Three dozen of the world’s best Overwatch players and a couple of esteemed coaches gathered at Blizzard Arena this past weekend and combined their powers to unleash something every top-tier professional team could only previously dream about:
Nano-Boosted Molten Core Torbjörn.
Look at the little guy go. Hammond, the other “little guy” in the game, got a lot of love and screen time, too, as did underappreciated ladder stalwarts Symmetra, Bastion, and Mei. They were freed from their hero-selection screen prisons thanks to Sunday’s All-Star Game, a five-map set that served up moments of brilliance, comedy, chaos, and unencumbered fun.
Totally intentional pic.twitter.com/dtbBYgJrfd— NYXL (@NYXL) August 26, 2018
The Atlantic Division dominated the Pacific Division with a 4-1 win, dropping only King’s Row to start the match, but that hardly mattered. By the end of the afternoon, many of the red and blue jerseys had exchanged sides, anyway, as sportsmanship blurred the lines between competitor and colleague, rival and friend.
At the end of the day, we're here because we love video games. @sleepy & @Shock_Architect exchange jerseys with @Furyy_d & #ryujehong to celebrate the end of a successful All-Star weekend. GGWP and congrats to all our friends in the Altlantic Division! #overwatchfamily pic.twitter.com/IqOYjoGECQ— San Francisco Shock(@SFShock) August 26, 2018
Jong-Ryeol “Saebyeolbe” Park wandered into the post-match press conference wearing Chan-Hyung “Fissure” Baek’s jersey—a lone red shirt floating in an otherwise blue sea. Twenty minutes later, Fissure walked into the same room wearing Saebyeolbe’s Atlantic jersey.
Jae-Hui “Gesture” Hong, representing London for the Atlantic Division, summed it up nicely: “When we practice during the season, we’re in a very serious environment. Coming here, being able to be lighthearted and play with our friends and meet people, it was very fun.” Fun, for Gesture, meant a breakthrough Widowmaker performance on Ilios. Who said main tanks can’t aim?
He wasn’t the only one, either. Throughout the five maps, team compositions looked more like what one might expect to see in Quick Play, only at the highest possible skill level. Se-Yeon “Geguri” Kim began the day on her standard D.Va and ended it on Reaper. Austin “Muma” Wilmot tried to make a case for a Symmetra meta. Even planned role flexes didn’t quite work out, but that was fine too.
Players and casters brought the fun factor—and some intensity—to the custom games events kicking off All-Star Weekend.
“Actually, I planned on showing off my sub-healing abilities, but I ended up playing main tank, so that was kind of difficult,” Byung-Sun “Fleta” Kim said.
Less Quick Play and more Mystery Heroes, then. But as Do-Hyeon “Pine” Kim pointed out—“Mystery Heroes is just a lot more fun, isn’t it?”
“The coach wanted to have a couple of semi-serious games, but as you saw, it kind of devolved towards the end, which was a lot of fun to watch,” Scott “Custa” Kennedy admitted. He was one of six Los Angeles Valiant players who made the Pacific All-Star roster, along with head coach Byung-Chul Moon, and their six-stack on new escort map Rialto was one of those initial genuine efforts. But even when the players were being serious, fans were still treated to some stellar gameplay, as seen in this massive ultimate combination:
Even when the plays weren’t fantastic, they were still fantastically entertaining, like the various Nano-Blades coming up empty in the hands of ninja newbies.
Mickie, a beacon of positivity throughout the Overwatch community, receives the inaugural Dennis Hawelka Award.
“I really wanted to show off my Genji,” Chan-Hyung “Fissure” Baek (occupation: main tank) lamented. “But on Ilios, when I got that Nano-Blade, Mei blocked me, so it was kind of sad.” He brightened up when recalling his Lúcioball performance, though, joking that he felt like he “became Cristiano Ronaldo” with his goal-scoring prowess.
All-Star events, generally speaking, are meant to return a sport to its purest form, to allow its practitioners to enjoy the act of simply playing without the stress of serious competition. The Overwatch League accomplished that mission over the last two days, as the players gripped their mice a little looser, carried themselves a little less seriously, and treated the game as just that: a game.