by Isaac Espinosa
Of all the pastimes the internet provides, yelling at over-sensitive gamers in Overwatch is my favorite. Although most matches are among players of similar skill levels, it’s insanely fun to make snide comments about another player’s knack for dying and have them unleash a torrent of hateful words back at you. While the latter can quickly get out of hand, there’s an indescribable sense of satisfaction that comes from appraising other people when they fail to achieve something (think about how fun it is to see Gordon Ramsay scream at someone who undercooked pizza).
Overwatch League (OWL) is the game’s shiny, new professional competitive attraction, pitting 12 teams stationed in major cities across the globe against each other with the goal of winning $3.5 million in bonuses and the adoration of fans worldwide. More importantly, it offers Overwatch players a break from the monotonous slog through ranked games, letting them judge professionals’ decisions in a setting where every mistake matters.
In celebration of the new series, the Los Angeles Valiants (one of two Los Angeles-based teams in the League) organized a viewing party in the Crystal Cove conference room on Jan. 25 to promote their team’s presence and to treat UCI students with a taste of the professional gaming scene.
Montana Hauser, events manager for the Valiant, said that this party was a collaboration between her team and Mark Deppe, the director of the UCI Esports organization. After some Ring Road boothing on Jan. 10 and seeing how many Overwatch enthusiasts study at UCI, Hauser knew that the Student Center would be perfect for the Valiant to draw fans.
“LA’s a big place. We could have set up in Santa Ana or Long Beach, but why would we try to find fans when we know that they’re here at UCI?” Hauser explained.
Her read of the UCI fans was spot-on, with a steady crowd flowing in and out of the conference room for the whole six hours of the OWL’s broadcast.
Around 9 p.m., 150 odd viewers were already gathered to watch Valiant go up against the Gladiators, LA’s other pro team. The energy was playful and lighthearted, with people constantly shouting out Overwatch in-jokes and critiques of both teams’ plays. It was impossible to not cheer for the Valiant’s victory, which came after a contentious fifth round tie breaker.
Hardcore fans brought out their team jerseys and stood up during swings in Valiant’s favor, bringing a kinetic reaction to every in-game development that the event would have been sorry to not have.
Pizza was served earlier in the day, and by 9 p.m. a tower of empty boxes was the only evidence that it had existed, but mini Pringles cans were still available. Free giveaways ranged from Valiant thunder sticks (inflatable plastic tubes that smack together to make the world’s most traumatic noise) to high-quality pins that were available for people who posted about the event on social media. At the end of the stream, a social media raffle gave lucky fans who stayed until the end Valiant posters and jerseys, as well as free wristbands to watch the OWL live in Burbank the following day.
The Valiant viewing party left me wanting more events to happen, bringing a sense of community to UCI’s gaming scene in a surprisingly fun environment.
It also got me hooked on watching the OWL at home, giving me yet another reason to avoid my responsibilities by mocking other people on the internet — and for that, I cannot thank the Valiant enough.