I had the pleasure to sit down with the two founding members of WaWa’s Bootcamp, the fast growing free coaching center on Discord, and get inside their thoughts on the success of their coaching methods and Overwatch’s esports scene in general. We talked about how WaWa’s Bootcamp started, their goals for the community, and some pretty exciting details about Wawa’s Boot Camp Amateur Rising Tournament.
WaWa’s Bootcamp: the Story so Far
I remember how I first came across WaWa’s Bootcamp. My friend sent me a message late at night, which I got in the morning, saying he was super excited because he got invited to a coaching community on Discord. I was immediately intrigued.
I wouldn’t say I’m the most competitive player out there, but self improvement is always my goal. I joined and saw the community completely explode over the span of a few weeks. I wasn’t surprised, to say the least. Free coaching, done through an intuitive model like Discord, with some amazing coaches? It was the perfect storm.
So what brought about WaWa’s Bootcamp? WaWa said it all started among a group of friends. WaWa said he’s naturally a competitive gamer, and when he and CreamPuff (his partner at WaWa’s Bootcamp) started Overwatch, WaWa said, “As we were playing I said, ‘Hey, I really want to get really good at this game. I want to get better.'” From this grew a small, phone based community app of close friends and others they met in Overwatch who wanted to improve themselves too. By working together with others and taking constructive criticism, they rose through the ranks. Wawa’s Bootcamp was officially born.
“By using that structure… let’s give back to the community by helping those who aren’t able to access the resources or don’t know exactly what it takes to get to the level we’re at [Grand Master],” WaWa said.
Most big projects begin with a strong belief in something. For WaWa and Creampuff, it was, “That everyone has the potential to reach at least GMs, all it takes is the appropriate game knowledge, education and sort of someone to mold your path out for you.”
It was with that in mind that WaWa’s Bootcamp began, hoping to connect potential players looking to improve themselves with the right resources to improve their play. From posting VODs of your own play, getting coaches to review those VODs, or just finding yourself a team to play with, WaWa’s has created the atmosphere and environment for players to better themselves. It also gave regular Joes access to some of the best coaches in the scene.
Behind the Scenes
But what is it that WaWa and Creampuff do at WaWa’s Bootcamp, exactly? Well, their roles, like many early projects, are not clear cut. As I was interviewing the two WaWa noted that they had just hit their 1600th member, estimating that when I had joined a month ago they were at 700 members. To hold down such a growing community, the two stick (largely) to two kinds of roles: WaWa manages relations with coaches and pros, the kind of communication with outside members to draw them in. Creampuff, on the other hand, handles much of the ‘internal workings’ of the server.
“We have a system where we work together to handle the internal and external part of the community,” Creampuff said.
Of course, in a busy start-up community roles often bleed into each other. Both WaWa and Creampuff have filled in for each other multiple times.
“It’s more like we help each other out, there’s no specific exact roles that we do. It’s just a matter of making sure we keep this community active and engaging with the students.”
As the project grew, so did the staff. In the early stages of WaWa’s Bootcamp, the two were running off two hours of sleep a night. By the second week, they had upgraded to five hours of sleep at most.
While running and maintaining a Discord server may sound easy enough, WaWa’s Bootcamp was more than just a Discord server, but a whole structured community in the making for coaches and students. More staff, they noted, were needed to make it “more sustainable.”
The Community Itself
What are the hopes of WaWa and Creampuff for WaWa’s Bootcamp? ”
“We sort of want to become the central hub for people to access information on how to get better in a free manner,” they explained
While pros and pro coaches are not necessarily always available, the duo believes that the fundamentals should be available to everyone.
“Sort of like how school is free at an elementary level, we believe that the basics of Overwatch and the foundation should be free to the public.”
Given Overwatch’s complexity and depth, it makes sense that some of the fundamentals aren’t self-evident.
The way going forward though? A central website. While a Discord server has its obvious benefits, like easy access to voice communications and a chat for almost any subject related to WaWa’s Bootcamp activities or Overwatch in general, it has its drawbacks. Finding content, like instructional videos and guides, can be difficult to maintain.
“Overall our next step is to work on a website, and from that point on we wanna to see how much we can grow and think more of what we can expand on to make ourselves accessible to pretty much everyone in the Overwatch Community.”
Anyone in the server will notice the long list (92 and counting as I write this article) of pro players on the server, from teams like CLG to Immortals, EnVyUs to Evil Geniuses. I asked the two what the response has been like from professionals within the scene?
In short? Great, but in an indirect way. The two noted that, before fans got too excited, the majority of the pros on the server felt they could not commit enough time to their students with their current busy schedules. WaWa wagered that roughly 20% of the pros he’s contacted were able to coach students, while the remainder found themselves too preoccupied currently with their pro player lives. But, while, “The rest are too busy at the moment… they want to stay so when they have more free time they can actively help more.”
The pros also expressed their interest in taking part in future tournaments and events with WaWa’s Bootcamp, another reason to lurk around the server. The pros that were interested in offering coaching also felt that their students warranted strong dedication and for them to be offering their best to their students, a key reason for some to decline to offer their coaching for now. They felt it would be unfair to their students to not give them a certain amount of hours (some even listing an exact number.) ” I’m really glad that that was the response for why they weren’t able to take part in the tournament. Because it’s just considerate towards the students, and I’m really glad that they had the students in mind above anyone else.”
Wawa’s Boot Camp Amateur Rising Tournament: Showcasing the Talent of the Coaches
With the central focus of the community being on coaching and improving players, it’s no surprise that the first tournament from WaWa’s Bootcamp was focused on showcasing the coaching muscle of some of their star coaches.
Creampuff brought up that the inspiration behind the tournament came from the fact that in the scene “right now coaches are brought onto teams as their 7th player to ring, or to kind of hold their place, instead of going in as actual coaches for specifically coaching”. To change that, and show just how much coaches can improve players, they decided to start the Wawa’s Boot Camp Amateur Rising Tournament.
For WaWa, coaches play a very important role “because ultimately I do believe the education aspect of gaming plays a huge part in the improvement of players. Ultimately getting the pros better than they are currently”.
Eight coaches were selected, and each given a team of players ranging between Platinum and Diamond to coach over a three week period. After the three week period the tournament begins in earnest, and the teams are pitted against each other to see which coach was able to mold their team into champions.
“You can think of this like the ultimate fighter challenge of Overwatch.”
For those interested in the process of coaching, there’ll be an extra bit of a treat: “We’ll be recording through the videos and their voice channels of what they do and the methods they take to help improve the performance of their students.”
The grand prize for the winning coach? Nothing less than a custom pair of shoes from renowned sneaker artist Danny “Atomicgoofball” Nguyen, an artist who’s current clients include M. Night Shyamalan among many other high fliers, featuring their favourite hero or the hero they main, whichever they’d prefer.
The Overwatch Esports Scene
Overwatch as an esport has been all the buzz since its release, coupled with its constant status at the top of PC Bars in Korea many have signaled a bright future for the title. I asked the duo their thoughts on Overwatch’s competitive scene as it is and their hopes and hesitations with the Overwatch League.
WaWa thinks that the scene isn’t done justice currently in either department of the attention and coverage it garners.
“One thing’s for sure, my personal belief is that Overwatch competitive scene doesn’t have the attention that it deserves. Compared to other games like CSGO and League of Legends, I would like the pro scene to have a little more attention from the public,” he said.
Not just public attention, but WaWa also noted the slow start for some bigger organization to dip their toes into the scene. The mystery of Overwatch League’s exact details, mixed with the ups and downs of an esports early stages, the hectic nature of Overwatch have been aspects contributing to the relatively slow growth of the investment side of the scene.
For Creampuff, he sang a more optimistic tune about the state of the scene. Drawing likeness to CS:GO’s explosion, Creampuff is hoping that Overwatch League will help the scene explode too.
“It’s relatively small but it is growing. What I’m hoping for is for it to take off like CSGO. CS was always kind of big, but a lot of companies weren’t really invested, but now it’s growing like crazy, with bigger companies going in,” he explained.
While CS was always a force within esports, CS:GO brought the FPS into the limelight of esports and easily a top contender for viewership at any tournament. While Overwatch doesn’t have the history that CS had behind it, it does have the hype around a bold new approach to esports leagues, one that hopefully will become more concrete in coming months.
The two also felt that recent ventures by non-endemic groups into the scene is a sign the times are changing for the better. Creampuff noted recent expressed interest in Overwatch League by the New England Patriots.
For WaWa, “I think it’s awesome that sports teams are taking an active role in the esports scene because it’s starting to mean people are taking esports a little more seirously.”
While traditional sports and non-endemic sponsorships have been on the rise in recent months within the esports sphere, esports has also seen increased public awareness.
WaWa brought up his first experience seeing esports on TV. “When I first went to Buffalo Wild Wings and started seeing esports games on TV, it was like [a] mind blown moment.”
Overwatch League: The Ups and Down for the Scene
If you hadn’t heard enough speculations, commentary, or opinions from pundits on the upcoming, mysterious Overwatch League, well… I don’t know what rock you’ve been hiding under. From rumours of prices to bid into the franchised league, to teams dropping their rosters in fears they can’t match these prices, it’s been a buzz in the esports media field in the past few weeks. So I decided to ask the two their thoughts on the Overwatch League that’s already made ripples thoroughout the esports scene before even really… concretely… being much.
For WaWa, there’s only two ways the Overwatch League will go: “I think it’s either going to be a huge hit that changes and revolutionizes esports across all games, or it’s just going to be really painful. I can’t see an in between.”
With the steep rumored price tag of slots in the league and the relative radio silence on some key details, WaWa also feels this points to the reason for many orgs to drop their current Overwatch rosters. Staple names like compLexity and Splyce recently dropped rosters, with Denial esports and just this week the announcement that Dignitas also dropped their roster.
Another possible reason for the recent exodus of medium sized esports organizations leaving the scene? Real sports teams investing into the esports scene.
“I think that’s probably why smaller tier gaming organizations are starting to feel a little threatened and wanting to back out while they can. In a war of attrition there’s no way they could win, they don’t have the backings or the finances in order to keep up.” While many look to traditional sports teams investing into the scene as only a positive, WaWa noted the kind of bittersweet nature of the move, saying, “I think it’s sad because you see organizations like compLexity all the time in different games, but they’re leaving one of the more rising popular games.”
As our interview came to a close, I asked the duo for any final comments. WaWa highlighted how amazing it has been for himself watching the coach/student interactions.
“Everyone involved has knowledge that we spent hours and days and days of trying to retain so that we can reach the ranks that we are now, in terms of our coaches and pros. If feels good, it’s as much fun for the coaches as it is the students. You finally have somewhere to dump it all, it’s not just in your head, you can pass it on. I think it’s really nice seeing how our students look up to the pros and coaches and how the coaches enjoy communicating with the students, it’s just really nice to witness and students,” WaWa explained.
For Creampuff, it’s been the shear growth that WaWa’s Bootcamp has seen.
“It’s been a very interesting growth period for us. It’s crazy seeing all the students come in, and then the coaches, and then the pros, and then all the coaches fanboying over the pros coming in. The pros have been really good about it too, interacting, keeping in touch with us. It’s really crazy right now. Our main goal is to provide free coaching to anyone willing to learn. It’s crazy how that small idea became what it is right now. I’m very happy for where we’re at right now,” he said.