Three players stand out as they look to author their own 2021 story.
The incoming increase in competition and disorder set to land with the 2021 Overwatch League season have been explored exhaustively. However, as the game continues to grow its history, more and more scrutiny is being placed on the players, and when you take the context of the era they compete in, that should only saturate that proverbial rain cloud. It is there, in those dense drops of unadulterated storytelling that the Overwatch League shines. Scrutiny is a messy word and carries with it dashes of negative connotation, but at its core, it asks us for our passion. It asks us to actively look and inform rather than simply observe.
While we’ve spoken at length about how much disorder will plague the Overwatch League in 2021, a litany of narratives looms over some of the league’s most promising players. Three out of the pack stand out as particularly scrutinised when paired with their individual storylines and the context that brings. In one corner, you have a toothless GOAT looking for his era at the summit after such a promising career. In the other, you have a polarising player who aims to un-fuse the narrative around him, his past, and cement himself as a great player. And finally, there is the standout 2020 rookie who looks to fill a pair of shoes on the greatest team Overwatch has ever seen.
In Pursuit Of Greatness
Star players in the Overwatch League are a rare few. Someone who can truly take over a game as dynamic and chaotic as Overwatch takes skills that only a select set of individuals have, however, Lee "Carpe" Jae-hyeok has proven time and time again that he is a member of that elite few. Known for his decision making in the clutch, Carpe is a championship calibre player and has been for years, but just hasn’t found his capstone.
He is a candidate for one of the greatest players of all time but has nothing to show for it. A goat with no teeth.
In 2018, he and the Philadelphia Fusion came just shy of winning the inaugural Overwatch League title; however, the London Spitfire simply could not be stopped. Repeating the same bittersweet feeling this year, the Fusion were destined to do so well but fell just short once again in the playoffs. They did the work, they were competitive with all of the top teams in their region, but the Fusion fell fatigued right as it mattered most.
Carpe returns for this 2021 crucible with one goal, one item on his 2021 docket; to win. To make up for the lost time on the Fusion, to do what has eluded him so often in the past, Carpe has been patiently waiting for the gatekeepers to greatness to allow him in—this time, Carpe comes to take what is his. He tasted what it was like during the 2018 Overwatch World Cup, now Carpe returns home to South Korea alongside the Fusion. He returns to the place where his dreams of esports mastery began and where his 2020 playoff dreams ended.
Out Of The Shadows
It’s easy to forget that Kim "SADO" Su-min debuted in the Overwatch League as one of its earliest polarising figures. Suspended for the preseason and the first thirty games of the 2018 regular season for “account-boosting”, SADO only watched as the Philadelphia Fusion made their valiant season one attempt. While he was an important member of their final 2018 stretch, you can’t help but wonder what the team would have looked like with those thirty games to build familiarity, trust, and general synergy with his teammates.
2019 saw the Fusion quiet in the offseason which sparked warranted concerns. Ending their season tenth overall, the Fusion failed to capture the same success they had the year prior—and SADO was the fall guy in the community’s eyes. For two seasons, the Philadelphia Fusion trusted in SADO to bring them success, and each time, in their summation, he was the obvious fault line. This year SADO was supposed to be redeemed. He and the team were a dominant force through the regular season, and while they didn’t have the playoff run they wanted, and with multiple attempts to capture a monthly tournament title ending with no luck—finishing as the first seed in North America should be an achievement in and of itself. That should be enough to put the narrative around SADO to rest. This should be the smoking gun to prove he belongs on the biggest stage in Overwatch. And yet, some still disagree.
Weaponising recency bias in a new way, the narrative around him now is that SADO needed the help that the 2020 Fusion roster brought him and still was milquetoast at best. Now he stands with the incredibly promising 2021 Toronto Defiant. Both entities aim to prove themselves, but SADO has additional goals in mind. He aims to shed the mantle of the past, step out of the shadows, and reinvent himself in Toronto.
Rookie talent in any medium carries with them a particular level of scrutiny. Warranted or not, it’s difficult to ignore, however, Brice "FDGod" Monsçavoir has widened the eyes of his doubters. The Paris Eternal were supposed to trudge through the frigid winter of the 2020 season. That expectation was denied at every turn. A team that didn’t make sense on paper, turned out to be one of the league’s best—with much of that credit deservedly going towards FDGoD. Now for his sophomore season, France’s “jeune prodige” has been tasked to fill some of the biggest shoes the Overwatch League has ever seen.
The defending Overwatch League champions, the San Francisco Shock, saw a surprising departure this offseason. Support all-star Grant "moth" Espe was a fixture of the Shock support line that will undoubtedly go down as one of the greats. Integral in both their 2019 and 2020 victories, moth not only was a brilliant strategist in his own right, but he was an arm for the coaching staff within the roster itself. However, for the 2021 season, he’s taken his talents to Los Angeles to aid the Gladiators in pursuit of the title he just helped to defend not a year ago.
The Overwatch League, the Shock, and fans all across the world now look towards FDGoD as the Shock’s new torchbearer. Collectively they deny him slow and calculated steps and ask for a long, runner’s stride as he enters his second year in the league. Replacing a champion is never as simple as it seems. Dodging shadows and unfair comparisons are one thing, but for such a young player—both in terms of career and in age—to be tasked to do so is respectable, to say the least. Unsatisfied with the footholds left by his predecessor, FDGod aims to forge his own path alongside the San Francisco Shock in hopes of capturing another title for their coffers.
These players are scrutinised because we see something in them. Their stories captivate us. Some element of their persona or their play is what compels us to become their most harsh critic in one moment, and their most stalwart supporter in the next. It is that energy that will drive anything forward, and it is that passion that Overwatch is lacking these days.
So, be like Einstein. Claim no special talents and passionately chase all the questions that keep you up at night. Scrutinise the things that catch your eye, critique them with reason, and let yourself become invested.
Become acquainted with Overwatch League’s house of three, and find yourself enthralled with the storylines of the field.
Images via Blizzard Entertainment