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Esports Overwatch

Overwatch: A Beginners Guide to Finding Overwatch and Overwatch League Influence in Culture

Overwatch culture

Overwatch has done something that few other games have done in its creating of a culture that surrounds both the game itself and the esport (Overwatch League). This has allowed Overwatch to become a part of people’s lives in a very real and meaningful way. Whether it’s the cereal they buy at the grocery store, the clothes they wear, or the music they listen to, Overwatch has shown it can be a part of it all.

With this circle of influence and culture continuing to expand, it gets more and more difficult to stay on top of it all. Hopefully, this guide can be a good resource both for the new fan looking for a starting place to connect Overwatch with something in their lives, as well as the avid fan looking to become even more deeply embedded in the game and esport that they love.

Grocery & Toys

Overwatch culture
Image Courtesy of Kellogg’s

What is one thing we all have to do, regardless of whether or not we are fans of Overwatch or not? Go to the grocery store. Right now, in most grocery stores, you can find various Kellogg’s products such as Cheez-It Grooves, Pop-Tarts, and Pringles with Overwatch Heroes on the branding.

What’s better, the free loot boxes that come with a valid purchase of these products. As a part of the same promotion from Kellogg’s, you can also get an in-game experience boost through purchasing a box of Lucio Oh’s cereal.

In addition to seeing Overwatch in the grocery section, you can also find it in the toy section. Through a recent partnership with LEGO, many Overwatch maps and characters are available to purchase. While these do not offer in-game loot in exchange for purchasing, they do look like they are a lot of fun to build, just ask Jake “JAKE” Lyon!

While it may not seem like grocery stores are the places where culture exists, there is actually a great deal of culture that exists in each store, especially when you look at what items are on the shelves versus which are not. Overwatch’s brand simply existing on the shelves contributes to this culture, one way or another, and provides people with just another way to connect with the game they adore.

Apparel & Merch

On Jan. 31, Fanatics and Overwatch League officially rolled out a new round of merch for each of the 20 OWL teams. Moving forward, this partnership will enable fans from all over the world to wear their favorite player’s jerseys and fill their home and office with all of the latest merch. All in all, this partnership will have a great impact in widening the reach of the OWL brand.

In addition to this wide scope partnership, several of the OWL teams have taken to putting out their own culture and team-specific brands. Of all of the teams, the New York Excelsior, or NYXL as they are more commonly called, have done this most successfully. The NYXL have created a brand of streetwear through the NYXL Shop & LAN that not only connects local fans to the NYXL brand, but it also continues to distinguish their identity as a team. This brand power has even led the NYXL to gain some clout with the major athletic brand, Nike.

Other teams have done the same with smaller merch rollouts aimed to give their fans some unique swag (A great example of this is the floral hoodie the Houston Outlaws put out in September). Both at a macro and micro level, this allows people to easily find community with fellow fans of the league and even closer community with fellow fans of the same team. With local groups like 5 Deadly Venoms facilitating that camaraderie, the culture each team’s fanbase is able to form grows exponentially, a lot of this starting with the merch and apparel they wear.

Videos & Documentaries

Even at home, fans can connect with Overwatch in very real and authentic ways. The PlayOverwatch Twitch channel is a great starting point, with fun videos centered around the game itself. Looking specifically at the OWL, team’s have regular content that they put out on YouTube and Twitch to further define their team’s culture. These usually contain player/coach interviews ranging from serious and strategical reflections to goofy and lighthearted Gingerbread fun.

In addition, documentaries about several teams have been beginning to surface. A trailer for a documentary about Fusion University surfaced a few weeks ago, which will attempt to explain why the T2 team has been so dominant these past few seasons in NA Contenders. A documentary about NYXL’s historic Season 1, called “We are NYXL” released on Jan. 30. This features behind the scenes footage, player/coach interviews, and some great analysis from major figures around the league.

Films and videos like these help to build the stories of these OWL teams and of the game itself. They give us a visual representation, much like merch and apparel do, of what these teams are setting out to represent. They give us a chance to follow along and be a part of that in a unique and entertaining way.

Music

Overwatch culture
Image Courtesy of Wallpaper Abyss

Not many people know about Overwatch’s impact on music. On Spotify, there are playlists tailored to each Hero that embody a mood that Hero puts out (Ashe and Bob recently got their own playlists as well!). These allow players who “main” one character, in particular, to further connect with that character in their day to day life. This may even introduce them to a genre of music that they had never listened to prior and, thus, give them exposure to a culture they otherwise may not have been listened to. The fact that a video game is able to do this is quite remarkable.

Overwatch League teams like the Seoul Dynasty have also attempted to curate their own team culture through an official team playlist they put out on Spotify. Outside of the Dynasty, no other teams have put out public playlists, although several teams use music in their visual content. All in all, music is something that Overwatch has just begun to tap into, but it’s not something they are through with by any means.

Sports

One thing the Overwatch League has been keen on since it’s inception is its relationship to the sports world. People all over the world love sports and the OWL wants to show that you can love it too. Teams being in specific cities has helped foster this relationship. For example, on Jan 11 the LA Kings (NHL) invited the LA Valiant to be guests of honor at their first ever Esports Night. The NHL has become a solid partner of the OWL, recently inviting the Vancouver Titans to a Canucks game for their roster reveal.

Additionally, the MLB and NFL have partnered with the LA Gladiators as both the LA Dodgers and the LA Rams have had interactions with the team (as well as some other players from around the league who attended the Dodgers game). All of these examples to show, the league has been very active in getting involved in the professional sports world.

While this makes sense from an investment point of view (many professional sports owners invested in OWL teams), it also makes sense for the league expanding its fan base and, again, growing its culture. If the OWL can garner some fans and influence from its interaction with sports, it seems both sides have room to gain.

 

Overall, there are countless more ways in which Overwatch and OWL invite us to join into different cultures. One great one being the Lunar New Year Event happening right now in-game, which helps players to celebrate Chinese New Year with specifically made cosmetics. With events like these happening throughout the year in the game, as well as the various different things this guide has described, there is something for everyone when it comes to culture and it’s interaction with Overwatch and OWL.

 


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