During the North American All-Stars Event, the Overwatch League announced multiple seasonal awards. Among them was the Dennis Hawelka award for the most positive impact on the community. Caleb “McGravy” McGarvey won the award in 2020. This award differs from typical esports awards, not just in Overwatch. It is unique in the Overwatch League, but its existence makes the Overwatch League a unique community in the esports scene.
Everyone talking about Dennis “Internethulk” Hawelka only had positive things to say. Hawelka was part of Team Envy during Apex Season 1. His former teammates praised him for his support of the team and his spirit. In a big upset, Team Envy ended up winning Apex Season 1. While many of the former Envy players continued playing, Hawelka transitioned to a coaching role instead. However, when many of his former teammates were picked up for the Overwatch League at the end of 2017, he was not. In November of 2017, it was announced that Dennis Hawelka had passed away.
Only a week later, the League decided to honor him and his impact by announcing that they would give out the Dennis Hawelka award in his honor to the player with the most positive impact on the community. It has been almost three years since then and this decision of the League planted at its roots has impacted Overwatch for the better.
Gaming Culture is not a Monolith
The Overwatch community is far from perfect. Everyone who ever touched the game has probably received toxicity and hatred. Maybe in some moments, they created some themselves. This is the reality for most online video games. Despite that, gaming is not always simply a source of negative energy. Overwatch is definitely not unique in that regard. Charity streamers on Twitch or large events like Games Done Quick have raised millions of dollars for good causes in the past. However, it is rare that a for-profit organization like the Overwatch League actively encourages and rewards positive behavior within their player base. The purposefully vague definition of the award has allowed for many different recipients.
In 2018, Pongphop “Mickie” Rattanasangchod was awarded for his consistent positivity. As a former teammate of Hawelka, he said that he was picked by Hawelka specifically for that positive impact and carried on this light of positivity. 2019, Scott “Custa” Kennedy stood out due to his team leadership and charity work. This year, McGravy was an outspoken influence in the league, both due to his positive impact in his team, charity for the Trevor Project, and matters of social justice. Even further, many other players who never won the award had an amazing impact as well. The most famous example might be the now retired Andrej “babybay” Francisty who started a viral trend for Mental Health awareness on Twitter.
Framework of Positivity
Overall, the players of the Overwatch League have done a lot of good. While there are instances of toxicity and hate, there is a lot of great work that drowns out the negativity. The League made the right choice to award this award every year. Primarily to honor a man who positively shaped many young players. But it also allowed the players to grow into a framework where positivity is rewarded. Players in other esports certainly do great work as well. However, it appears that the encouragement of positivity caused exponential growth in that regard.
Featured image provided courtesy of the Overwatch League
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