There comes a time in every writer’s life when you just have to throw your opinion to the wind, and hope it smacks someone in the face hard enough that they’re intrigued by it (as opposed to infuriated by it, which is what usually happens).
Hot off the heels of The Game Haus’ Stage 1 Awards, as voted on by our illustrious beat writers (who have done a great job, by the way!), I’m proud to present Thibbledork’s Definitive, Really Not Up for Debate Awards – Stage 1 Edition! We’ll be going over some of the stage’s best (and worst), as voted on by followers on Twitter and readers on Reddit. And me. (Mostly me.)
If you hadn’t guessed by now, don’t take these too seriously!
Stage MVP – Sinatraa
Yes, there are many options for this first award, and you’re probably already upset that I didn’t pick your favorite. But that’s okay. In my mind, there was no better storyline than the improvement we’ve seen from Sinatraa this stage. His stats were unbelievably good, and when his team needed him, he was always there. That’s important.
I’ve talked a lot with Sinatraa over the past few months, and a constant thread has been his desire to break free of first impression in the Overwatch League – the over-confident, sometimes immature, sometimes mediocre Sinatraa of old. He’s become so much more – a leader on and off the stage, a strong voice in interviews and at press conferences, and a generally kind and upbeat guy. Yes, he’s still gonna teabag you, but it’ll be because he’s earned it. I think that’s admirable, in its own weird way.
Honorable Mentions: Super, Bumper, JJANU, Fusions, Twilight, Dafran, aKm
Best Play – Dafran’s High-Flying Graviton Surge
Don’t let this man’s retirement distract you from the fact that on Saturday, March 2nd, Dafran threw his Graviton Surge off the roofs of Hollywood and plummeted 16 feet through an announcer’s table.
[Related: Dafran Retires from the Atlanta Reign]
Honorable Mentions: Meko’s Boop-Bomb 4k on Rialto, Carpe’s Last-Ditch Widow 3k on Dorado vs Dallas, Literally any JJANU bomb.
Match of the Stage – SF Shock vs Vancouver Titans (Stage 1 Finals)
This seems like an obvious pick, and I tried my best to rack my brain for better alternatives… but there really wasn’t one. Sure, we had plenty of close games and clutch moments, but nothing came close to the back-and-forth slugfest that was the Stage 1 Finals. Seven maps of multi-kill D.Va bombs, huge Earth-Shatters, clutch support plays, and high-level GOATS play – if that’s your thing. At the end of the day, it’s one of the best series of Overwatch that ever was. (Though I still think the eight-map brawl between RunAway and KongDoo Panthera holds the crown overall.)
Honorable Mentions: SHD vs BOS (W2), GLA vs SFS (W1), VAN vs GZC (W2), CHN v GZC (W1), SEO v NYXL (Playoffs)
Rookie of the Stage – Bumper
Look, there were a lot of great rookies added to the pile this season. It’s been great to see new players and new teams actually put up a fight, rather than be crushed under the boots of London and NYXL like many assumed would happen – not to mention the fact that even more of these great rookies will be unleashed when we actually get to see some DPS play in Stage 2.
All that said, one new recruit stood above the rest – a little Contenders player named Sangbeom “Bumper” Park. He and the Vancouver Titans proved the validity of Contenders as a system and their capability as individuals all in one fell swoop, and they did it with style. While he was not without help, Bumper’s sneaky Earth-Shatters and scarily consistent main tank play were a major boon to Vancouver when the chips were down. He should factor heavily into their plans moving forward, especially if they want those plans to involve more playoff appearances.
Honorable Mentions: The rest of Vancouver, Nenne, Fusions, Dafran (RIP), Dogman, McGravy
Spiciest Banter – Jayne vs Carpe (& the Fusion in General)
Stage 1 has been fantastic if you’re a fan of trash talk. Jabs and counter-jabs have flown as freely as Dafran’s Gravitons since the season started, and the highest profile example – if I do say so myself – has been between Dallas Fuel support coach Justin “Jayne” Conroy and Jae-hyeok “Carpe” Lee.
[Related: Carpe Gets Spicy in an Interview with The Game Haus: “I hope you’re ready to lose to some trash GOATS”]
The Fuel and the Fusion have had a heated (though ultimately good-natured) rivalry this stage, and it’s been a real treat watching more people pile in on the fun. Take this comment from Fusion assistant coach Christopher “ChrisTFer” Graham, for instance:
No matter which side of this conflict you’re on, I think it’s safe to say that it’s been a hell of a time watching these teams (and many others) trade blows over the airwaves this stage. Trust me when I say things are just getting started!
[Related: The Outlaws Want in on all this Trash Talk! (ft. Danteh, Rawkus, Jake, and Flame)]
Honorable Mentions: KRUISE IS A FEEDER, Dogman literally calling Carpe a noob in Korean, Dogman in general, JJONAK vs Seoul, Bumper vs everybody
Worst Play (The “Oopsie” Award, Sponsored by Cloud9) – YOUNGJIN on Dorado vs Dallas
It’s Week 3 of the first stage of the Overwatch League. Dallas and Shanghai are fighting to stay competitive in a nailbiter of a match. Shanghai are doing well on Dorado, looking to close out the series 3-1, until…
You know what happens next.
Dallas would go on to win the series, 3-2, off the back of what only be described as a genuine, organic, free range, grass-fed, non-GMO C9. You hate to see it (unless you’re a Fuel fan, of course).
Honorable Mentions: The rest of this game, Florida’s Stage 1, & Monte’s sequin black cowboy shirt (that he wore on ABC, of all things!)
Biggest “Awwww” – Mica Interviews Her Dad, LeVar Burton
The hearts of nerds across the world collectively burst when OWL MC Mica Burton was surprised in with an interview with her dad, LeVar Burton.
Whether you knew him from Star Trek: The Next Generation or from Reading Rainbow, LeVar is a geek icon – and a generally awesome dad. He understands the importance of bonding with his daughter over her equally nerdy interests – and the importance of almost making her cry, of course!
Honorable Mention – Anjali Bhimani’s Interview on International Women’s Day
Best Social Media – San Francisco Shock
Many teams have really stepped up their social media game this season, but none have gone as deep as the San Francisco Shock. Their graphics are top-notch, their memes are delightfully cheesy, and their speed and pop cultural awareness are honestly ridiculous. Put it all together, and you’ve got a fun, polished and insightful stream of content on a variety of platforms. It’s kept an already rabid fanbase engaged and gathered new followers in equal measure. Their entire marketing team should be really, really proud.
SHOCK FANS ASSEMBLE! ⚡️
— San Francisco Shock⚡ (@SFShock) March 28, 2019
Honorable Mentions: Vancouver, Chengdu, Hangzhou
Best Graphics – The Vancouver Titans
I don’t really feel that I have to explain this one too much. Vancouver’s graphics have consistently been a cut or three above the next highest Overwatch League teams – both in terms of variety, quality, and consistency. Motion graphics, posters, photo manipulations… it’s all amazing. I want to find their graphic designer(s) and buy them a meal. Then I want to give them a hug. I want to work for them. I want to be them. It’s frankly a bit unfair how good they are.
A wild clash versus Guangzhou, Take 2.
— Vancouver Titans (@VancouverTitans) March 17, 2019
A note: Hangzhou are included in the honorable mentions below, but some might consider their more traditional art pieces a separate field from graphics as a whole. If you agree with that, consider the Spark my winners for “Best Traditional Artists” – their work is mind-blowing, and has completely reshaped how many teams approach the medium.
Honorable Mentions: Florida, Hangzhou, Houston, NYXL, San Francisco
Biggest “???” – The Barney Incident
Hey, remember when there was a screen that was just… playing the Barney theme song? Did we just hallucinate that, or was it real?
No matter what it is, it definitely earned the “Biggest ???” Award for Stage 1.
Honorable Mentions: Was there anything else as absurd as that in Stage 1? I don’t think so.
Best Content Team – Sideshow Overwatch
I was initially going to say NYXL for this one – their documentaries and other video features have been nothing short of amazing – but I would be remiss not to include the beautifully absurd man we know as Sideshow Overwatch. His streams straight out of visa hell have completely changed the way fans interface with analytical content, and have given new life to a field oft-ignored by more casual audiences. Not to mention the fact that they’re just really freakin’ funny. Throw in some cameos from OW stars like Super, ZP, Reinforce, and a sock, and you’ve got quite the stew going.
Honorable mentions: NYXL, Dallas, Houston, Toronto
Best Interview – JJANU
I’ve interviewed a lot – a lot – of Overwatch people in the past month and a half or so. Of the dozens of people I got to talk to for this crazy job of mine, JJANU’s was easily the most interesting to process.
JJANU speaks very little English, and I speak very little Korean. I stumbled over an annyeong – which surprised him! – before setting up and presenting my questions. I had had Gatamchun (a prominent Korean Overwatch enthusiast, and a good friend of mine) translate my questions into Korean, write up a quick explanatory paragraph on a Google Doc, and then translate JJANU’s answers back into English when he had finished. The resultant 881 words became some of my favorite work, thanks to his earnest commentary on what can only be described as one hell of a ride.
Thank you, JJANU, for taking the time to sit and chat. I’m gonna go download Duolingo now.
Best Meme – Rascal’s Conspiracy (San Francisco Shock)
In keeping with their “Best Social Media” Award, the Shock surprised us all with a hilariously rich and self-aware piece of work leading up to their playoff run. The more you look at this thing, the more great bits you find – Where is Custa? Why is Fusions’s head so perfectly square? How does it all tie into “GOATS”?
— San Francisco Shock⚡ (@SFShock) March 16, 2019
Honorable Mentions: Vancouver’s “Titan Thanos“, Boston’s Movie Poster
The “Oh Man, I’m Gonna See THAT in my Ranked Games Tomorrow” Award – Dafran’s First Torb Rollout
Look, it worked. It was awesome. I get it. Dafran’s first-ever Overwatch League roll-out on Ilios Well vs the Florida Mayhem was one of the hypest moments I’ve ever seen – but damned if I wasn’t fearful for my ranked experience after the fact.
Ever since Dafran decided to pull out his hammer (phrasing) and Molten Core all over that giant hole on Ilios (phrasing), my ranked games have been filled with Swedish engineers bent on becoming the next “Let’s Go” Dude. I’ve had enough! Curse you, Dafran, and your unavoidable influence on the hearts and minds of plat DPS wannabes!
Biggest Chad – Ding “Ameng” Menghan
This was a hotly contested award, and there are many names that could easily take Ameng’s place depending on personal biases and so on. Ultimately, though, you can’t ignore the OG hyper-omega-yottachad of 2019.
Ameng wheel-barrowed his way onto the Overwatch League stage with a singular plan – play Hammond, and make kids cry. Mission accomplished. His frequently publicized disdain for the GOATS meta and his team’s willingness to enable and coordinate with his hyper-aggressive play put the Hunters on the map, and out of the 17th-20th rankings most people had them at in their power rankings. Not to mention his performance on Reinhardt vs Bumper in Week 4 – where did that come from, if not from the Church of the Holy Chad?
Yes, Bumper vs Super was probably the greatest concentration of Chad energy we’ve seen in a long time. But the two of them combined could only just over-shadow the singular energy that Ameng brings into a room. For that, he wins this award with flying colors.
Honorable Mentions: Bumper, Super, Fusions, Sinatraa, Fissure
Most Genetically Similar to a Potato – Sideshow Overwatch
I’m not really sure why this question was given to me, but I’m not about to pass up the chance for an extra paragraph of content. I think the tipping point for me was this (paraphrased) comment from Reddit user /u/damsao.
“My justification is that his forehead really does look like a bright white aging potato, among other mental qualities that resemble a potato.”
I don’t know what Sideshow Overwatch did to you to earn that, damsao, but I’ll work with it. Sideshow Overwatch is definitely similar, on a genetic level, to a potato. Those are the facts, folks – I don’t make ’em, I just report ’em.
Honorable Mentions: I want to work for the Overwatch League one day, so I don’t think I’ll imply that anyone else shares any sort of resemblance (on any level) to a potato. Except Bren. What a spud of a man.
Closing Thoughts for Redditors
Keep in mind, folks – just because YOUR team or YOUR favorite player didn’t make this list, doesn’t mean I hate them. Odds are I love your favorite [insert Overwatch thing here]. It’s kind of my job. That said, these are the moments and monikers that caught my particular attention over the course of the stage. Enjoy what you will, and pass on what you don’t!
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Featured Image Courtesy of the Robert Paul for Blizzard Entertainment