Is it true that tomorrow doesn’t come until it's too late?
The Overwatch League has been home and not in the proverbial sense, especially given the current state of the world. We’ve all invested countless hours into either playing the game or learning the stories of the players we call our favourites. This is where we come to hang our hat, this is where we gather with all our friends and watch the league and its beloved players and teams battle against one another for the chance to be cemented into history.
However, this offseason’s upheaval and subsequent exodus calls it all into question. Legends of the game are fading away one by one each and every day of the week as the demand of the game only increases, the game itself seems to always be in a state of flux, and everything in and around Overwatch is suffering from the inevitable tidal wave of eroding change. So, where is our sense of normalcy, the throughline, the home during the Overwatch offseason?
The offseason giveth and the offseason taketh away, that’s more than true, but what is worrying is the magnitude of the shift. Each new day with a new story is mangled and from its mashed limbs an opportunity, a chance for a new player to rise the ranks, a contender to find their path. As bittersweet as it is, maybe that’s home, a hopeful nod during uncertain times, knowing that the churn of the Overwatch cycle will give a new generation a chance at their dreams. There certainly is some wholesome solace in that, but it’s just another ticket to a similar ride. New players come in, the game demands its tax, it changes what it demands, the players burn out or fall below an acceptable average, and we return empty-handed asking for another.
And it’s no one’s fault, it just is the reality of things, but that doesn’t quench the feelings, it doesn’t mute the memories.
Loveable Benjamin "BigG00se" Isohanni has announced his retirement and his fellow Finnish duo, Jonas "Shaz" Suovaara’s future is unclear—and it’s only Monday. It is only Monday.
Dylan "aKm" Bignet and Benjamin "uNKOE" Chevasson, two legends of the game, depart for greener pastures—it’s only Tuesday.
Esports journeyman, Noh "Gamsu" Young-jin, has retired and is attempting a return to League of Legends—it’s only Wednesday.
And now Kim "Haksal" Hyojong.
The Genji Boy-Wonder, the soul of RunAway, a legend of the game, now has announced his retirement from the Overwatch League.
All seven days of the Overwatch Offseason week seem only to bring more shuffles, more questions, and more ends to beautiful stories. Is it true that tomorrow doesn’t come until it's too late? It certainly feels like it.
Overwatch and its subsequent league feels like a family on the move, being constantly pulled from town to town, state to state, even country to country, and is never given more than four months time to settle its roots and begin to relax before the next major change happens. Rhetorically, then maybe it is really that simple; the “home” in the Overwatch League is it's one constant—change. Perhaps we can find some sense of calm in the gyrating Scrabble Bag we all find ourselves in, and maybe there is a cliche sense of zen to the chaos. Maybe we can string the memories together like a collage and use that as a lens to view the next generation with as to, in some way, always connect with the past. That’s the strange paradox of it all. We all know it will change, and with that comes its own set of pros and cons, but we invest ourselves either way. We know our favourite heroes will fall out of vogue, we know our home teams and players will wax and wane, will come and go, but we truly do not care—we accept it (either by virtue of ignorance or willfully).
We accept it because we care.
However, all is not lost, and the sky isn’t falling. Overwatch, as a game, is a completely unique experience, something that calls back to those who have left. Maybe these aren’t all 'goodbye' so much as they are 'see you later'. There is nothing quite like Overwatch, and once we decided what we want to be, then we’ve got a fantastic spring ahead of us. Is that home? Knowing we do have something truly special?
Ask yourself; why does this offseason sting just a touch more than the last? Our favourite players have either left, or their future is up in the air, Overwatch is still going through growing pains, and the foundation of the league shifts and sways in the wind like a dilapidated old barn. We have nothing to hold on to; we’re stuck looking for our home in the hurricane that is 2020 all the while it feels like the league as a whole is becoming very friendly with the reset buttons on their desktops. In that sense, the community is forced to find their own meaning in what they consume, so they look at the players.
Esports, as a whole, feels incredibly focused on the individual rather than these large branded umbrellas—and neither party is wrong for doing so. However, Overwatch is another beast entirely. From the opening of the gates at OGN’s Overwatch APEX and even going back to early Overwatch Contenders seasons, the community has—by in large—attached itself to the larger than life personalities rather than the identity of a team, and we’re losing those personalities faster and faster, year by year. Perhaps that changes with time, meaning the more time the esports title exists, the more career fans you build-up, and the more staying power your organisation has, as the microscope on the players dials back.
It is in changing that we find purpose.
This isn’t too lambast anyone or anything; again it’s no one person’s fault, this is just an observation of the general feeling of one of the most momentous offseasons, we as a community, have faced. It stings, we don’t know what the future holds, for us, the players, and the league—and that’s a scary thought.
So, where is home? Is Overwatch 2 home? Will our favourite players be there waiting for us? Will our friends sign back on and catch up with us over quick play or the new story mode? Will we get to march back into stadiums and arenas to cheer on the home teams and crown them as champions? As blunt as the answer is; no one knows. What we do know, and can find some peace in is that the league isn’t going anywhere soon, we’re just venturing into the unknown.
Here is to hoping. Here is to 2021.
Images via Blizzard Entertainment