I thought I was Overwatch-ing Sports on TV

I’ve never really been one for watching sports. Sure, I’ll keep up with the big-deal games and news, but more as a desire to participate in society than from actual interest. I’ve got nothing against sports or people who enjoy watching them, I just only really enjoy them as a way to interact with people. Watching the game with some friends is fun, but mostly because I’m with my friends. This has held true during the rise of e-sports, which have captured the attention of many of my friends who generally shared my apathy toward professional sports. Only this year has that changed. With the advent of the Overwatch League, I’ve finally started taking an interest in a professional sport.

Which it totally is at this point. There’s a league, a code of conduct, privately owned teams, merchandise, specialty merchandise, and publicly broadcast matches you can watch. Heck, you can ever get into twitter arguments about whether or not you think a team should have won. Thankfully, there are fewer moments where a loss can be blamed on a referee since software is the final arbiter of truth and anything you disagree with is a result of the tiny bit of lag between the server and your computer/display. The players make a bunch of money and the popular ones make even more, there are licensing deals in the works, and we’ve already had a few scandals that temporarily disqualified people. Finally, the most important part of determining whether or not something is a sport, ridiculously young people have already aged out of the professional scene. For e-sports, that seems to be somewhere in the early to mid twenties.

Every time I go to watch an Overwatch League match on Twitch, I remark to my roommate (who watches them all with me) that the players are all babies. I mean, sure, they’re required to be at least 18, but that’s still practically baby age. I recognize that I’m getting older and I don’t have to go back that far in my Facebook photos to find pictures of me looking like a baby, but it still feels ridiculous to see how young they all look as they sit on top of the world. Well, as they sit on top of this particular portion of the world. I feel kind of bad for them, honestly. They spend their teenage years getting good enough to qualify, lose their early adult years to professional gaming, and then age out by the time most people are graduating from college. That’s gotta be rough, you know? I don’t envy them their positions or problems. I doubt I’d do that even for the amount of money they’re making from streaming and merchandise. I want to enjoy my gaming.

Honestly, though, even for a first-year sports league, Overwatch is a lot of fun to watch. I’m a good enough player to recognize the flow of the game, key tipping points, and what a player did that resulted in their death or a big kill-streak. It is a lot of fun to sit on my couch with my roommate and discuss the matches as they’re going. I’ll admit I still maintain a certain degree of apathy, but I prefer to watch and dissect when I can. My roommate watches all of the old matches on YouTube once they’re over, if he misses a broadcast, but I’m content to just look for highlights and cool plays. I don’t have a favorite team yet, since I don’t really follow any of the streamers, but it has been really cool to see how much some of the strong solo-players have shined. I prefer my tanks, and really enjoy seeing a good tank play, but those are relatively rare given the current accepted strategy for the professional scene. I’ve still gotten to watch a few nice tank plays, though.

The popularity of the Overwatch League has brought a lot of players back to the game and I’ve enjoyed the wider variety of players. I’ve also enjoyed that pretty much everyone is trying to emulate the professional team compositions and play styles, because it makes it easy for me to work around them or take them down. Professional-style play only really works if you’ve got the skills to back it up. One person who knows what they’re doing can easily disrupt an entire group of people who are trying to emulate something they saw on Twitch and don’t have the skills to do. I was able to place in the top 45% of players, world-wide, for the current competitive season by almost solely playing to counter professional team compositions. Backup from a group of competent players who knew what I was doing was integral, of course, since it was up to them to actually do something with a disrupted and disorganized team.

I think I enjoy the professional e-sports league so much because I enjoy playing Overwatch. I don’t really enjoy playing most sports and most other games in e-sports, so I’ve never really had the chance to see something I’m good at and enjoy on my TV like this. I’m looking forward to how the Overwatch League grows and develops over the next few years. Maybe we’ll even start to see our first e-sports bars pop up around town! I’m willing to bet one already exists somewhere. An Overwatch-themed one would be a lot of fun!

A Breath of Joy and Light in the Dark

In two days from today, on Friday the 30th of June, Nintendo is releasing the first segment of the DLC for their latest smash-hit Legend of Zelda game: Breath of the Wild. This bit of post-release content is going to add quite a few wonderful features to this already amazing game. The one I’m looking forward to the most is the map tracker. Finally, there will be a way to tell which parts of the map I’ve never actually been too. It, and the Korok Mask (that rattles when you near an undiscovered Korok), are what are finally going to let me find the other 100 or so Koroks I need to finish upgrading my inventory.

At a very close second comes Hard Mode. Basically, it’s going to let me replay the entire game with tougher enemies (every enemy has been replaced with a one-tier tougher copy and the maximum tier has been raised) and a few twists. The only twist they really detail is that now there will be little floating platforms with enemies and chests on them. I really can’t wait to see how it all plays out.

Other than those two things, there are some outfits and a challenge mode they call “Trial of the Sword” that will get you a stronger Master Sword. Nintendo has done a pretty good job of outlining the DLC and driving hype for it. I know I can’t wait.

A project I mentioned in a blog post a few months ago, after I finished my initial play-through of the game, will be starting sometime this weekend. I’ve taken to calling it a “Naked and Afraid” run-through. The rules I’ve set include no armor other than hats, a new fire must be lit every 5 minutes or so, as long as there is flammable material around, and I must provide a running monologue of poor Link’s thoughts as he runs from everything, dies ignobly, and does his best to ward off foes in nothing but a hat and his shorts. I intend to stream it via my Twitch channel this weekend. Maybe on Monday, the 3rd, since I have the day off.

I am admittedly very fond of this idea because it juxtaposes quite nicely with the themes of the game. In the game, you are a warrior awakening 100 years after you nearly died, your land in ruins, your people scattered, and the woman you swore to protect the only remaining barrier between the evil scourge you must someday face and the final destruction of the world. So you run around screaming like a small, excited child wearing nothing but a hat and your boxers.

When I first played the game, it was rather depressing. You wander through a world destroyed long ago with a quiet, melancholy sound track fading in and out of the background to selectively emphasize the horror and sadness around you. One of the first places you find is a room that matches the iconic meeting between Link and Zelda in Ocarina of Time. In this game, it lies in ruins. Windows shattered, walls toppled, and serenity destroyed. All that remains of that memory is a quiet thread woven into the game’s theme, a slight change in the melody that plays Zelda’s Lullaby throughout the time you’re in or near it.

I won’t spoil what you find there, but Makar Island was the biggest blow to me. I remember playing Wind Waker and always enjoyed the little Korok named Makar, that you save from evil in your second dungeon and that you assist in bringing back the Master Sword’s power. Makar’s Island lies to the west of Hyrule Castle. I suggest checking it out.

The whole game is full of these moments. Sad little references to past games and people you’ve met throughout the years of playing Legend of Zelda games. All of it placed through this game to drive home that point that, yes, Good will eventually triumph over Evil, but you failed to keep it at bay and now it is impossible to return to the life you knew before. Nothing can ever be the same again.

I know they were working on the game for years, long before the current political climate in the US and most European countries reared its ugly head, but it really feels like the game was meant to come out now, to serve as another reminder that we need to keep fighting so we can salvage whatever we have left, even if we’ve already lost a lot.

That’s a lot of heavy themes for a game. I guess that’s why I want to do my silly play-through. Not to mock the severity and solemnity of the game, but to stick truthfully to my ideal that laughter and joy are our best defenses against this kind of evil and darkness. The DLC hits the internet Friday and my stream will hit it sometime shortly thereafter, so come laugh as I make an idiot of myself and one of my favorite protagonists so we can have some fun and fight off the gloom that threatens to swallow us whole.