When the game stands tall, the people participating can, and often will suffer. It comes with the territory of competition. Some win and by that very nature, some lose. But when the idea of something supersedes the individual, and their dreams and aspirations and their nuance, things go sideways. It’s at this point logic and rational hold a red lantern to charged emotions. These core tenets haunt two forgotten Overwatch League talents. One current member and one former member of the enigmatic Overwatch League franchize, the Shanghai Dragons. Both of whom have yet to have their hand raised. These two dragons, forgotten by fans and chewed up by the competition, still long for the victor’s walk.After managing the longest losing streak in professional sports history, these two players, have not walked across the stage in Burbank, California and shook hands with an opposing team. They have only ever received such a gesture. They’ve only ever known wrapping up their peripherals as their opponents walk away with pride and interview opportunities. Seeing their fans with disappointed smiles as they, as competitors, half-begrudgingly ponder, “maybe next time.” Both Chon "Ado" Gi-hyeon and Weida "Diya" Lu have separate and distinct journeys how they came to play on the Overwatch League stage. But they share a brand that continues to tower over them like a mountain, continuously casting a shadow of doubt over them and subsequently their career. In that same sense, they both are locked into a war of internal approval.They still long for the walk.
An Empty Victory
Playing professionally since the autumn of 2016, Diya aligned himself with the reputable Chinese esports organization, Vici Gaming. For the 15 months he played in China, he always wore the Vici Gaming banner. Through the highs and lows, he was loyal to the team that gave him his start. Known for his prowess on hitscan DPS heroes like McCree and Widowmaker, Diya found success relatively quickly but those peaks would average down, but never bottom out. He and his team were good domestically, but as the global race began Diya and Vici Gaming were left wanting. This idea is spearheaded by Vici Gaming’s performance during the APAC Premier 2017. Diya and crew were good enough to defeat one of the western hopefuls, EnVision Gaming, but sadly were no match for Flash Wolves nor MVP Space. Emerging as one of the original members from the Shanghai Dragons, Diya carried a considerable amount of promise from his time competing domestically. However, as history’s blunt nature has told us, the Dragons would not find success.It would not be until February 22nd, 2019, during the second season of the Overwatch League, where the Dragons would score their first win. Yes, Diya has a victory to his name, but he did not participate in the match at all, and probably will not in the near future. During the postseason, the Dragons retooled their roster and brought onboard an entire South Korean roster, leaving Diya the only remaining member of the original all-Chinese lineup.Sat on the sidelines with the curse of the losing streak over, Diya might have cracked a cheerful smile or shed some tears along with his teammates, but I’d imagine, at that moment, there was a sense of bittersweetness to the whole event. Seeing new teammates best their former comrades and fellow dragons find their first win is nice but incredibly vacuous. Diya, like any competitor, wants to showcase his skills against an opponent. He wants to prove to the crowd, the longtime supports, and more importantly himself, that he belongs.Diya yearns for the day he can walk across the stage and experience what his teammates have felt. He has a victory to his name, but it’s an empty one.
Ado burst onto the scene during the Shanghai Dragons mid-season rebuild. The South Korean exodus was set to inject some much-needed firepower into the roster. However, nothing changed. Projections looked good, but the team was never given a chance to really grow together. It was a band-aid project, and instead of seeing their investment grow, the Dragons gutted the roster leading into the 2019 Overwatch League season. Unfortunately, Ado was one of those furloughed. Previous to his time with the Shanghai Dragons, Ado played under the South Korean team, MVP Space for roughly four months. Showing proficiency at both Tracer and Genji, more so on the latter, Ado was slated to be a great fit for the Shanghai rebuild. That same sentiment was applied during his second evaluation which found him playing for the Washington Justice for the 2019 Overwatch League season. However, things have not been going well in camp Justice. Plagued since their inception, the Washington Justice have yet to find their inaugural victory in the Overwatch League. With their Stage 1 schedule chock full of some of the league’s top competitors, the Justice don’t have too much hope in finding that victory within the near future. This only increases Ado’s losing streak and many speculate that he might surpass the Dragons’ incredibly 0-40 record from last season if the Justice don’t course correct.Ado may be the most talented player to yet win a match on the Overwatch League stage. Worse yet, he still can not escape the brand of the dragon. He has yet to even find a victory on a technicality, let alone, participate in his first match win. Much like Diya, Ado wants nothing more to prove himself on the Overwatch League stage and walk across the stage as a victor. While he might get more opportunities to do so, each one missed furthers his resolve to do so. Joseph “Volamel” Franco has followed esports since the MLGs of 2006. He started out primarily following Starcraft 2, Halo 3, and Super Smash Bros. Melee. He has transitioned from viewer to journalist and writes freelance primarily about Overwatch and League of Legends. If you would like to know more or follow his thoughts on esports you can follow him at@Volamel.Images courtesy of Blizzard Entertainment.