Roots of Overwatch: Shu's fight for flowers
Our roots are what ground us. Our roots are our start and the road to our end. Ahead of the 2023 Overwatch League season, we're diving into the roots of Overwatch, examining some of its narratives, and how they're manifesting now.
"Inarguable." That's what Kim "Shu" Jin-seo fights for as the Overwatch League heads into its sixth instalment. Captain of the cusp, the one we once forgot, and a prolific support ace since his debut, Shu is great. Yet how does he fair compared to the greats?
2017 sent Shu home, a spirited dog without any flowers on Flash Lux. 2021 saw him finally accept a rose with the Los Angeles Gladiators as a Role Star. This season, Shu and the Houston Outlaws are zeroed in on a bouquet and the podium. The halls of Overwatch fame are calling.
Is 2023 the year Shu finishes his fight for his flowers?
Even a brief glimpse at where Shu stemmed this tortuous journey should leave you with at least some disbelief. Like starring at Howl's Moving Castle, like tangled vines of climbing hydrangeas, like far-stretching fields upon fields of wildflowers, how did this even happen?
Shu debuted during the APEX Era of Overwatch. With all eyes fixated on South Korea, was this the protagonist's fateful emergence? Was this the day a star was born, when god reached out their hand and added another spotlight in the sky?
No. Not even remotely close.
After all, Shu started out on a team that could barely compete. Flash Lux had no visions of grandeur. How could they dream of success with no topsoil to stand on? And if that team's name rings a bell, then you'll probably only recognise it as Kim "Fleta" Byung-sun's original team before joining Lunatic-Hai ahead of the Seoul Cup.
The best thing you could say about Flash Lux is that they were ultimately consistent. They were good enough to beat the amateur teams during APEX's relegation tournaments. And that was about it. They stood no chance against any of their peers in the main event.
Luckily enough for Shu, he joined when they wouldn't have to face another bout of relegation. OGN's production team announced early in July of 2017 that no further western teams would be invited for season four. This greenlit Flash Lux to automatically qualify for the event and by proxy serve to be the best fertilizer for Shu's budding career.
And while one could assume Flash Lux could easily battle through the promotion gauntlet once again, if Shu doesn't get this opportunity then perhaps history doesn't take shape the way it has.
Yet as fateful and as hopeful as that sounds, Flash Lux didn't change. They still finished bottom of their group with the added semi-silver lining of taking a map off of Park "Crusty" Dae-hee's Nc Foxes. That's the diving board Shu was given. How he managed to transmute that start into this current trend of resounding success is both miraculous and an illustration of his character.
After a short stint with Meta Athena to help them battle through Overwatch Contenders: Trials, Shu would venture west to Toronto Esports. This would mark the sprouts of Shu's first western followers. Now he wasn't playing overseas on an obscure team at obscure times. Now he was competing stateside and throttling names and faces everyone knew.
To go from Flash Lux to Toronto Esports was night and day. Toronto finished atop their group during Overwatch Contenders 2018 Season 1. They held a 4-1 record with 17 map wins and 4 losses.
Undercut that with Flash Lux's finish to APEX Season 4. A whole 1 map won against 9 losses and 0 matches won. Ironically enough Shu had won more matches with Toronto Esports than Flash Lux had their entire existence.
Evergreen doesn't begin to describe the kind of talent Shu was because it wouldn't stop here.
After a disappointing end to 2018's second season alongside Toronto Esports, Shu would be promoted to the Guangzhou Charge for the 2019 Overwatch League season. Together they would embody a plucky underdog narrative but ultimately one that rarely bloomed.
However, the summer of 2020 did see Guangzhou and Shu shine as they toppled the Shanghai Dragons for the Summer Showdown title against the odds.
But the end of the year would echo feelings Shu was all too familiar with. Doing all he could, putting one foot in front of the other, and trudging through another year just to finish sitting outside. The frost had to take its toll, yet he kept forward momentum. He'd find his spring.
2021 would be the year Shu substantiated all the potential we saw in him.
While his debut on the Los Angeles Gladiators was a touch slow, the Countdown Cup saw Shu shine. Last-chance situations call for heroes to step up to the plate and Shu had been salivating for another chance to aim for the stands.
While he didn't start the fight, lord knows Shu finished it. He clipped Yi "JinMu" Hu's wings and he single handily put the Gladiators in position to secure their first stage title. This play alone would catalyze the monstrous statistical performance he had been putting on for years into some the people could see. It's hard to see how well someone heals or how good their positioning is or how well they trade resources.
But a buzzer-beating shot? A goal against the odds?
That's something people can feel.
Now Shu inks a new stanza in the poem he calls a career, trading in his purple shield for a revolver clad in black and green. The Houston Outlaws stood on the cusp just as Shu has his entire career. Could there have been a better match made during this off-season?
A team counted out now home to a player who we all once forgot.
And with some of the new recruits for the 2023 Outlaws, why can't they be in the conversation? Stage titles or playoff runs are far from out of the picture.
But why stop there?
With the length of his career and his growing list of accolades, is this the year we start putting Shu as one of the greats? Not just as someone who is great but as someone who should be remembered.
Shu fought for our recognition and won. Now he reaches for the sky. He's done playing small. Now Shu's flowers will involve a ticket to the Overwatch hall of fame.
From the energetic prospect with quiet talent to one of the world's best, Shu is on the fast track and you can't ignore him any longer. Chisel in hand, he'll carve his own name into the history books if he has to. As we quickly approach the start of the 2023 Overwatch League season, "legacy" is a word that sits at its heart.
Shu fought the frost of a poor start.
Shu fought the oversight for flashy players.
He travelled the world over and has proven his worth time and time again.
So, is this the year Shu finishes his fight?