There are precious few players from the pre-OWL era still kicking in the Contenders scene right now. Many have left for greener pastures, or retired from pro gaming entirely. For players like Robert “robdab” Garcia, though, have been around long enough to know that it’s all just a matter of time. We sat down with Rob to talk about his past, his present, and his future – enjoy!
Introduce yourself! Who are you, and what’s your history in Overwatch?
I’m Robert Garcia, and my in-game name is robdab! I’ve been playing Overwatch professionally since January 2017. I started playing competitive video games in Team Fortress 2, playing in small leagues for fun. I later joined my first ESEA team with super and muma called Champagne and Cocaine.
When Overwatch was announced I knew I wanted to play it, but had no intention of going pro. I literally could not afford a copy of the game at the time, and was gifted it by my best friend and began grinding early on – even with my poor PC setup. I joined two teams early in the game’s release as a hitscan DPS, and was later asked by super to join his team as flex support. Thus, -bird noises- was born.
During Hammer’s acquisition of our team, I was working at an Amazon warehouse and was able to upgrade my PC and reach 70+ fps for the first time. We competed in the Alienware Monthly Melee for the first time and won, completely undefeated. After that, the team was purchased by Luminosity Gaming and rebranded as LGE.
What are some favorite memories from being on those teams?
-bird noises-, Hammers Esports, and Luminosity Gaming Evil had very similar rosters. Even so, I can pinpoint a few moments from that timeline.
Beating Immortals early on with Verbo on main support for -bird noises- was a very defining moment for me, and made me to realize I truly could pursue Overwatch full-time. Winning first place in the January 2018 Alienware Monthly Melee as Hammers Esports was extremely important to me and the team, since we wanted to prove that our past defeats were just flukes and we were consistently a top team.
It’s really difficult to pinpoint a moment in LGE, as it was the longest standing roster that I was on in that era. The Overwatch Carbon Series was the first major we played in, and we finished 2nd to Immortals in a close match. Being on NRG was a very interesting experience, especially going from a completely North American team to a mixed roster. Adjusting to that was a lot harder than most people would imagine.
What’s the biggest change you’ve noticed from playing in the pre-OWL era to playing now?
The biggest change between playing pre-OWL and post-OWL for me is simply how much bigger the fanbase has become for Overwatch esports in general. It might seem like a weird thing to point out, but having played since release has shown me how big a change that’s been. It makes me happy knowing how much of a following this game has now, even if it seems that T2 is very small compared to OWL.
Who was the greatest player in the pre-OWL era that you played with, or against? Someone that was consistently tearing it up, or someone you looked up to?
The best player I got to play pre-OWL was Agilities, hands down. He was the most threatening player to me mechanically and in terms of game sense as well. He made some clutch plays in the Carbon Series finals that stick to me to this day. I always look forward to watching his games.
Who are the greatest flex support players in the world right now?
I think Alarm [from Fusion University] is the best flex support in the game right now. He’s on par with JJoNak, and I really want to see them face each other because it will be drastically close. Watching Fusion University play is always insane to me, because he always manages to clutch out very difficult fights and he seems to do it every match. It’s like he flips a switch.
I’ve interviewed a lot of EU players that are proud of their region. Do you agree that EU is in a good place right now with a tank-focused meta, and do you think that would give them an edge in a cross-region match?
I’ve noticed that all the EU players I’ve met/played with are very proud of their region, and their countries. It makes me jealous that more players in any region aren’t like that. I actually don’t agree that any region favors a particular meta, but it’s pretty obvious that EU (and specifically team UK) proved that they are the king of GOATS at the World Cup.
Speaking of, which team (in any region) would you want to have a showmatch against? Why?
I would love to play against Element Mystic in a LAN match-up and see how we would fare. I’ve looked up to that team since Contenders Season 1. They have many star players that have made OWL, and I think we will be seeing more of them picked up for OWL as well.
What is the best Contenders region in the world right now?
If you asked me this question any season before this, I would say Korea. This season I would say that NA is the strongest, simply because the majority of Korean talent was picked up for OWL Season 2. There’s a lot of diversity in the talent of NA Contenders, our team being a prime example.
How do you feel about the changes coming to Contenders in 2019? Is Blizzard helping or hurting? What needs to change?
I think most of the changes will benefit regions with academy teams, which heavily depends on which region you participate in. My only gripes about the changes are that the 3 non-native player rule can be exempt if the players are grandfathered in, and that non-academy teams this season that make playoffs don’t get to keep their spot next season. Also, academy teams who don’t make playoffs get to keep their spot as if relegation was a non-factor for them. It incentives being bad.
If I was any of the multiple academy teams that didn’t make playoffs this season, I wouldn’t worry at all right now. Why would I care? With salary, potentially housing, and walking into the next season without having to compete for your spot, all that’s left to do is just lay back and relax.
What message do you have for your first round playoff opponents, Second Wind? Are you worried about the match, or is the team feeling good?
I feel confident walking into this match as any other, really. I do have a few words for Second Wind, though: Let’s have a clean match, please.
What would you say to an OWL scout that was on the fence about signing you to their team? How would you convince them you’re worth the shot?
I would tell an OWL scout the same things I tell most people. I’ve been on teams that have finished top 3 in the past nine tournaments I’ve played (beside one in the first season of Contenders with NRG.) I can read and write Hangul and speak a very basic level of Korean for in-game comms. I would be up to the challenge of learning a new language to play for a mixed roster. On top of that, I also have extensive history playing with mixed and non-mixed rosters with success.
What would you say to your fans reading this right now? Any other shout-outs?
To my fans from the pre-OWL era, thank you for continuously ripping the bbong and VapeNationing for the past 2 years since –bird noises–. To my new fans, thank you for hitting dabs in the past Contenders seasons. Shout-out to Dayaan for gifting me a copy of Overwatch, because it truly changed my life. Thank you to all of my past teammates in my journey and thank you to all my fans, my mom, and Arin. Thank you all!
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Featured Image Courtesy of Robert Paul for Blizzard Entertainment