Calling all Heroes! It’s that time again – the payload is moving, the objective is active, and the fans have gathered once again for an intense stage of the Overwatch League! At the end of Stage 2, both the Blizzard arena and Twitch exploded with excitement as New York Excelsior took their victory in the playoffs against the Philadelphia Fusion. Now, we enter Stage 3 with a bubbling mixture of anticipation and enthusiasm to see which team will make it to the top of the current leaderboard. Anything is possible in the world of Overwatch, and as the first week of games have come to a close, I can truly say that it’s going to be a fierce battle to the top in this stage moving forward.
For those of you who may have missed the exciting memo, I recently had the opportunity to attend the final day of matches for Week 1. Having been once before already, I was eagerly anticipating the rush of energy that awaits behind those closed arena doors. Sure enough, come an hour before the first game, fans immediately rush to their seats, the merch area turns into a cluster of thrilled sardines, and you truly become immersed in an experience unlike any other. To anyone who has yet to attend any of the Overwatch League games, all I can say is that you surely have to see it to believe it. Online streams cannot compare to the intense feeling of actually sitting in the crowds, cheering on your favorite teams and epic plays. I think it’s safe to say that I’ll be marking my calendars for the next trip to Blizzard arena!
Now, what I did get to experience while I was there was a trifecta of unbelievably intense games. Out of the lineup, we first saw Philadephia Fusion walk away with a 3-1 win against Florida Mayhem. Following that, the second matchup of the night ended with Boston Uprising taking the 4-0 win over the Houston Outlaws. Finally, the night ended with the much anticipated New York Excelsior vs London Spitfire match, where NYXL claimed their 4-0 victory. After the matches, I got to sit down with one of our favorite players from the Houston Outlaws, Rawkus, who was recently seen with his teammate Jake in New York on the Today Show. Oh, and did I mention the team’s general manager, Flame, joined our little interview as well? Fair warning, the following interview was conducted while sitting beside a giant avocado. #Guawkus.
Emily: So, Rawkus, you obviously love avocados. But, for those who don’t know, what are your key necessities in life?
Rawkus: I love… guac.
[round of laughter]
Rawkus: I like guac, a lot. I love boba, every day. Also, chicken and rice from Peri Peri – it’s a Portuguese chicken place. I usually order Peri Peri, then walk over to get boba.
Emily: Follow up to that, what do you think is the kind of lifestyle a gamer should live to be successful… besides, eat lots of guac?
Rawkus: I think the most important thing is managing your sleep schedule. Some people on our team actually struggle from that, even me. So, managing sleep schedule, drinking lots of water, and not overdoing it on caffeine during practice. That’s pretty much it!
Emily: So, most people already know about the exciting news that you and Jake were on the Today Show with Megan Kelly, but how did the overall experience go in New York?
Rawkus: It was good! So, I lived there for about 6-7 years. It was cool that I got to bring Jake there. I guess he was in New York when he was 5 years old, but he’s never had New York pizza or a New York bagel and he had to get used to the subway. He kinda seemed shocked – all the buildings are so high for him. So, it was kind of surreal for him. It was good. Plus, being on the Today Show… me and Jake have never really been nervous doing interviews, but we were both super nervous up until we actually sat down. But, once we sat down it was very simple because you’re just talking to a person looking into a camera, and you sort of just ignore everything in the back.
Emily: You and Jake are obviously good friends, and it seems like your team is very close in general. Is this quality something you think makes up a solid team foundation in the Overwatch League, or are there other important qualities?
Rawkus: I guess you can be a team without being friends, but we feel like a family. We constantly look out for each other and that actually helps us out so much. Like today, for example, with our 4-0 loss and everyone is feeling bad, we’ll review it and try to pick each other back up without pointing blame at anyone specifically. If one person does feel like they played particularly bad, we as a team will go back and encourage him.
Flame: I think the counter to that, with a team that isn’t made up of friends, one bad thing that happens can spiral. Without the family feeling, every little problem becomes ten times harder to solve.
Rawkus: Yeah, like in reviews you would basically be forcing those players into the same room and they wouldn’t agree on the same thing at all. Then, when you don’t agree and can’t be friendly about it, it becomes toxic. That’s no way to be a team at all.
Emily: Overwatch has obviously had a huge impact on your life. But, besides Overwatch, what have been some of your other favorite games to play?
Rawkus: I grew up on World of Warcraft, Halo 2, Battlefield 2… those are like my favorite games. My favorite of those is probably Halo 2, actually. I loved Halo 2 online, it was my first real online game. After that is World of Warcraft… [mumbles] which I have four and a half years of play time on… [end mumble]
Emily: So, basically, you are like that episode of South Park.
Rawkus: Basically! But I didn’t look like that guy!
[cue more laughter, followed by some funny sass from Flame]
Emily: Getting back on track a bit – with how your team works together now, what do you think needs to be done going into Stage 3 in order to become stronger and claim more victories?
Rawkus: Well, I feel like there are certain teams that know how we play, and there are other teams that cannot seem to figure out how we play. It doesn’t really matter how we prepare – we were super under-prepared for London but also super under-prepared for Boston – we just need to practice more efficiently, which is kind of a given. Every player needs to take initiative in the review, and we have to start preparing for the team we’re playing next, instead of focusing on beating the team we’re practicing against at the time.
Flame: I feel like there’s also a blindness factor that comes into it in Overwatch, especially when it comes to the first match – you don’t know what they’re going to do and they don’t know what you’re going to do.
Rawkus: That’s actually true, so they may prepare for something different.
Flame: Yeah, and for us, we played two maps we played earlier – Anubis and Nepal – while Boston played no maps. So we didn’t really have any information to see what they might do. It kinda changes the dynamics when teams prepare for what other teams might do, versus not.
Emily: Makes sense! There is obviously a lot that goes into winning more matches. To wrap up this whole discussion, what do you think is the best thing about being a pro player in the Overwatch League?
Rawkus: I think the best thing about the Overwatch League is that they give us little to no distractions outside of playing the game. We have nothing to really worry about at all – food is provided, housing is provided, salary is guaranteed, and we always have a place to play. Pretty much everything we need to perform in-game is provided for us, so that’s definitely helpful.
Sounds like Blizzard has nailed the business of eSports! Big shoutout to Rawkus and Flame for being a part of this interview and giving us all a little peak inside their world in the Overwatch League. To anyone who wants to watch the epic matches that await us for Stage 3, it’s not too late to grab your tickets and support your favorite teams! I definitely know I will be heading back soon, so maybe I’ll see you there!