LA Valiant Agilities & LA Gladiators Bischu on collegiate Overwatch and the current meta


by | Feb 3, 2018, 2:38AM PDT

Thank you to Nick D’Orazio for helping us get an interview with Agilities! Thank you to LA Gladiators for hosting college night!


Agilities

What do you think of the Junkrat and Mercy changes?

I am very happy about it. The game is just going to be much more enjoyable for everyone. Even on the first day when the patch came out, I was enjoying watching and enjoying playing the game more. I feel like Junkrat may need a bigger nerf than that because he’s still very powerful. Maybe a little too powerful. His tire is crazy.

How do you think the meta will develop? Do you see any other characters becoming stronger due to these changes?

I think more supports will become stronger. I think Moira and Ana will be played more. The main comps that I’ve run into right now are quad tank because Lucio and Moira just go in with the tanks. Speed boost in and Moira heals all of the tanks at once.

Thoughts on collegiate Overwatch teams?

I think there’s a place for it. Those players that aren’t in the Overwatch League, like from that [collegiate] to the Overwatch League is a really big step. I think it’s a good idea. It gives Blizzard a lot of publicity. It gets viewers from the colleges.

Advice/ tips for players looking to go pro after collegiate?

You can’t get too down on yourself if you’re not making it. You have to put in 100% effort and play every chance you get. If you put in the practice and review your own mistakes, using Overwatch as an example, if you record your own POV and watch it later, you can see what you’re doing wrong and then you could try to fix those mistakes. That will probably help more than just playing the game. I feel that if you watch your own gameplay, it’s the easiest way to improve.

If you’re really good at the game and you have 100% confidence that you can make it, then it’s probably better to focus on the gaming side. If you’re not confident in yourself, then you need to balance it and have a backup plan. If you don’t make it in esports and drop out of college, then you’re kind of screwed. The best way to do it is to have smart practice so that when you get the chance to play, you’re getting the most out of it.

LA Gladiators is hosting a college night/ meet and greet. Fans get the opportunity to play Connect 4 against Surefour. Do you think that you could beat him in Connect 4?

I don’t know, I used to be pretty good at Connect 4. I can challenge him.

LA Valiant viewing party at UCI?

I would like join them and be at one in the future. I think it’d be cool.

Shoutouts

Thank you to the fans, thanks for supporting us and we’ll hope to do good in the future as well.

Bischu

What do you think of the Junkrat and Mercy changes?

I’m pretty happy with the changes. A lot of the times the kills kind of felt robbed. You make a sick pick and then it doesn’t even matter anymore because res is up. It kind of rewarded you for playing aggressively, being unsafe, and having bad positioning. I’m happy to see Mercy go for sure. I think Junkrat is still a little bit too strong in my opinion but I’m still happy with the changes. People might not think that it’s a big change, but Junkrat not being able to 2-shot you with “skill” isn’t really a thing anymore. It was crazy. You could miss your shots and still be relevant.

Do you think they will still be viable characters to play?

Junkrat will still be viable.

How do you think the meta will develop? Do you see any other characters becoming stronger due to these changes?

I think the meta will shift to tank meta where teams will run at least three tanks. I think that Moira and Lucio will get a lot more play time. People don’t know how much AoE healing that is. When you guys are all clumped, the tanks can’t die. It’s crazy. There’s so much healing. If people remember back when Ana came out, it was all about building ults fast. It’s similar with Moira. I think she’s going to need a bit of an ult nerf. She’s getting it way too fast. It feels like season 3 Ana where you tell your team to just take hits and build ults.

If there were a need for a significant patch change in the future, do you think that they’d implement the patch immediately or after a stage?

If something was incredibly broken, I feel like they would hotfix it. As long as it’s not game breaking, I don’t think they’d patch in the middle of a stage.

General thoughts on collegiate Overwatch teams?

I think collegiate Overwatch being there is really good. I was on a collegiate team myself back when I used to play League of Legends. It’s a little bit weird though because if you look at traditional sports, people go from college sports into the professional scene. In esports, the transition from the collegiate scene to the pro scene isn’t really there. You don’t really hear about great college players going into professional esports. I’m a little disappointed that the transition isn’t as smooth but I feel like in the future especially with the Overwatch League being so well made and produced, I feel that it’s set a good future for aspiring talent out there

UC Berkeley, UC Irvine, UC San Diego, and University of Toronto are in the Fiesta Bowl Overwatch Collegiate Championship. Who are you rooting for?

I gotta root for my boys from San Diego!

[Bischu smiles and laughs]

Advice/ tips for players looking to go pro after collegiate?

It’s really up to them. I was only going to college for a year and I saw a good opportunity and took it. It’s not as scary as it seems. If anyone puts in the effort and remembers that they’re doing it for themselves, they can do it. I forget it sometimes too. I just play and then I get complacent and then I stop practicing and stop watching vods. Every day someone else is doing all of that. As long as you put in the effort anyone can do it, and don’t be too scared.

So you guys are hosting a college night and meet and greet today at the Guildhall. Do you think you could beat Surefour at Connect 4?

I don’t know. He’s pretty big brain so we’ll see. I’m pretty confident too, but Surefour is definitely the main boss here.

Any advice for climbing solo queue?

Play D.Va.

[Bischu laughs]

Shoutouts

To my family who supported me through all of this. I’m happy that they’re happy with where I am. I was stressed out and they were just as stressed out. I’m really happy with how everything turned out and they still support me. Big shoutouts to the fans. None this would’ve been possible without the fans. We would just be here (College Night at Guidhall in LA) in an empty bar.


Thank you so much to Agilities and Bischu for their time and good luck on their future matches. Follow their teams LA Valiant and LA Gladiators. Player photos taken by Robert Paul for Blizzard Entertainment. College Night photos taken by Oshin Tudayan.

Why Gamers Should Read Black Authors


by | Sep 24, 2020, 7:30AM PDT

Years from now when people ask “where were you in 2020?” I will respond, “online, and I hated every second of it.”

2020 was a year filled with strife and changes, as many of the country’s issues were placed under the microscope of the COVID-19 pandemic. We were made privy to the fragility of our healthcare system, made to grapple with the mistreatment of our workers, and we saw just how little our government was ready to deal with the unseen threat of a virus. As buildings and campuses became unsafe for congregations, schools and businesses quickly transitioned from physical interaction to remote operations, trading desks for couches, and cubicles for bedrooms. As an academic I soon saw myself writing grants, hosting calls, and meeting with colleagues all through the screen of my computer. Just like that my and many other lives became mediated through digital platforms.

But then came May and the US caught fire as major cities around America erupted in protest after Minneapolis Police Officer Derek Chauvin placed his knee on the neck of George Perry Floyd Jr. for 8 minutes and 46 seconds, killing him on camera. The act was such a clear show of police misconduct and brutality that not only did protest emerge in Minneapolis but in cities like Los Angeles and New York. People across America took to the streets to protest what was a vile and malicious act of policing and unfortunately (and ironically) were subsequently met with the very force they went out there to speak against. Agitations flared, peaceful protest turned into physical confrontation, and long-ignored anger and sorrow became the fuel for the flames which burned signs, buildings, and coincidentally an NYPD van.

Yet, still, for many, the most heated moments of the protest were not experienced in person but rather were witnessed second hand through their television or through social media online. As the protest raged on, Twitter threads became battlegrounds, YouTube videos spun narratives, and the internet yet again became the hotbed for information and dialogue around the events many were experiencing. With #BlackLivesMatter trending yet again in response to the death of ANOTHER Black person at the hands of the police, the online blurred yet again with the physical. So much so, that social media became the key place where I, a Black man, kept up with the news, contacted friends and family who were near protest areas, and was made to relive the trauma of watching Floyd lose his life again and again as it was shared on Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter both as both a form of awareness and as jokes from those craven enough to mock a man posthumously. And, while I donated to BLM initiatives, honked my horn in-vehicle protest, and showed up physically where I could, I—like so many—experienced the brunt of this protest online.

So, it should not come as a surprise when I say that it was not in person or even on Twitter where I got into my harshest debates, but instead, it was within video games like Overwatch and League of Legends where I found the most abuse. In fact, it was gaming spaces like these that became the hardest to occupy during the time of the protest. In an attempt to find some semblance of peace while the world burned, I decided to turn on Overwatch (a hero first-person shooter from the company Blizzard) to try to take the edge off. After some time, I was eventually placed with 11 other players and dropped into a starting zone to wait. However, instead of the typical banter of roles and positions, I was met with a “hello my fellow African Americans, let’s go burn and loot some stores because BLACK LIVES MATTER!” from one of my teammates. Reminded that video games seldom work as escapism for black people, I contemplated whether to let the comment go or to make a scene. I chose the latter.

I responded with “do you think that’s funny?” which prompted him to say “of course! Because they should not be out there at all, because ALL LIVES MATTER!” and quickly an argument ensued. Shouting in a way I am not all too proud of, I went back and forth with the player, I shouted the names of those killed—George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Trayvon Martin—only to have him respond with conspiracies like the FBI started BLM and comments like “slavery didn’t matter.” It didn’t take long for our remaining teammates to mute us with one going as far as to exclaim, “I don’t play this for politics.” In hindsight I think I would have been better off ignoring the troll—I must admit I was perturbed, livid in fact. Livid that a player used the game as his platform for racism and livid at the apathy of the other players viewing the deaths of Black men and women as simple politics. While the game’s very company (Blizzard) was tweeting in support of Black Lives, its players continued to disparage them. With each engagement I grew colder and angrier, each bout of racism striking deeper than the last until eventually, I arrived at simply telling people to shut the… well you can finish the rest.

Unfortunately, what I experienced is nothing new, as scholars such as Kishonna Gray, Andre Brock, Anna Everett, Samantha Blackmon, TreaAndrea Russworm, and many others have written extensively on the experiences of Black players similar to my own. However, as more and more games become spaces for online interaction, I and many others are yet again forced to acknowledge that games and the many who play them are not always aware of the struggles non-white gamers may go through. But, in writing this piece and sharing my experience I do not want this to come off as an accusation of gamers and gaming practices (there are other avenues for such), but instead as an opportunity to engage with perspectives that have been ignored or overlooked.

As many of us face yet another crisis in our communities, where Black life is threatened for simply existing (under the blanket of COVID no less), it is important to remember that games, as peripheral as they may seem, work as powerful sites of cultural creation and expression. I could not escape my pain through games because the same rhetoric, behavior, and trauma that took place in the physical informed and shaped the virtual. That is why this piece is less of an accusation and simply a call to action.

In a time where Black players face constant racial abuse both inside and outside of games, I propose that gamers engage with the history of this country and the writings of Black scholars, activists, and people. In wanting to see a healthier gaming community, I have curated a list of books, short readings, and articles to read in hopes that gamers and the gaming community at large will pick up the call and accept this challenge. While by no means extensive, the list provided will offer introductory reading to familiarize oneself with Black history in the US and the Black experience in areas such as school, healthcare, and most apropos, online spaces. While seemingly unrelated, there is much to be gained by engaging with past and current writers, and only when we have an informed gaming population can we hope to see change.


Akil Fletcher grew up in New York where he received a B.A in Anthropology from the City College of New York. Currently, he is a Ph.D student in the anthropology department at the University of California Irvine, where he researches the navigation of Black video game players online. Funded by the National Science Foundation, Akil researches how Black players form and manage communities in spaces that are often hostile to Black participants.

If you would like to join in on discussing any of the readings from Akil Fletcher’s list, you are welcome to the UCI Esports Discord server‘s #book-club channel.