All-Star weekend got cancelled this year due to COVID-19. There isn’t any information of whether the League will be able to put together an All-Star weekend at the end of the season. Season 3 has been a whirlwind of putting the league together in an online format, but the consequence of that is the League is divided into the APAC and NA regions. With all this separation what was needed the most was what was taken away, a weekend of community.
There was an anticipation that grazed the Overwatch League fans when All-Stars was announced. As a fan there is the desire to see your players in the All-Star match, but also to see what players are put together. On Twitter there are screenshots of who people voted for, threads of debates of who is going to play off tank for the Atlantic team, or the always dubious elephant in the room of one or two players who don’t speak Korean on an all Korean team.
This weekend brings together the fans as NYXL fans cheer on Jaehyeok ‘Carpe’ Lee or Hunter fans yell for Xu ‘Guxue’ Qiulin to get the kill. It allowed for a combination of players that fans could only dream about, such as in Season 1 Jaehui ‘ Gesture’ Hong was able to play with Jongryeol ‘Saebyeolbe’ Park. In Season 2 of All- Stars the fans got to see the reunion of Yeonjoon ‘Ark’ Hong and Sunghyeon ‘Jjonak’ Bang. Not only did it bring the fans together, but also is an important component of the season for the pro players.
More than just the games
All-Star weekend is essential in promoting and humanizing players to the community. With all the pressures that come along with being a part of the League, every match matters and how time is used to prepare is essential. That means many times teams have to decide between preparation and content creation. All-Star weekend gave teams a fair platform to highlight some of the players who mechanically are amazing and be able to show their personalities more so that the community gets to know them better as people.
One of the best examples of this is the Widow 1v1 in Season 2. Widow is always a sense of pride for the players as they on their personal Twitch streams will grab the DPS sniper in competitive or in custom games. It brought forth non DPS players like Jinseo ‘Shu’ Kim and Jjonak into the star studded DPS brackets. It was great to see how the whole Atlantic and Pacific teams came out to support their Widow players, either to nag or cheer them on.
The players’ personalities jumped off the screen in their reactions to the matches. Most memorable is when the NYXL players went up against each other. Jjonak went up against Big Boss Dohyeon ‘Pine’ Kim, and all the players were huddled around Jjonak hyping him up. Yeonkwan ‘Nenne’ Jeong versus Pine was also a whole team affair as everyone came out on stage. Jehong ‘Ryujehong’ Ryu behind Byungsun ‘Fleta’ Kim acting like a proud dad, and Hyojong ‘Haksal’ Kim following Ryujehong around showed the relationships that these players have that aren’t showcased in the regular season.
Why does it matter? All the players are good mechanically at Overwatch, why does their personality matter? On the English stream there are very few times in which the APAC teams get to showcase their spice and sassy personalities. Scan through Reddit and there will eventually be a thread that pops up about how boring some of the Asian players are. That is because there isn’t exposure to how hilarious Minchul ‘Izayaki’ Kim is with his team, the singing wonder of Jinmo ‘Tobi’ Yang, the cool guy vibes of Guxue. These moments matter, in the Overwatch League many fans follow players. Youngseo ‘Kariv’ Park, Junki ‘Yaki’ Kim and Chanhyung ‘Fissure’ Baek, love them or hate them, they became influential players because of their personality and how it was marketed and exposed to the community.
Without the English Overwatch League stream giving Yaki the time to trash talk and have those translated interviews, he would still just be that DPS on Florida that pops off and not the sassy trash talker of the Mayhem. Screen time that isn’t just their username attached to an in game hero, and their actual selves on camera being who they are is essential to creating loyal fan followings. This is what All-Stars allowed for players to do without taking time from practice.
Relief of Stress
Not only were players able to show the community who they were, they got to hang out with their peers in a fun atmosphere. Many of the Overwatch League pros are friends with each other from past teams or interactions during APEX, but are unable to see each other much because of individual practice schedules. The players during this weekend are like fans, trading their All-Star jerseys with each other and taking photos together. Switching of jerseys even on broadcast was quite common as Fissure went to do an interview in Saebyeolbe’s jersey and sunglasses.
This relieves the constant stress and strain that the normal season puts on their shoulders. Many of these players are still young. Yet they have the pressure of organizations, fans and the league on their backs to give good results. In the off-season the Overwatch League sees many players retire due to burn out or loss of passion for the game. This weekend lets them hang out with friends, act their age, and do what they love best, play Overwatch. There is nothing on the line, except helping pros remember how much fun Overwatch can be again.
All-Star weekend has brought the league some of their most iconic moments. The fans feel as if they are a part of the process by voting their picks of who should be in the All-Star match. There are combinations that only in this match the community gets to see. It isn’t about winning or losing, but getting to see pros interact with their friends and other players. Hopefully though there are the constraints of location and COVID-19 the League will find a way to have an All-Star weekend for both the fans and the players to enjoy this season.
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