A Lion’s Pride

Representing the United Kingdom during the 2018 Overwatch World Cup was one of the most powerful moments in my career.

It’s fair to say that I’ve always been surrounded by games. My first FPS title was Half-life which my uncle bought me for my birthday. The first thing my dad did was install Counter-Strike as a mod.

From that point onwards, nothing would come close to the feeling I got playing fast-paced shooters against other people.

I was super competitive as a child and I’m 100% certain I got it from my father; he’s the same. He would never let me win regardless of whether it was a mellow family bicycle ride that turned into a race or even football in the garden. I’m sure that those “losses” only made me more competitive.

Wales is where I call home. I wouldn’t say professional esports is that prominent there, but I don’t think it’s looked down upon either, or that Wales is that far behind in terms of gaming.

It’s just that with a population of three million, and with a fair few of those people residing in rural areas with bad internet, you’re not going to see a whole bunch of successful esports players coming out of my country.

It makes me very proud to represent the United Kingdom and, while this was my second appearance with Team UK, things were very different this year.

Many of the same players returned this year to compete with Team UK, but things were so different this World Cup compared to last year.

Between the two tournaments, Kruise decided to transition back to main support. He is a very strong shot caller and resource tracker with great mechanics so main support is probably the best possible role he could play.

In my opinion, he is the best British main support and at least in the top five from Europe. This change in itself was a substantial upgrade from last year, but when coupled with Kyb on flex DPS who has been grinding continuously to expand his hero pool and game sense, we entered the World Cup with a highly competitive roster.

I felt like I needed to play well personally after a rough season with the British Hurricane, but it was agreed within the team that the maps would be split 50:50 between myself and KSP, as they felt his hero pool, predominantly his Widowmaker, was better suited to the Assault and Escort maps.

I was happy to split game time with KSP, as he clearly deserves it, but the selfish part of me wanted as much exposure as possible and a chance to prove myself. I was more focused on that throughout the Paris Qualifiers, focused on my own performance and just trying to play well every match.

Despite qualifying for Blizzcon, after the Paris qualifier, I was told I was going to be released from the British Hurricane.

I hadn’t given it much thought during the qualifiers, but at that moment, I started thinking that BlizzCon was my last hope of getting into the Overwatch League.

I became quite stressed and anxious. It was affecting my performance and led to me feeling depressed. I had some talks with our coach, Hayes, and I came to the conclusion that I was way too worried about these things. I had slumped into a negative mindset after getting relegated with Hurricane.

I think it was a big reason why I was able to play “better” at BlizzCon. It speaks a lot for how coaches can help their players not just in terms of game theory, but as a mentor for their mentality and confidence, and Hayes is a great example of such a coach and I couldn’t thank him enough for helping me.

There was a pressure to perform Blizzcon and to do that, I needed to let go of those doubts.

We were the underdogs heading into our match against Team USA and to be honest, I didn’t care if we beat Team USA or not. I realised all I should do is just play the game and whatever happens, happens.

The game was close, King’s Row was messy, but we knew we had them on Route 66. I started getting ahead of myself and thinking how close victory was and how sweet it would be.

I was super confident we were going to hold them on the second point but we somehow lost the last fight and I had to quickly get myself back into the game. Seeing how many combos we got off against them, stun after stun let me know we had that series in the bag.

Our victory over Team USA was really was one of the best achievements in Overwatch last year and one of my happiest moments personally.

At the time, I couldn’t really believe it had happened. Not only had we beaten Team USA, 3-1, but we did so in such a convincing fashion. I just enjoyed the moment. I remember celebrating on stage with the team and then having to pose for photos.

It was all just overwhelming.

We knew we were capable of beating Team USA, but I’ll be honest, we hadn’t prepared for our potential matchup against South Korea in the semifinals at all.

We didn’t have much time to prepare anything in the time between matches, but we knew and saw that they played similar compositions to Team USA and that we’d be best off just sticking to what we had been practicing and trying to adapt it to South Korea.

We didn’t overthink anything, we were already happy with our win over Team USA and we knew that we’d be the underdogs once more.

I didn’t really know what to expect, as I’d never practiced against a full South Korean lineup or a lineup of that caliber. I went into the game with the same mindset I had in the USA match; not being worried or overthinking anything.

But coming away from that match I remember thinking it wasn’t actually as hard as I thought it would be. They were obviously very good and played well, and obviously, we lost, but I guess I just felt like it would be a whole other level of competition and I don’t really feel like it was.

On a personal level, I was happy again. I didn’t always have the performances I wanted, especially not on Widowmaker at the start, but playing against Carpe, Libero and Fleta I can’t really expect much else. It was a bit crazy to have two draws back to back, it was funny – on stage, we all started joking whether the match would never end.

And, in a way, it hasn’t.

There are times where all the matches from the Overwatch World Cup replay in my mind’s eye; memories that I’ll use to motivate myself for the rest of my career.

I’ll always remember that victory against Team USA and that we had Team South Korea against the ropes.

I’m so incredibly proud of our team and our performance. I can’t wait for next year.

Image Credit: Robert Paul for Blizzard Entertainment

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