Photo: Robert Paul for Blizzard Entertainment
‘Chiu on This’ is a short and regular opinion blast
The Overwatch League Community Countdown has started with show matches between many of the OWL teams. This was a terribly ill thought out concept as every team in the showmatch is incentivized to not play anything close to their actual skill levels. They shouldn’t even play their normal roles as one of two things can happen.
- Either the player’s instincts kick in and they start playing as they practice, in which case they may give away for more information than they wanted to.
- They inhibit themselves to some degree, but some of their natural tendencies will leak through and an opponent can use that to antistrat against them when the league starts.
So teams and players play off-roles in boring meaningless matches that don’t have any value. Some people have brought up the counterpoint that there is a medium between try-harding and deliberately trolling matches, that the players could just play their normal roles without giving away too much. Some have pointed out that such a move likely wouldn’t give away enough game breaking information that could ruin their upcoming matches.
I disagree with this conjecture based on a few reasons. First, Overwatch League has way more infrastructure, coaches, and analysts compared to many underdeveloped esports games I watch. In games like Street Fighter, Starcraft, or quake, I’ve seen players heavily antistrat opposing players with small amounts of information. Infiltration’s rise to power in 2012 was predicated on this and he effectively revolutionized how every Street Fighter player prepared for tournaments after he hit the international scene. In quake, you had someone like Fatal1ty deliberately hide all of his information so that he’d have an informational advantage against all of his rivals. In Brood War, Jaedong literally saw a stream of Stork before his ASL Season 2 quarterfinals and mindgamed the hell out of Stork to win that series 3-0.
None of these games even had a fraction of the support OWL teams do. While it’s arguable that any OWL teams can do antistratting on that level, the possibility exists and therefore teams will always be incentivized to not try at all during these preseason games.
As for “For the fans” argument, it’s a legitimate argument, but not one that should incentivize teams to give up any competitive edge they can find. From an OWL team’s perspective, they already engage fans in plenty of meaningful ways whether that’s games, content, AMA’s, meets, viewing parties, or other things. As that’s the case, it’s hard for me to be particularly angry or righteous about OWL teams trying to hide strats or tendencies at this point.
The last criticism is that it was advertised as scrims. I agree with this as it’s blatant false advertising. Though I’m a less angry about it compared to other fans as I’ve become desensitized to it. After all, we’ve had comments like: “OWL will be bigger than NFL.” or “BL/infestor is balanced”, “Overwatch League will start in 2017”.
Overall, while I can see why people are angry with the teams for not putting on a good show, the ultimate responsibility here lies with Blizzard. The timing of this pre-season was ill thought out as it’s far too close to the actual debut of Overwatch League Season 2. If Overwatch wants to run this, this next year, they have to do it at least a month ahead before the season starts.