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Sandcastles - Overwatch In Memoriam

Blizzard Entertainment

Written by 

Joseph "Volamel" Franco

Posted 

28th Sep 2021 19:31

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The finish to the 2021 Overwatch League finals was anything but surprising - however, it was meaningful. Marking the finale of Overwatch, the battle between the Atlanta Reign and the Shanghai Dragons serves as a memento mori not just for the season, nor the game, but for the stories we’ve grown to love.

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This isn’t to say that we won’t find a home within Overwatch 2, that goes without saying, but this book is officially over. For better or worse, Overwatch now stares down a bittersweet evolution. And in the face of it all, we smile because Camus had it right all along; Sisyphus was happy. While the 2021 grand finals will act as the harbinger of the end, that doesn’t mean we have to forget what drove us to push our boulder up the hill in the first place.

Let’s face it; Overwatch has been spoiled in its major finals, but starved for a strong grand final. We’ve had stages that defied the odds and tournaments that begged belief—but the lion’s share of our grand finals have been spectacular whimpers. This final was no different. Piloting their own style, the Reign were simply unable to match the calibre of team Shanhai had become—and that is exactly why it’s so important.

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Echoes of the past rippled through Overwatch League’s finale like a soft twilight sunset. Entering the game 0-40 after the inaugural season, the Shanghai Dragons now reign as the final Overwatch champions, winning their title 4-0. Debuting as a prodigy locked away on one of the worst teams in competitive Overwatch history, now Kim "Fleta" Byung-sun sits comfortably on the champion’s throne. And the Atlanta Reign, cement and maintain their moniker of giant slayers executing the defending champions as well as besting the western front-runners just as they did in years prior. History doesn’t replicate - it rhymes. Each swell of the waves is just like the last, but the erosion adds character to each wash. Each pass reminds us of where we’ve come from, where we’ve gone, and leaves open the possibility of things to come.

The era before the Overwatch League official set sail instilled the potential of not only the game, but the people in it. The casters we’d come to know and love. The players who dazzled us night by night. And the stories they both orbited, cemented Overwatch’s stake as a serious esports contender - and it still is - but look at where we’ve come from since the beta tournaments of 2015 to now.

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And bucket by bucket and year by year, the Overwatch League ferried the materials needed to begin to build off that narrative foundation. The freshwater dives of the 2018 season showed us the beauty of Overwatch. The highlight-reel plays, the massive D.Va bombs, and even introducing us to role defining players that continue to shape the game today, the inaugural season had it all.

2019 ushered in an era of refinement. Acting as a foil to the year prior, the Overwatch League’s sophomore season was the pinnacle - and also the beginning of the death - of perfection. Two stages establishing a rivalry built on constitution and longevity, flanked by a third which foreshadowed Overwatch’s most pure state.

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Through the tribulations that 2020 brought us, the Overwatch League’s third season made us face reality. We had a hard, long look into that clear blue water and had to come to terms with some difficult thoughts. The homestand model wasn’t fit with the state of the world, the pillars that made up Overwatch were changing to meet the demand of the public, and a new dynasty was crowned with their second straight ring.

The 2021 season was the closest thing to normal we’ve seen, and even then the global pandemic still plagued the competition - but what this year taught us was hope. We might not be ready for a live audience, but the league can muster together a tropical escape. We might not be as storied as western sports, but we don’t need to be. Overwatch has built systems and formats that work in a marriage of tradition and modernity. And while we might be the biggest esport of them all, there is simply no other experience in gaming quite like Overwatch. Our hope is that with Overwatch 2, the game sees significant updates to not only trust it back into the pop culture zeitgeist, but also refine that unique gameplay experience.

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And with what we’ve seen, it all seems possible. There is hope

English fails us when attempting to describe the feeling of longing for something that has already passed or is unobtainable. However, to the Portuguese, this sense of prolonged melancholy and or desire is simply known as 'saudade'. If it seems familiar, you don’t have to look far. Most of the people who remember fondly the era before the Overwatch League began, those who constantly recall their favourite moments from TakeOver and those who gush over OGN’s Overwatch APEX tournaments, they are likely to be stolen by that feeling if only for a moment. It lives in the pithy facts shared and the moments you just had to be there for. Ask yourself this - does that air seem more relatable now that the final Overwatch League match has been played on the original iteration of the game?

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Even this article is an ephemera of the times and memories we’ll never get back. However, if The Lion King ever taught us anything, it’s that life is brought from death. Just because one chapter closes does not close the final curtain. The circle of life spins on. Little deaths, little lives, round and round it goes. Our boulder goes up the hill, and then it goes back down - and we chase it, smiling every step of the way. Unyielding and unending. Unbiased and unkind. While one essence is swept into the ocean of time, the names written on its beach are not soon forgotten. 

The names that inspired us.

The names that touched us.

And the names that entertained us.

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These names will slowly be washed away from today’s thoughts, but they live on within tomorrow’s memory - just like sandcastles on a beach. They’re fleeting, they bring a pure creative expression, and the fun of them both lies in the journey to the final destination. Our home within the Overwatch League has been nothing more than a beautiful sandy stronghold constructed on one of Honolulu’s finest beaches. And as the tide of change closes in on Overwatch, we raise a toast, well past the final hour, to the memories we’ve made and to the ones we’ve yet to make. 

To all the headsets we’ve put on.

To all the races won barefoot

And to all the lanterns extinguished


Thank you, Overwatch.

 

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Overwatch 2 Has All The Potential In The World

Images via Blizzard Entertainment

Written by 

Joseph "Volamel" Franco

Posted 

12th Oct 2021 10:48

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