Despite the piss-poor weather in Britain and the constant drizzle of rain, my spirits, unlike my clothes, were not dampened. After everyone went mad the week before over the Overwatch League I was excited to get my first experience. And what better way is there to truly enjoy a sport than in a pub as part of a lively and drunk audience?
Drink in hand, a seat secured and even though a guy who looked about as sober as Gideon Osborne at one of his many part-time jobs (when he’s sitting in Parliament, for example) had just mistaken me for another writer, I was still very much up for a night of professional Overwatch.
Now, I’m no stranger to esports. I’ve been watching Dota 2 regularly for around 5 years, I shout at Rocket League just as much as the next person, my calendar is marked for Evo and I’ve become invested in more than a few CS:GO matches — in fact, my work has been put on the backburner more times than I’d ever care to admit because of a pro match. So the fact that I could barely follow a round of the Overwatch League surprised me.
Much like the typically shit London weather and the jackass who introduced me as someone else, this did not take away from my evening. I was still having a great time. I yelled and cheered with everyone else, admittedly with a slight delay, and when it came to the tiebreaker round I was feeling the pressure with everyone else.
As soon as the first round started I cared about the London Spitfires. Not just because their entire strategy was the literal embodiment of pay-to-win, a strategy that I felt meant we deserved to be victorious, but because they were my representatives. In much the same way nobody gives two shits about diving, the hammer throw, fencing (their loss on that one), or nearly any other athletic event, people still watch the Olympics en masse. The same holds true for the Football World Cup.
Professional diving is not something I would ever normally watch in my free time and yet every few years I join the rest of the country and cheer on Tom Daley. Who he is or where he comes from is irrelevant, all I know is that he’s representing my team and that’s enough to get everyone involved.
Again, this is old news to anyone who enjoys a sport outside of video games. It's particularly telling how a large portion of that audience considers the recent commotion over how "members of the London Spitfire are not actually from London" ridiculous, because does anyone really care? Just look at the Football Premier League and all those traditional British names in the top team; the reason the top teams are at the top is as a result of them being able to afford the worlds' best, not just the best from their local pub in Salford.
I know enough about Dota 2, the teams and the players to write about it with confidence and I enjoy watching it, but I’ve never had any real investment in a team. I have no real representation and any team I do pick to back will be based on nothing other than their seasonal lineup, something that changes regularly. I could pick a personality, I suppose, but that is a whole other can of worms.
I know even less about Overwatch, I can barely recall any of the player’s names, so I’m in an even weaker position to pick a horse. However, by following the lead of other sports and affiliating teams with cities or countries, even the most casual viewer can get invested. It makes watching the sport accessible and gives people an "in." Team representation is a no-brainer and a lead I’m sure everyone else is going to try to follow. But above else, if the London Spitfire team drops the ball, I’m going to be fuming.
Image Credit: Robert Paul / Blizzard