Overwatch's Diya Is Unbreakable
Stories are why we are here. From emperors and enigmas to unmatched gods and unkillable demon kings, esports is at its best when its narratives are saturated with colour. And today Weida "Diya" Lu reminded us all that Overwatch is beautiful.
After leaving the Overwatch League branded with one of the worst losing streaks in sports history, 2022 marked his return - and finally, he has a true win to his name. Battling the looming shadow of his past, climbing back into the league, and defying the odds, Diya proved to the world that he was unbreakable this weekend.
Most of the Overwatch community knows of the pain the 2018 Shanghai Dragons brought. 0-40 with some extra credit stretching into the league's sophomore season, the narrative is a cornerstone in our space and Diya was front and centre. A diamond among some of the roughest we've seen, but blunted nonetheless. Diya still remains the only player to ever win a player of the match award on the losing team.
However, what people don't know is that his career in Overwatch stretches prior to that. Throughout 2016 and 2017, Diya played for Vici Gaming and he was very successful domestically. He knew what winning felt like, it wasn't some foreign delight imported from a country he could spot on a map. It was a common occurrence.
Juxtapose that history with what lay just over the horizon and the Dragons' brand stings just a little bit more.
Yet Diya would flirt with that familiar friend called victory within the coming year. Overwatch League's 2019 season will be remembered for a couple of things, but during week two of Stage 1, history was made. The Boston Uprising were the first team to lose to the Shanghai Dragons, marking the organisation's first-ever win - and technically Diya's first win in the league as well.
Sadly, Diya didn't play.
However, during Stage 2's third week of play, the Dragons throttled the Houston Outlaws. There Diya was featured on Temple of Anubis - but it resulted in a draw and he was immediately rotated out. This, again, was a technical victory but only in name. He was tertiary in terms of DPS for the newly retooled Dragons and was the odd man out on a fully South Korean team.
Playtime became as foreign as wins.
Diya would be a fixture on the 2020 Shanghai Dragons, but only in name. He never played and to start the year he would move to the Dragons academy team, Team CC to participate in Overwatch's amateur division, Overwatch Contenders.
Many would view this as a step backwards, but for Diya's sake, this was progress. Stagnation helps no one and there was an open seat at a table of a team that saw real, tangible value in his resume. There was a team that wanted him. And to call this a success would be an understatement. Becoming undeniable on one of the most gifted amateur teams to touch modern Overwatch was something special - and Diya helped forge that dynasty.
Team CC was dominant throughout 2020, establishing themselves not only as domestic favourites but internationally as well. This would come to a head at The Gauntlet where Diya and Team CC would put away teams like Element Mystic, RunAway and Gen.G Esports. This championship victory earned them the right to be considered one of the best, if not the best, team outside of the Overwatch League.
The Los Angeles Valiant gave him the nod in 2021 but seeing how they too went winless with a 0-16 record, perhaps Diya dodged an all too familiar bullet.
Sidelined after such an incredible run through Overwatch Contenders had to be difficult. Proving yourself, proving your worth to the league and having no team worth their salt come knocking? How could anyone plan for a future like that let alone do anything more? Diya did what he was supposed to do. He did everything right. Yet here he was window shopping in the cold, waiting for his chance to return to the league.
The year would come and go, the Dragons would be crowned Overwatch League champions, and Diya was left without.
However, 2022 brought a call from a familiar face.
Diya's former head coach from Team CC, Wang "NoHill" Fuxing, was rebuilding the aforementioned Los Angeles Valiant. And the rest was history. The team would be a patchwork of former Team CC alumni and names that dedicated Overwatch Contenders fans might remember. Judged on the weaker side of things coming into the preseason, it felt inevitable that Diya and co. would find some wins, but to see them become so competitive so quickly was impressive in its own right.
Yet Diya wasn't done escaping demons, this year it was finishing his food that became the issue. For three matches straight, Diya and Valiant would go up 2-1 against the likes of the Seoul Dynasty, the Hangzhou Spark and Shanghai Dragons. They would be nearly there, matchpoint to earn a slew of firsts, and they fell short each and every time.
Except against the Chengdu Hunters.
Following the game script laid out, the Valiant were up 2-1. It seemed all too familiar. Thoughts of them fumbling through New Queen Street and losing the following map started to seep in like rolling fog off a lake. Was this just another loss for Diya's collection of heartbreak? No.
The Valiant finally put an end to their own 21-game losing streak, dispelled the narrative that they couldn't close out a lead, and more importantly, gave Diya his first "real" victory within the Overwatch League.
It may have been quiet in the Los Angeles Valiant facilities, but the world was cheering at home and all across the globe.
Diya had finally done it.
"A lot of Chinese fans are overwhelmingly happy and moved by this victory. I think there has been some question on Diya and his team this year but Diya is a living legend of the Chinese competitive Overwatch scene, and thus the community really cherish this rewarding win," Chinese commentator and Special Correspondent for the Shanghai Dragons, Gai "Alan" Yandahan, spoke candidly about Diya's long-awaited win.
"I think this victory for him is something that has been awaited for a long time. I still remember when I saw him personally in Los Angeles early in the 2019 season, which was a difficult time for him."
"I personally appreciate his resilience a lot," Alan said.
Overwatch League commentator Kevin "AVRL" Walker spoke about Diya's story and perseverance. "[Diya] never gave up after leaving Overwatch League and spent his entire Contenders career with the goal in mind of coming back. He knew he wasn't satisfied with how things ended and wanted to have another chance at rewriting that final chapter."
"He wanted it badly enough that he was even willing to forgo an opportunity to rejoin in 2021 because it wasn't the right team for him, meaning he'd have to wait another year. I think Diya's journey is very much the veteran's tale where the warrior returns to his past to complete his saga," AVRL said.
"By closing the book on his final chapter of his OWL career with the dragons, he can finally start a new journey leaving his past behind. When asked what will you do now after getting your win? He responded, 'I guess I would really like to make a tournament'".
Chinese Overwatch expert and Overwatch commentator Eren "Kenobi" Erkey also glowed in a review of Diya's miraculous tale. "It takes a special kind of player and person to persevere through the hardships Diya has been through. Going 0-40 in Overwatch League season 1 is hard enough but having the ability to pick yourself back up and keep trying to reach your goal is something I'm not sure many players could pull off.
"Diya went from one of the worst teams in Overwatch League history to being benched and watching his team find success without him before he was demoted to Team CC. Then Diya wins Gauntlet with Team CC. He's on the best Contenders team in the world and he doesn't get picked up for Overwatch League. Another brutal hurdle for a player who has had to jump over so many," Kenobi explained.
"But again, Diya keeps going. He gets a call from NoHill and reunites with his Team CC core and you can tell a win for the Valiant is on the horizon. Diya's journey teaches us that while the light at the end of the tunnel may be far away and sometimes it's impossible to see, the light still exists at the end of it. And now that Diya has reached the end of this very long tunnel, we can all marvel at how special this player is."
Oscar Wilde was the first to claim that "Life imitates art far more than art imitates life," and in Diya's case, it's true beyond words. Think of your archetypical story, your favourite piece of popcorn media or trope ridden shonen anime, how many times can you find Diya? The hero, who started on the right foot, but somehow tragically losses it all and has to sail the world over to get it back? However you interpret it, Diya's little victory touches our hearts because it carries those same heartwarming echoes that we were all told as children.
To never give up.
That hard work will pay off.
That we can do anything we set our minds to.
Diya had ever out to step away from Overwatch. He could have walked away and no one would have blamed him. He was a good player that was inducted into the Unlucky Club far too early in his career. The memories and hurt from the inaugural Shanghai Dragons roster could have weighed him down like an albatross around his neck, but he refused to let that dictate his story.
2018 had to be pulling at Diya's ankles, taunting him, dragging him deeper into the waters of self-critique and disappointment. A scar of where he once was, the 0-42 loss streak was profound. He had proven he was better than his resume let on, but does it matter if the spectre of his past was bigger than the brief glints of success he had elsewhere? In another time his legacy would always be branded, stained like the rusted side of a train car, as the guy who never won a game.
No one is going to argue or deny Diya's meteoric success in the Overwatch Contenders. He and Team CC hold a menagerie of titles and trophies, but when your goal is to return to the Overwatch League and right the wrongs of the past, are those wins or necessary stepping stones towards absolution?
All those sleepless nights visualising. What would he say? How would it feel? What would happen next?
All the moments where he was just shy of earning his first, the pressure to end the streak, the string of doubt after each individual loss, all of it pales in comparison to the success of Diya's first victory. While he won't be able to make the walk to his opponents and congratulation them on a game well played, the world's tears and praise will have to suffice for now.
Until the Midseason Madness, breathe easy, Diya.
You've more than earned it.