I can see the impact Overwatch and the Overwatch League has had on my life now.
Looking back on my life just a few years ago, I realize I lived in a bubble when I was in Texas, surrounded by other Asian-Americans just like me.
Overwatch really opened my eyes to the world.
Before Overwatch was released, I was playing a lot of Team Fortress 2 and I mean, a lot of TF2. I probably clocked in over 6000 hours.
When I first saw that Overwatch was coming out, honestly, I was quite cynical about it. It looked a lot like it would just be Team Fortress 2, but then after playing Overwatch for just an hour, I was hooked.
Overwatch is just such a well-polished game: smooth aiming, fluid play and the abilities are an amazing addition; it creates a whole other level of strategy that can completely change how a fight ends. That added layer of complexity and strategy was a key factor in my enjoyment of Overwatch.
When the opportunity came to go pro, I took it.
It was a once in a lifetime opportunity and I wasn’t going to let it pass me by. If I didn’t take the chance now, it was never going to happen for me. Ever.
Competing against others, the thrill of those particularly close matches, the teamwork… I wanted to be a part of that. It also helped that I wasn’t exactly thrilled about my major in school at the time.
I lost that passion midway through Season 1.
Losing that joy… it made me realize that sometimes Overwatch just isn’t fun to play.
It was somewhere between Stage 3 and 4 where I just couldn’t find any enjoyment in playing ranked games anymore. I knew I had to do it, but the only motivation to do it was only so I could play on stage.
Forcing myself to grind throughout the offseason before Season 2 only cemented how hard it would be for me to keep competing in Overwatch.
When I signed with the Chengdu Hunters for Season 2, I didn’t expect the cultural or language issues to be as big a problem as they turned out to be.
I lost the healthy balance that I needed in order to play and perform at my best. Simple things like being able to talk to my teammates outside of practice were hard for me to do; I’m fluent enough to speak conversational Mandarin, but I didn’t know enough to really connect with them.
Even surrounded by my new teammates… I felt alone.
Of course, my Chengdu teammates aren’t to blame for that, my teammates on Chengdu were all amazing.
I’d had trouble adapting to the schedule expected of pro players in Season 1, too.
The one thing you have to be able to deal with is that, no matter how you’re feeling on any given day, you have to be there and grind it out. That’s just what it means to be an Overwatch professional.
Living in a team house can be difficult to adjust to. At first, it’s fun – you’re around other people who share a passion with you, unabashedly so. Privacy was an issue for me, though, things like sharing a bathroom can be difficult to get used to if you’ve never had to before.
I had difficulties interacting with my teammates when I initially moved into the LA Gladiators team house, but the Gladiators welcomed me with open arms. Some nights, Surefour would come into my room just to sit down and have a conversation with me. He was beyond kind.
Despite those struggles: privacy issues, the gruelling schedule, culture clashes, personal enjoyment and loneliness, there are moments from my Overwatch career that will stick with me forever.
Stepping onto the stage at the Blizzard Arena for the first time during the pre-season matches is one of those moments.
Being from Texas, it was way too cold for me on stage, add onto that I was now playing in front of a huge crowd… it was intense. I remember drinking all of the water they had given us in an attempt to stop myself from puking because of how nervous I was.
It’s truly a surreal experience playing at the Blizzard Arena.
When you go from the backstage area and into the walkout, you see all the fans there cheering for you. That moment – being there for the first time – really hit me. That’s when I realized just what I was doing, that I was doing something truly special.
Then there are those indescribable feelings when you win and lose. The victories get you so high and the losses hit just that much harder. There’s not really an area in between, at least for me.
Sheer euphoria in winning… or seeing the faces of the disappointed fans that are twenty feet from you after you lose the match – nothing can really prepare you for that.
Of all the things I experienced in my year in the Overwatch League, I miss the people I met and the friends I made the most. It’s just so easy to connect with the other players because you share such a strong and passionate interest. Being able to meet and talk with them every day was a fun experience.
After watching some of the Season 2 matches I’m confident that I made the right decision, though.
I just don’t have that passion for Overwatch anymore. Sure, I can pick Overwatch up and play a few matches, but over an extended period of time, it just isn’t going to happen again.
I’m moving on to Apex Legends now. I really wasn’t planning on continuing my journey in esports initially, but Apex Legends just reignited that flame inside me, the same flame that Overwatch had ignited a few years ago.
I’ll forever be grateful for the opportunity that Blizzard, the LA Valiant, the LA Gladiators, and the Chengdu Hunters gave me. It was my life for a few years, and it has, without a doubt, been the biggest experience of my life so far.
I have no regrets of ever joining the Overwatch League. Not a single one.
Jeff Yabumoto assisted with the creation of this article.
Image Credit: Robert Paul for Blizzard Entertainment & silkthread