On January 10th, Stage 1 of the Overwatch regular season kicked off. Since the Overwatch League was announced, eSports fans were excited that there was a “major league” for a game. This could potentially lead to the popularity of eSports on a more mainstream level. (Maybe ESPN eSports? I would love not having to fight with streaming the matches on my TV.) There has been a lot of hype surrounding this league, especially since big names like the Kraft family got involved with their own pro team. (Go Uprising!) I will try not to be too crazy about them in these posts, but I am genuinely excited to have my own “home” team especially since it is run by the owners of my favorite sports team.
After spending the weekend watching the matches, there are some very clear points to make. First of all, if the NFL could find more casters like these guys it would be a lot less annoying. (More Romo please.) They are knowledgeable and passionate about the game, but they also seem to get as excited as viewers do watching the matches. I don’t dread the commentary at all, which is something that I think can make or break a sport.
The next point is the players. There are a few that I watch Twitch streams of when I head to bed, such as Jake, Linkzr, XqC, and Agilities that are just great to watch. Pine, though I didn’t see as much of him as I thought I would, utterly destroyed as McCree. I mean, he obliterated on Ilios so much to the point where it was almost unfair to have him in the matchup against my Uprising. Shaz on Zenyatta also seemed unbeatable. These are two players that are really artists. I also really liked DreamKazper’s performance but I was really hoping to see more of Mistakes. So far though, I can say that it is going to be an amazing journey to watch all of these players evolve over the inaugural season.
Then there is approaching this as a player. I find that since watching the matches, my skills as a player have become a lot better. I have yet to snipe a Valk Mercy out of the air while jumping around as Widow, but I did headshot a Widow who was trying to snipe me back. I won that Widow-War. This is a sport that I think anyone can get into and it would be interesting to see how this league grows if its popularity does.
I hope that this League explodes into the mainstream. Esports is still viewed as something “just for the geeks” but this can be just as thrilling as a “real sport”, though I would argue that it is a lot more thrilling that most of the sports people watch on television. I’m looking at you, baseball. If the first weekend of matches are any indication of how this year is going to go, I’m excited to be on this ride.
It is very likely that sometime this year, WoW fans will get to achieve their long-awaited dream: going back to the beginning. For a long while, a lot of fans that got into the game later on wanted to have that Vanilla experience that they missed when they were making fun of their friends for playing the game. There was still plenty of content by then for people to enjoy. I enjoyed my time in MC and Naxx, though the AQs were more difficult to get into as everyone had played them out so much by the time I got into the game. I didn’t get to experience the opening of the Gates, an event that I’m told was equal parts frustrating and exciting. (It was certainly more exciting for those who weren’t booted from the servers so that they could experience the moment.)
Nostalgia really is often times more amazing than the experience itself was. People can get clouded by remembering something was greater than it was. How many times did people lag out because of bugs in the game during important fights? Or remember when you finally killed Rag but you were Alliance and all shaman loot dropped? Sure, your guild bank got enchanting materials but you want something for your time. These bugs did give the game character, but it was more frustrating than it was worth sometimes.
The thing is, while the content was amazing and fresh in Vanilla, that wasn’t what I missed most about it. I liked how hard it was. There were only a few add-ons that you needed, but you could’ve gotten by successfully without them. You just managed to do your job. But there was a unique social aspect to it that really drew people in. You needed to be in a guild to see content. You couldn’t just LFR it like you can now. Sure, I like that I no longer have to dedicate so much of my time for raiding. But I miss the friendships that you could make with people across not just the country, but sometimes the globe. One of our tanks was this hilarious guy from Egypt. There was this shadow priest from Australia. You could connect with people while working together to complete these pixelated goals that meant so much to people.
With the newer expansions, the emphasis grew to making the game better for casuals who didn’t have the time to raid but still wanted that experience. But in the process, the game lost something that made it so special to begin with. You really cannot form these kinds of friendships and bonds with people anymore. I still talk to people, albeit sparingly, that I played with nearly a decade ago. (Probably a decade ago now) We mourned when a friend of ours died. We mourned a person that we had never met in person but yet had such a profound impact on (at least in my case) our lives. The Vanilla server could be a good thing if it was able to bring back that same level of comradery that drew so many people into the game to begin with.