On opening day of the Overwatch League, I told myself to put a pin in how I felt at that moment and revisit it at the end of the season. As the Grand Finals came to an end, I decided to take stock of my emotions, if for no reason other than to have a record of where I am both in my career as well as this particular time in esports history. And here we are.
While I’d pitched a graveyard’s worth of esports/gaming-centric ideas at my former job, the Overwatch League launch campaign was the first to ever see the light of day. In getting me to this point, I really need to give credit to my boss at the time, who wholly encouraged my never-ending obsession with esports (from within a marketing services agency) even during the time it wasn’t generating any work. He put a huge amount of trust and faith in me on this project and, ultimately, completely changed the course of my career.
When we shot our first campaign, Blizzard Arena was so brand new it smelled like a fiber network. I watched as the luminous, color-changing halo that sits above the stage was raised for the first time. I wanted to bottle every sight and sound and put it in a time capsule — the eve of the start of the world’s first globally franchised, geolocated esports league.
Through a monitor in video village, I stared into the faces of players for hours on end. Through a headset, I listened (and got emotional) as these tremendously talented teenagers and twenty-somethings ruminated on the gravity of the moment; their dedication, drive, passion; how their lifelong love affair with games began. They explained what it took to get them to Burbank, and these stories included what most overcome in pursuit of the pro-gamer dream: skepticism from those around them, time away from family and friends, learning a new language, moving across the world, adapting to life in an unfamiliar city, years of grinding, scrimming, climbing.
I also watched deeply eloquent casters speak lovingly, proudly, analytically about those who would compete in this first season, every word imbued with a sense of reverence for that player’s skill and sacrifice. These casters (along with the rest of the remarkable Overwatch League broadcast team) would go on to cast and host something like 80 days worth of matches from January to July.
Between that first shoot, the preseason, the regular season, and the playoffs, I went to Blizzard Arena around 20 or 30 times. When I wasn’t there, I watched at home and tracked the rivalries, underdogs, wins and losses that, having never been a real traditional sports fan, I’d never experienced before. Speaking of things I’d never experienced before, the Overwatch League Grand Finals on July 27th were the first time in my life I had appointment viewing on ESPN (OWL signed a linear distribution deal with Disney before the playoffs). Over nine months and countless matches, the Overwatch League never lost its magic for me.
When I left CAA Marketing, I searched for ways to continue to be affiliated with OWL and went to the agency that brought Toyota to the Overwatch League in an unprecedented, first-of-its-kind deal in the automotive category. As I continue to figure out the best platform from which to pursue my career in esports, every single person I’ve met through OWL has been deeply generous with their time, their wisdom, and their support.
In short, this is to say nothing but this: The monumental amount of human effort it takes to make the Overwatch League (and all esports leagues, for that matter) happen on a daily basis is a marvel, and I’m so grateful to all those who make it possible. I count myself stupid-lucky to have had the opportunity to play an infinitesimal part in the first season of something that was so new in the industry. And lastly, I’m glad I trusted the instinct that led me to leave advertising to pursue a career in esports, which is what allows me to do things like this in the first place.
At this point, I’m looking forward — and hoping Contenders, All-Star weekend, the World Cup, and BlizzCon are enough to tide me over until 2019.