they call it the present—and that is exactly what he and the Hangzhou Spark are going to have to be if they want to redeem their playoff record. Our roots are our story, what we do with our time, and the history we create from those actions. BERNAR stands as the last of a dying bread, true originals to the game, and 2021 will be just another field to sow with more roots to grow.
For BERNAR’s sake, it’s time for spring.
Images via Blizzard Entertainment