One of Overwatch’s most beloved stories is easily one of its most wise.
Just as much as they are Overwatch legends, Team EnVyUs were teachers. Sure, they were a western powerhouse, one of the only western teams in the history of esports to travel to South Korean and win a major domestic title, and the springboard to the Dallas Fuel - but they were so much more.
However, the story of Team EnVyUs reflects some sage lessons we can all find use in, no matter your walk of life. Their success in the face of adversity reminds us not to get fixated by shadows, rather turn the focus on the power of “maybe”.
It is difficult to remember the journey of Team EnVyUs as a tragedy, but their story is filled with hurdles and subtle hardships. After resounding success in the west, Team EnVyUs travelled across the globe to South Korea to chase their next challenge at OGN’s Overwatch APEX Season 1. For context, throughout esports history, western teams have not fared all that well when competing on South Korean soil. Sure there are some outlier examples, but by and large, gold was not in their future. Despite that, Team EnVyUs managed to stay competitive, landing a playoff seed in the process. However, experts and analysts questioned how much ground they would actually be able to make.
This conversation came to a screeching halt once it was reported that Team EnVyUs was losing longtime DPS star Ronnie "Talespin" DuPree shortly before their quarterfinals match. This was meant to be the end of their journey. However, through a happenstance connection to the late Dennis "INTERNETHULK" Hawelka, Pongphop "Mickie" Rattanasangchod was brought on board as a last-minute substitution. And, to rub salt in the wound, Team EnVyUs would be facing off against Rogue, a team that, just months prior, put an end to a lengthy winning streak.
That is about as unlucky as it gets.
Obviously, history paints a very rosy picture of this story, but try and place yourself in the moment that this is all happening. How can we view such problems as positives or things to be admired? It all depends on our perspective, and one of the earliest, and most wise Greek thinkers put it best.
Consider Plato’s Cave, a wise and challenging look at how our perspectives paint our view of the world around us. The tale asks us to imagine a group of prisoners bound in a cave, forced to view life through the shadows cast on the walls in front of them. If all you’ve ever known is damp, dark, and the figure of an object in the absence of light, imagine what it would be like to step out of the cave and into the sun. To see the forms in full, rather than its shadow. It would be like only ever being able to play Bastion for years and then having the sudden realisation that Tracer and Pharah exist. It would shatter your perspective of everything.
The cave analogy sheds light on one common thought trap; we often view things as how we think they are rather than how they actually are.
Cast yourself back to the group draw ceremony for APEX Season 1. Once Rogue chose Team EnVyUs as their opponents for the quarterfinals, it was supposed to be over, a curtain call for their trip to South Korea. One life sentence in a cave, hold the onions. Rogue was arguably the best team at the time and were favourites to win the event from the start. They were the shadows cast on the cavern, and Team EnVyUs were the prisoners.
Defiant in their ways, Team EnVyUs eventually became champions, first beating Rogue, than KongDoo Uncia, and finally Afreeca Freecs Blue to take home the title.
All against the odds.
Think of this like being afraid of scissors. Sure, they can cut, rip and tear, but they are mostly used by children making holiday cards or cooks preparing a four-course meal. Perhaps you run into a professional player you’re a fan of. It can be very daunting to play against someone whose literal job it is to be good at the game, especially knowing how good they are—but they also are just like you.
They feel emotions; they wear pants; they get bad hair cuts.
Team EnVyUs and the analogy of the cave teaches us not to be afraid of scissors and people we admire but to respect them for what they actually are. Sharp metal tools and people. The latter of which also carries another equally important wise and intelligent lesson as well.
Legendary writer and speaker, Alan Watts, retells an ancient Chinese story to help to explain the idea that there is no gain or loss in life, only cause and effect. A lot like the Team EnVyUs’ loss of Talespin during APEX Season 1. If we trim away at the specifics, we’re left with a vacancy on a team. This pointed Team EnVyUs towards signing Mickie. In that same way, INTERNETHULK leaving in the spring of 2017 saw them acquire South Korean DPS star Hwang "EFFECT" Hyeon. And so on, and so on, the chain of history goes.
No harm, no foul, only cause and effect.
Consider it this way; let’s say you choose to play Overwatch today, and you lose 100 skill ranking (SR) on the ladder. That’s awful, isn’t it? Maybe.
Tomorrow you wake up and reconnect with a friend now that you’re the same rank. Games are always more fun with friends, right? Maybe.
It turns out you both main the same hero, and they force you to play a hero you’re unfamiliar with. Is your SR toilet bound once again? Maybe.
After losing a handful of games, now you begin to climb with your new hero, and your confidence couldn’t be higher. Are you krusher99? Maybe.
The “power of maybe” isn’t to trick us into a fake sense of positivity, but to keep us level headed throughout all outcomes.
Unsure if this holds up in this day and age? Think back to the 2020 Washington Justice and their rollercoaster of a season. Did losing Corey "Corey" Nigra shortly after the start of the season set them back? Maybe. Was restructuring their coaching staff mid-season the right call? Maybe.
Perhaps if none of that happens, Jang "Decay" Gui-un is never acquired right before the 2020 Overwatch League playoffs. Perhaps they don’t make such a deep run. And perhaps they don’t look so strong going into the 2021 season. All of these things made the Justice feel hopeless, and now, the excitement for their 2021 chances are a far cry away from where they were just last season.
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This isn’t to say the universe works to always keep the balance, quite the opposite, but it’s how we look at things that is important. Lemons to lemonade is not about being optimistic; it is about taking what fortune gives us and making do with the cause of our effect.
In that same way, we should listen to the lessons of teams like Team EnVyUs and dive into adversity with the preparation that things will likely not go as we expect—and that’s okay. Maybe they are not as bad as we think and if we shift our perspective, perhaps we can find someone like Mickie to help pull us out of the cave.
Images via Blizzard Entertainment