This past weekend, during one of the Overwatch League All-Star games, NYXL DPS Jong-ryeol “Saebyeolbe” Park — a master of split-second timing and precision — rolled right off a ledge into the infernal fires beneath King’s Row. When asked what happened, he quipped, “That’s my plan. It’s fan service.”
The whole weekend felt like fan service, a victory lap after a season of improbable highs (the whole thing coming together at all, for one) and sobering lows (player controversies and rampant burnout).
The two competing teams, Atlantic and Pacific, were made up of top players from across every Overwatch League team, half of whom were selected by fan votes. In addition to a standard Overwatch match on Sunday, the teams also competed in wackier circumstances, like the Mystery Heroes mode, a 1v1 Widowmaker tournament, and the Rocket-League-esque side mode Lucioball. The Atlantic team won the main match, but the stakes were pretty low; there was no Overwatch League trophy or prize money to win, and everybody joked around most of the time.
The lighthearted setting of the All-Stars event allowed for memorable moments that would be uncommon to see in an actual Overwatch League match. Witness, for example, the first ever Torbjorn hammer kill in OWL history, as carried out by an Ana-boosted Jun-ho “Fury” Kim who just had to sate his berserker rage:
There were plenty of ridiculous team compositions, and some of them actually worked, even when they shouldn’t have. But then, who really needs tanks or healers when you’ve got the DPS monster squad of Profit, Striker, Saebyeolbe, Pine, Libero and Carpe? The Atlantic team’s all-DPS composition was able to capture Horizon Lunar Colony’s second point with ease:
The Widowmaker tournament was also a treat; it was full of wildly tense moments, slapstick shenanigans, and come-from-behind victories. Most fans expected a sniper specialist like Pine, Carpe, or Sayaplayer to take it, but in the end, it was chillest dude in the whole of OWL: Lane “Surefour” Roberts. He took home the gold even after hurling himself off a cliff in one game:
Dallas Fuel player Pongphop “Mickie” Rattanasangchod won the league’s first ever Dennis Hawelka Award for positive impact and sportsmanship, a well-deserved honour since Mickie is a human sunbeam of positivity. When accepting the award, he described Hawelka—a beloved coach who sadly passed away last year—as “the reason why I’m here.”
Some of the fan service at All-Stars wasn’t for everybody. Players definitely seemed to be let loose after a stressful-as-hell first season, which meant they got a little too loosey goosey with teabagging. Here, for instance, is the entire Atlantic team teabagging Pacific team player Scott “Custa” Kennedy:
Teabag parties happened a few times over the weekend. Also, the entire Pacific team did a tribute to the finger-gun salute popularised by Félix “xQc” Lengyel, the former Dallas Fuel player who got let go after a series of player conduct violations including saying gay player Austin “Muma” Wilmot would enjoy sucking a “fat cock,” calling a caster “cancer,” and spamming an emote that people sometimes use to be racist while a black host was on screen.
Despite Overwatch’s themes of inclusiveness, the league itself still has a strong undercurrent of young male edgelord humour.
It was also hard to watch the players and staffers goof around on stage without thinking about the broader context of Overwatch League season one. Many players got run through the ringer of gruelling practice and play schedules.
After the first six months of the league, multiple players and coaches had talked about burnout, stress and poor physical health; some have taken indefinite hiatuses. It was nice to see everybody acting so loose and happy this past weekend in part because we just spent half a year watching several of them struggle with the pressure and toil.
And so, with season two on the way—and a city-based, travel-heavy league structure coming at some undetermined point in the future — how will Blizzard course correct? During this All-Stars event, the players and staffers seemed to put those worries about the future aside and just take a break. They deserve it.