I got the text message at 2am on Sunday morning, several hours after London Spitfire’s dominant victory over the Philadelphia Fusion in the first ever Overwatch League Grand Final.
‘Hey – we’re going to meet with Spitfire at the MLG offices NY.’
Meeting with esports championship winning players and their owner the morning after their win is not an opportunity you pass up, so 9 hours later I was in a car crossing the Manhattan Bridge, wondering if they would even turn up so soon after their celebratory party.
London Spitfire are the first ever Overwatch League champions, taking home the $1 mil prize
Jae-hee ‘Gesture’ Hong and Seung-tae ‘Bdosin’ Choi were the first to arrive, and sat themselves down on a sofa in front of a giant screen where a replay of the previous night’s final was playing.
On screen, Joon-yeong ‘Profit’ Park had just fired a Dragonstrike into one of Junkertown’s tunnels, and Gesture had used Orisa’s Halt to keep a bunch of Fusion’s players there, resulting in 5 kills.
Soon after, their translator arrived, followed by Spitfire and Cloud9 owner Jack Etienne. Everyone was looking fresh and relaxed, although they were certainly appreciative when some coffee arrived a few minutes into the interview.
I realised that a good portion of the Spitfire team isn’t actually old enough to drink in the United States yet. I’m sure a lot of them will be looking forward to playing their games in London instead, where the drinking age is 18.
Instead, they went for steak last night, which Gesture said (in English) was ‘f***ing good.’
Gesture’s amazing tank play was a crucial part of London Spitfire’s success against the Fusion
Gesture and Bdosin were both wearing their brand new Spitfire champion t-shirts, with the gold star above the logo. Gesture in particular likes his fashion, wearing his Jordan 1 Retro High Off-White shoes, which just so happen to be in the blue, white, and orange of the London Spitfire. I asked what they thought of their newly acquired merch.
‘I think when the OWL and Spitfire design teams designed the merch they had in mind something that people could wear outside anywhere, anytime, and I think that applies really well,’ said Gesture, checking out his new top.
Bdosin isn’t into fashion as much, but likes the exclusivity. ‘I think it’s most important to me as a source of pride that we’re the only ones to have champions merch.’
Jack Etienne would like to see some extras too.
Jack Etienne shows off the winners’ merch
‘I was talking about medals or trophies or rings for the players. I wanted to see what the league thought of it, if they wanted to get involved. If not then maybe we’ll do something ourselves. I was talking with Nate [Nanzer, OWL commissioner], but he hasn’t responded yet,’ he laughed, checking his phone.
Etienne would also like to see changes to the team’s jackets or jerseys. ‘I’ve talked to every Blizzard dev that will listen to me. Maybe the Overwatch badge could be gold for us?’
What about in-game cosmetics? In other esports, the championship winning team often gets unique skins that people can buy.
‘Since all the league teams already have team skins, I’m hoping maybe they can do something like add the star to signify our championship on every hero,’ said Bdosin.
Adding to that, Gesture said: ‘I think it would be pretty cool if based on the play time of each hero we played on stage, they add our in-game names to those heroes in the game.’
With the first OWL season in the books, there’s a bit of time before the All-Star game, and even longer before season 2 begins. Both Gesture and Bdosin are looking forward to heading back to Korea for a while and spending some time with their families.
After that, they’ll be coming back to Los Angeles, this time with a big target on their backs.
‘I came from winning APEX and APAC into the Overwatch League, so there was that feeling going in that we would perform well,’ said Gesture, when asked about the added pressure.
‘Given that we have experience doing this I think we will be completely fine going into next season.’
‘It’s interesting because going into this year, a lot of people seemed to forget that the guys on our team were the guys who won the very last APEX,’ said Etienne. ‘A lot of the narrative was “Seoul, winners of APEX,” but it wasn’t the last one, you have to go back in history for that.
‘A lot of the narrative was on Seoul, Dallas, and then it moved onto NYXL. It’s not going to be like that next season.’
Bdosin did admit that despite all the trash talk, he was nervous going on the big stage at the final.
‘We dropped the first map against [Fusion] and that was due to my mistake,’ he said. ‘I can confirm I was definitely nervous about the atmosphere of the audience and everything.’
Gesture, on the other hand, felt his nerves fade away once he saw the audience.
‘The only time I was nervous at Barclays was before we entered, waiting backstage for our names to be called. Once I entered the stage, saw the audience and everyone roaring, I was not nervous at all, I was really happy to be there.’
As for the match itself, particularly on day 2, London Spitfire looked by far the better team. They were able to shutdown Fusion’s star threat Carpe, and Spitfire’s tank play made Philadelphia’s look pedestrian.
‘We did recognise Carpe is a really good player, and [targeting him] was a bit of a strategy going in,’ said Gesture. ‘Not necessarily because he’s Carpe, but in the current meta it’s important to play around the Widowmaker, and give the enemy Widow less space while giving ours more.’
Gesture is surely the best Orisa player in the world right now, and it was often down to his Halts that Profit was able to get so many kills with Dragonstrikes.
‘When I first started playing Orisa I used to spam abilities, the Halt, the shift. I was just kind of pressing everything when it was available. But you have to time your skills. It’s about knowing when each of her skill sets are efficient to use.’
Bdosin loves to trash talk, but he’s also very respectful of how helpful his teammates have been
His Halts also helped out Bdosin, who was hitting plenty of crucial hooks on Roadhog, despite being a support player. I asked the players what they thought of the new meta.
‘I definitely felt that playing only Zenyatta the whole time was getting a bit stale,’ said Bdosin. ‘It was a great honour to showcase my proficiency on more heroes on stage in front of so many people.
‘I don’t think I was this good on these heroes from the beginning. It took a lot of practice and coordination from Gesture and NUS to be able to get here, so I want to thank those guys.
‘We worked really hard to get here. Profit and Birdring had a really good understanding of the meta and when to swap out to another hero. That was a crucial part of our success in the playoffs.’
‘As the main tank there are a lot of times I have to go deep with Profit,’ said Gesture. ‘In practice we had a lot of trial and error trying to make that happen. Around the time the playoffs came around, that’s when things started to click.
‘Profit’s hero pool has increased dramatically. He hit his stride as the playoffs came around and was able to display his proficiency on a lot of different heroes.’
Profit was the MVP of the grand finals, playing everything from Hanzo to Brigitte.
As the champions, there’s not a great deal the London Spitfire can work on. Plus, there will likely be a lot of meta changing patches in between now and the next season.
Gesture says they can focus on stuff out of game for now.
‘Since the regular season is really long, it’s super important to maintain a good relationship with your teammates in and out of game. Making sure you’re polite to your teammates and respectful to them not only as teammates and friends, but also human beings. That’s going to be really important to ensure the stability of the team lasts for a long time.’
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Os textos, informações e opiniões publicados neste espaço são de total responsabilidade do(a) autor(a). Logo, não correspondem, necessariamente, ao ponto de vista do E-Sports Plus.