Celebrations, breakdowns, even blank stares—they all tell a story.
The San Francisco Shock have cemented themselves as the greatest team in Overwatch history with their historic title defence at the 2020 Overwatch League Grand Finals. Their match with the Seoul Dynasty and their subsequent victory overshadows what will be considered a fairly checkered season. However, it wasn’t just the match itself that sat in the driver’s seat and made this one of the most memorable finals that the league has ever had.
Consider this for a moment; do remember how you felt seeing Park "Saebyeolbe" Jong-ryeol quietly consoling a visibly shaken Hwang "Fl0w3R" Yeon-oh? What emotional chord was struck within you when Ryu "ryujehong" Jehong and Yang "tobi" Jin-mo gave one of the most heart-wrenching interviews in Overwatch esports history? What about those of you who remember when Yoon "Runner" Dae-hoon excitedly punched through the roof? These are all stark memories for us because that’s the precise moment when we became fans. It didn’t ask us to care, and no one told us to, it just happened, and it was shown to us.
Show the readers everything, tell them nothing.
OGN’s Overwatch APEX popularised the post-action player shots that focused on captioning a player’s reaction to something. Did they lose a duel? They aimed to capture the bashful sigh and the awkward and almost questioning head scratch. Did the underdog win a map? They rushed to capture the breath of fresh air as the coaches walked into the booth and cheered their players on. I often wonder if that’s the reason why we look back so fondly on the pre-Overwatch League period. We connected with the players because we saw them. We saw their highs, their lows, and more often than not just their faces, their mannerisms—nothing dramatic. We just saw them.
Now, what does this have to do with the 2020 Overwatch League Grand Finals?
We finally got to see the players, their emotions, the stories their faces and actions tell.
Going 0-6 in the Grand Finals has to be crushing for the Philadelphia Fusion, the team that led the North American region as the most consistent team throughout the regular season. However, this also came with the burden of coming just short of winning one of the many monthly tournaments that accompanied the 2020 season.
Even outside of the franchise narratives, the players also had their own stories they wanted to see finished. Lee "Carpe" Jae-hyeok for the second time has failed to win a title, one of the most clutch players in the league, absent and left longing for Overwatch glory. Rookie of the Year, Kim "Alarm" Kyung-bo, will remember this stinging, bittersweet season. Winning one of the most prestigious awards has to mean so much, especially when contextualised from his time in Overwatch Contenders, but it’s shadowed by the Fusion’s failure in South Korea. Their story is written all across their faces; a strong sense of grief for the season lost, another season of work up in flames, their hearts broken.
After being crowned the undisputed champions in Asia, the Shanghai Dragons evaded their fated grand final rematch against the San Fransico Shock. After a season of redemption, a true culmination of the organisation becoming one of the best this season and even individual vindication of Lee "Fearless" Eui-Seok after being absent for so long.
Even reaching the regular season MVP, Kim "Fleta" Byung-sun, someone who has firmly kicked away his red lantern, but still has failed to reach the top of the mountain. Again, the Overwatch League shows us their disappointment, their sadness, and we feel something because of it. We feel bad, we feel sorry, we wish we could have cheered just that bit more—but we learn to care. That same fan will return next season, Fearless jersey in hand looking to see the Dragons arc of success continue into 2021. It is what you show that cements the story.
The Seoul Dynasty, a team that was sold short, a team that no one saw coming was the one to challenge the San Francisco Shock in the Overwatch League Grand Finals. Again, look at their faces, look at the stories they tell in simple still images. Kim "FITS" Dong-eon with a fantastic final showing, ending with his head firmly placed in his hands.
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Park "Profit" Joon-yeong and Hong "Gesture" Jae-hee will go down as one of the most dominant duos in Overwatch League history, but after coming so close, after two incredible individual performances, they fall centimetres short of forging their own legend. All of these feelings, these stories, these reasons why we cheer, are all alive in what the Overwatch League showed us. It’s alive in the player’s reactions to their achievement and their plight. Their success and their failures.
However, what do you see here?
Lee "ANS" Seonchang sitting quietly, conducting an interview through the small laptop that sits in front of him. I wonder, sat in his leather PC chair, going through the motions of the interview, what kinds of emotions swirled within him? I wonder what it must feel like to reach the top, to work day in and day out for something and then to finally have it? It’s slightly sad—and only ever so slightly, he did just win the Overwatch League. However, this image radiates the feeling of “now what?” The idea of striving every day, going on this journey across the globe to compete and you hope, and you dream, and you improve, and you finally make it across the finish line.
You’ve got the trophy, you shout and scream and celebrate with those closest to you—but as the day progressed I wonder if ANS thought about what comes next. Obviously, in reality, we can’t know, and I shouldn’t prescribe, but this shot punched a hole through my heart. It’s bittersweet; it’s reflective, it’s coming to peace with the journey of a lifetime all wrapped up in one best-of-seven match of Overwatch. What compounds on this was that in his interview, he references the ideas of doubt, pride, what is deserved. He wasn’t just competing for himself and his own goals, but he was competing for others, for those who told him otherwise. I wonder, what did he think of the faint reflection that smirked back at him? What did the doubters think now that he was a champion?
The good, the bad, the ugly; it’s all important. Showing is everything.
Images via Blizzard Entertainment