Early in the first Overwatch League Grand Finals, many fans were thinking the show would be about Twitter gossip, fake Twitter accounts and anecdotes about legendary gamers. Those narratives would play like reality TV and that’s about it, for starters.
But the show turns out to be nothing short of a documentary about professional esports as we know it — or, at least the Overwatch League as we know it. Regardless of your perception of esports, Overwatch League Season 3 arguably stood out as the first season that transcended traditional sports and became mainstream entertainment. If you felt overcharged by the spectacle, you could say, well, they did it to us.
The show puts players at the center and shows how the league and its teams are incredibly professional and the respective player bases are incredibly loyal. While people who don’t watch esports or even know about the league may say that stories about geek and gamer personalities seemed a little weird, that’s hardly the case.
I mean, quite the opposite. The juxtaposition between the cold new world of esports and the extended family of American sports is actually very apt. Everyone we see in the episode seems human — and that’s the whole point.
The first season of the league was restricted to the Toronto and Philadelphia teams, but as the season went on more teams got involved — to the point where four teams won the postseason tournament and earned spots in the Grand Finals.
I remember watching the final with my girlfriend and then sitting with her for the second season opener. I felt uncomfortable because I was afraid of watching the tournaments with her, but I absolutely loved it. Yes, some of the Overwatch League pros are absolutely “hardcore,” but they’re extremely well-behaved and sweet. My girlfriend’s a huge Overwatch League fan, and I see her smiling when it’s announced that the Los Angeles Valiant won the season. Esports fans are nothing like the ones I grew up watching back in the ’90s — or even the ones who watched wrestling.
Those first seasons of the series also introduced fans to gamers in the audience, who were actually enjoying and watching these games. It wasn’t just for myself. I had no idea what Overwatch was at the time, so watching the season was an education of sorts. When I popped out to the Bay Area to cover the San Francisco Shock’s appearance at Overwatch League Arena in Canada, it was because I’d heard that it was one of the best teams in the league. I started to watch and I ended up falling in love with it.
I’ve been a dedicated but lackadaisical gaming fan for as long as I can remember. I’m mostly known for playing FTL on my computer and being impressed by good computer games (I hate Halo). I wouldn’t say that my interest in Overwatch League season 3 was greater than my interest in other esports, but I definitely can’t deny how much better I was able to understand it as a result of it being on TV.
The show features some of the more famous gamer personalities from the Overwatch League, like Chris “The Chaotic” Marrs, who called on the Tracer with one of the games he had him playing. Though not a gamer, we get to see him do it. Other personalities include Chris “Draco” Fowler, one of the extremely popular commentators who now calls the events for the Tampa Bay Rowdies.
The season 3 season premiere was a huge step up from the first season of the league and showed why the Overwatch League could become more of a sports spectacle and less of an indie phenomenon.