Ask Matthew “Super” DeLisi what his purpose in life is and he’ll respond immediately, with the kind of conviction you might expect from a 19-year-old in the big leagues.
“To win—it’s pretty simple.”
Super’s confidence comes easily, as does the incredible tank play that has him in MVP discussions down the stretch of the 2019 Overwatch League season. Out of the game, his easygoing, fun-loving attitude masks an impressive maturity. It’s a quality he needed to get through the first half of the inaugural season—a period of time he describes as “pretty frustrating,” not being age-eligible to play.
The Shock’s approach to roster-building last year was centered around young talent, with an eye toward being competitive in the long run—but for Super, the wait sometimes took an emotional toll. He tried to watch scrims and give feedback, but it was admittedly difficult at times.
“It was kind of like… I wanted to go out there and do what I could to help them get better, but obviously I couldn’t because I was too young,” Super said, with a tinge of frustration in his voice. “It was really just a game of patience.”
It paid off when Stage 3 finally arrived and Super took the stage for the first time. He remembers the rush of the walkout—"the big tunnels, the lights, the fans and all that”—and the nerves that followed him all the way through the first map. He also remembers collecting himself and helping his team, as he had always hoped, win in his debut.
“Pretty exhilarating,” Super summarized, with a slight grin.
Exhilarating would be a good descriptor for 2019 as well, with the way it’s gone so far for Super and his team. The Shock have made both stage finals so far and are reigning stage champions—in addition to making league history as the first team to complete a golden stage without dropping a single map loss.
A year of hard work has finally come to fruition, and Super couldn’t be happier with the team effort that has produced these results. “A lot of it [should be] credited to our coaching staff and changes we made in the offseason,” he explained. “We started scrimming early in the season compared to a lot of other teams. I think that really gave us an edge because we were so far ahead of other teams. In that aspect, I think it’s fulfilling because the work’s paying off and you’re getting stuff done.”
The Shock have proven to the world that they’re the real deal, despite early criticism from fans and pundits—that they’d never be able to defeat the strongest teams in the league, like New York or Vancouver. That’s why that Stage 2 victory was so important—the Shock beat their demons, and grew stronger for it.
For Super, the motivation stemmed from their Stage 1 Finals loss to Vancouver. “It was the first time I ever played in a seven-game set that went all the way and actually meant as much as it did,” he said. “I was really upset after that loss; I actually cried for a little bit. After we got there and we all felt what it was like to lose… That was probably why we won Stage 2—because we kept remembering what happened last time and we didn’t want it to happen again.”
Stage 3 didn’t produce the same level of dominance for the Shock (or the Titans, for that matter), but it’s obvious that there’s still something special about the team. When asked about what drives his team and how the personalities operate, Super offered a simple statement:
“I’ll be honest, we’re kind of all just stupid.”
Let him explain.
“I say a lot of stupid [stuff] and do a lot of stupid [stuff],” Super said, without the slightest bit of hesitation. “Sinatraa is kind of the same way, but slightly different, I guess? How do I explain the different levels of stupidity? I don’t know if I can do that. It’s a different kind of stupidity.”
Maybe stupidity isn’t the right word—what Super’s describing really falls under the category of “silly.” The Shock take things seriously, but they don’t seem as emotionally bogged down by that raw desire to win as other teams might be. When things go wrong, Super explained, his teammates “can take things easy” and move on quickly. Winning is important, but Super likes having fun along the way, and he and his teammates seem to be a match made in heaven: a big, goofy gamer family.
Having fun and competing is all a dream come true for Super, who only a couple years ago was playing Overwatch in the dead of night, making noise and bothering his parents. The only difference between Super and any other high-schooler was the level of competition.
“I played in my room and would stay up pretty late some nights,” he said. “My parents would get mad at me and tell me to turn off my computer, saying that I’m being too loud and all that stuff. I didn’t really care too much, to be honest, I just did it anyway. I didn’t really tell them what I was doing, either—they just thought I was messing around playing games.”
Now, his parents understand that it’s more than just games, and routinely tune in on Twitch from Philadelphia for their son’s matches. And while Super has been able to count on his parents’ support ever since he got his first esports contract, he’s still surprised by the endless outpouring of fan support, both online and in person. Despite being one of the Overwatch League’s brightest stars, it seems as though he’s still digesting just how far he’s come in the career.
“I don’t even know if I can still believe it,” he said. “It’s kind of crazy that people like to watch me play games and support me whether I win or lose. They even watch me stream and stuff like that. I’m just really grateful because I never thought that people would be fans of me, you know?”
This is just another facet of Super’s dream come true—a life that still doesn’t feel quite real yet. As silly as he can be, though, he’s mature beyond his 19 years in his appreciation of everything about this game, his career as a pro gamer, and all the challenges and fun (and stupidity) that come along with it.
It has been, in his words, a blessing.
“I would have never thought that I could do something like this, especially since I didn’t know what I wanted to do after high school,” he explained. “I didn’t know what major I wanted to do or what college I wanted to go to, or anything like that. And here I am.”
Here he is. And his purpose? It’s simple: to win.