For a solid three years, “attack Bastion” was a meme in Overwatch, referring to the idea of using the semi-stationary hero on an offensive play. Now, it’s a serious strategy for serious pro players for when some serious money is on the line.
The turret hero Bastion is not very mobile and does the most damage when it’s glued to the floor, protected by two shields—not exactly the most intuitive strategy for approaching and overtaking an objective. However, if you were the sort of player who flamed teammates for picking Bastion on attack, maybe you should check out a couple plays from last night’s Overwatch League playoff match between the New York Excelsior and the Atlanta Reign.
Excelsior’s Jong-ryeol “Saebyeolbe” Park, who made a name for himself playing the super fast hero Tracer, has become a Bastion god. Here, instead of bunkering down around their Bastion, the New York Excelsior here just lets it do its thing from a remote corner to clear their way to the payload:
On the map Mumbani, Park’s attack Bastion fears nothing as it dispassionately mows down the entire enemy team:
And for the win:
Attack Bastion might be standard now, but we’ll always love a good, old-fashioned shutdown from Bastion on defense:
Now just because Park can do it doesn’t mean I want all of you in my competitive games going for it, too.
If you tuned into the Overwatch League’s Friday games, you probably saw dozens of esports fans decked out in rainbow garb or flashing LGBTQ-themed signs as soon as the camera turned their way. It was Pride Day for the Overwatch League—a day that Overwatch publisher Blizzard put on for fans to “come together for diversity and inclusion,” they said in their announcement.
But Korean fans who tuned in saw something a little different: a business-as-usual Overwatch League broadcast with no pomp or circumstance.
According to two Overwatch League insiders with knowledge of the broadcast, leading up to last year’s Pride event, American and Korean Overwatch League broadcast professionals discussed how the celebration would come off to audiences in Asia. For “cultural reasons,” said a source, Blizzard’s Korean team and regional broadcast partners made the decision to minimally broadcast expressions of Pride Day at Blizzard Arena last year. It’s possible these reasons are related to South Korea’s conservatism on LGBTQ rights. According to a 2017 Gallup poll, nearly 60 percent of the country is against same-sex marriage, which is not legal there. (In the U.S., only about 33 percent of people disapprove.)
This year’s Korean and American broadcasts were different as well, with the American one celebrating Pride and the Korean one strangely, well, not. Fans’ signs weren’t prominent, and according to two people who know Korean, there was little or no mention of Pride Day on the Korean broadcast. Korea’s Pride Day broadcast did not appear significantly different from normal, but the hype and expressive Pride Day celebrations in Blizzard Arena do seem to be played down, something two sources say was, at least last year, intentional. Blizzard did not respond to Kotaku’s request for comment.
“We didn’t shoot the arena any differently than we would on any other day…We didn’t go out of our way to avoid signs, fans, atmosphere,” the second insider explained of the American broadcast. “Our Korean partners were aware of the event that [was hosted] in the arena and were allowed to make whatever decision they felt was appropriate for their broadcast based on that info.” The insider added that “We gave the regional leads and their broadcast partners the autonomy to present their portion of the program as they felt best.” The broadcast out of California is the master broadcast, and most of what is added to or deviates from it is done in local markets. For example, each team has different casters, graphics, and desk segments.
Last year was the League’s first Pride event. “We’re excited to get into the spirit of diversity and inclusion throughout the day,” read Blizzard’s event description. In the Blizzard Arena, fans expressing support for queer individuals carried signs reading “Gays into the iris,” “Bi Pride,” “Play of the Gay” and “Hi gay, I’m Dad.” In the foreground, casters like Chris Puckett wore rainbow wristbands. This year, the Pride Day broadcast was even more direct in its celebration. On the livestream, Puckett says, “Today is Pride Day and we are celebrating the mutual support between the Overwatch League and the LGBTQ community here at the Blizzard Arena…The Overwatch League prides itself on welcoming fans from all walks of life regardless of background or lifestyle. Today, we want take a moment to acknowledge some of the biggest fans in the LGBTQ community.”
On Blizzard’s merchandise site, the company sold Pride pins to benefit the Trevor Fund, a suicide prevention organization for young, queer people.
Overwatch League also celebrated one dedicated queer fan in a video. Of Blizzard, he says, “It’s great they’re upfront. Ther’s a lot of queer space in this game. I think it’s great that the Overwatch League, as a new organization, is being part of the vanguard celebrating Pride so openly. Traditional sports are not as forward with their Pride events as the Overwatch League. I think that makes Overwatch League stand out.”
Although it makes sense for Blizzard to cater to what they believe their audience’s tastes are, one insider says that if Blizzard wants to be a force for change, they might have to make bolder decisions. Overwatch’s most prominent character, Tracer, canonically dates a woman. Yet in 2019, as game companies finally begin to better represent the people who play their games, it can be hard to tell whether these moves are fueled by market analyses or genuine enthusiasm for fans’ multivaried backgrounds.
Said the insider, “I think the message of Pride is, ‘Hey, you are not alone. Nothing is wrong with you. You are welcome here.’ It is for all those people who are told otherwise. People who doubt their own feelings and thoughts. To say it to only America or EU doesn’t help that kid in Korea or China. A leader stands up. Either Blizzard is leader on this subject or it is cheap marketing.”
I normally try to zero in on one particular esports event or theme around it each weekend for this post, but this time there is just too much god damn high-level, mouse-clicking, button-mashing, card-dropping, play-calling competitive gaming action going on not to run through all of it.
First up we have the Overwatch League. Week four of stage two of year two of OWL might seem just like any other, but it’s not. The teams are traveling this weekend to Texas for a LAN event hosted by the Dallas Fuel. It’s meant to be a precursor for things to come, when each OWL team is based in its own arena, rather than Blizzard’s facilities in California. In the future, teams will get to spend thousands to play each other jetlagged while the home crowd berrates them with regional variants on beloved internet memes.
This weekend’s Texas-based OWL matches will be on Saturday and Sunday, with Paris Eternal vs. London Spitfire at 12:00 p.m. ET tomorrow and Hangzhou vs. Paris Eternal on Sunday. All matches will be streamed on the OWL Twitch channel.
Heathstone’s biggest competitive event of the year is also going on. With a $1,000,000 prize pool, 16 of the best players around will compete in the HCT World Championship in Taipei, Taiwan. Day three of the group stage begins tonight at 10:00 p.m. ET and runs through the morning, with the play-off stage running from 10:00 p.m. Saturday night until 10:00 a.m. Sunday morning. All of it will be streamed on Blizzard’s Hearthstone Twitch channel.
The Madden NFL 19 Bowl is also this weekend. It’s the biggest Madden tournament of the year, with 16 of the game’s best players vying for a $200,000 pot. That includes players like 18-year old Pavan “Pavan” Lakhat, the youngest winner of a Madden Championship, Michael “Skimbo” Skimbo, who has three titles from three different years to his name, and Shay “Young Kiv” Kivlen, the defending champion.
Those play-offs run today until 8:00 p.m. ET and then resume on Saturday at 1:00 p.m. The finals will get underway at 7:00 p.m. that day and will be streamed on the Madden NFL Twitch channel as well as ESPN2.
Meanwhile, the 2019 Pokémon Europe International Championships just started in Germany. Feeding into the World Championships, which are set to take place in Washington, DC this August, the European finals will see the continent’s best Ultra Sun/Moon, Pokkén, and Pokémon Trading Card Game players face off across both Saturday and Sunday beginning at 3:00 a.m. ET each day. The tournaments will be streamed on the Pokémon, Pokkén, and TCG Twitch channels respectively.
And finally, the Gears of War Pro Circuit goes to New England this weekend for the Boston Open. The $300,000 event features pool play for established teams and a sprawling bracket for newcomers to test their mettle and try to earn a spot in the elimination stage.
OpTic Gaming’s Gears team will be the one to beat; they’re looking to pick up their 13th trophy. Competitive Gears hasn’t been around for that long—the Pro Circuit began in 2016—yet Optic has managed to win almost every major tournament during that time. Play in the open bracket resumes Saturday at 10:00 a.m. ET and again at the same time on Sunday. It will stream live on the Gears of War Twitch channel.
Don’t have a special someone with whom to share foot rubs and chocolate-covered strawberries tonight? No worries, esports is here for you. Have a special someone but don’t feel like trying to make-up last minute plans to impress them? Esports has you covered there, too.
In esports this is called a double-kill, otherwise known as a win-win. For some strange reason, possibly linked to the movements of the stars, Overwatch, Fortnite, and Counter-Strike: Global Offensive all have major events going on tonight and lasting through the next three days.
The first of and biggest of these is the return of the Overwatch League, which kicks off tonight with Philadelphia Fusion vs. London Spitfire at 7:00 p.m. ET. That’s just the first of four matches. Will the Shanghai Dragons break their losing streak with a win against newcomers Hangzhou Spark? Will New York Excelsior set the tone for another dominant season with a first-night blowout? You can read our comprehensive breakdown of the storylines going on in the background here, but even if you don’t know all the backstories, OWL is always a blast. All of tonight’s matches will be streaming live on Twitch, with a schedule for the rest of the week’s action available on the Overwatch League website.
Both lovers and lonely people can also spend the night watching people shoot one another and build stuff in the Fortnite Secret Skirmish going on today and Friday. Play began today with solos at 4:30 p.m. ET, and duos are scheduled for Friday. With 100 people competing and a total prize pool of $500,000, this event seems poised to offer all sorts of wild and absurd moments, especially because unlike previous Skirmish tournaments, this one is apparently taking place at an actual location. Pros playing in the event are also being forced to use a particular keyboard and mouse set, so look to see who is the first to blame their lack of good fortune on these rigid tournament rules. The entire event will be streaming on Fortnite’s Twitch channel.
Last but not least is a tournament for Valve’s tactical shooter, CS:GO. Because every major competitive game is apparently in a scheduling arms race to see who blinks first, the IEM Katowice Major 2019 is also going on right now. The month-long $1,000,000 event has three acts, the first of which is the Challenger Stage. 16 starting teams play a flurry of matches with the top eight progressing to the next stage, joining eight other top seeds. The top eight from those rounds will then move onto the final stage in early March. North America’s Cloud9 are currently near the bottom of the standings, where they’ll be battling to stay alive, while NRG Esports and Renegades have already secured spots in the next stage with no games dropped thus far. You can catch the remaining matches when play resumes on Friday at 7:00 a.m. ET with everything streaming on ESL’s Counter-Strike channel.