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Thoughts on the Guangzhou Charge and a discussion around the concept of team culture

Volamel 2018-11-28 07:51:57
  One of the three new Chinese expansion teams introduced into the Overwatch League, the Guangzhou Charge, have officially announced their roster going into the upcoming season. As a general fan of the game, I desperately want to like this team, but to be frank -- I’m torn. Operating with the information currently available I’ve got some major concerns around the Charge and the philosophy around building teams. Before we start to evaluate the roster, I want to address some of my concerns that will undoubtedly affect my perception of the team. First, the roster consists of six South Korean players, two Chinese players, a player from the United Kingdom, and an American. Straight away from the nationality of the members, you can start to see my worries. How exactly is this team going to communicate? For example, in a game like League of Legends, you can supplement some fundamental communication with the in-game ping system. Overwatch does not have a way to ease the burden of a language barrier and by no means am I attempting to argue that there should be. What I’m asking is how is the Charge going to communicate on a fundamental level? Seeing how there are six South Korean players you’d assume that the other four players would need to learn some form of Korean just to not cause disruption with the majority of the team. And to be honest, this might be their best bet. If we assume that the majority of the South Korean players will make up the Charge’s starting roster, then only one member of the team needs to learn Korean. This assumption begins to fall apart as we explore the history of some of their players, but for simplicity’s sake, let’s just take this at face value. One person—one DPS player to speak more specifically—that might have a hard time communicating with the rest of the team is not that bad. In this case, Guangzhou might have some off sync dives and might have a hard time communicating in the post-fight state, but that’s still serviceable. However, I will reiterate, this is under the assumption that the majority of the starting six will be Korean players.

"A common mistake among those who work in sport is spending a disproportional amount of time on ‘x’s and o’s’ as compared to time spent learning about people.”

– Mike Krzyzewski

So what happens if the Charge does not field a majority South Korean lineup? We then have to revisit what language they even use to call. This could assist in constructing more of a language barrier which not only limits the team's effective strategic diversity but can cause unneeded stressors for players who already have a lot on their plate. For example, let’s say the team intends to call in English. You’d be able to communicate some basic concepts in-game just fine, but what happens when they’re thrown a curveball and are forced to adapt? I would imagine it would be difficult to call for a change and explain your reasoning if you can’t communicate outside of hero names and basic English phrases. What happens to any internal conflicts outside of the game? Even with a translator present, I can imagine it is very bothersome to have to work with a third party to work through any disagreement you may have, let alone trying to build a form of trust within the team. One poignant piece of content that showcases this struggle first hand come from League of Legends. Team Liquid’s Breaking Point is a fantastic esports documentary that highlights the internal dynamics of a professional esports team and their struggles with clashing ideals as well as cultural differences relating to practice and communication. It shows a very candid picture of what being in a professional esports team is actually like. It also shows that players are not “plug and play” in the sense that just because we play the same game, we should somehow know how to work together. We, in Overwatch, already have examples of that concept crashing and burning. Culture is vitally important to team building, and I wonder how much of that was taken into consideration when building the Guangzhou Charge. When you're built into a corner in this way, you’d need some form of overcompensation and this roster can, at a mechanical level to some degree, I just wonder: to what level can they and for how long? I will say this: I do think mixed roster can work, but they need a lot of manual work from all parties and a strong coaching staff that has experience working with mixed teams and facilitating discussion between cultures. When it comes to Guangzhou, I don’t have any examples of this being the case as of right now, so it’s difficult for me to give them good marks from a perceived teamwork perspective. Yes, they’ve been built on a core and that forms a good base, but everything added on top of that base just seems really strange. Not based on their skill, but based on how the team is going to work practically. All in all, on paper, the team looks like an all-star cast of talent from around the world. Taking a page out of the Philadelphia Fusion’s book, the Guangzhou Charge have successfully scouted and drafted talent from the east and the west, but how this talent works together is where I draw concern. If Happy does face a punishment, how well is this team going to perform with two people contributing to a language barrier? I see the Guangzhou Charge as a team that has a very clear ceiling because the potential issues I addressed around their communication and their team culture. That does leave them open to improvement if things become too difficult to manage by midseason and they fill out their South Korean core or add additional coaching staff to help ease any tensions and better facilitate inter-player communication and understanding. Guangzhou Charge has a feature that I’ve been a big proponent of and that is every single member of their roster has a flexible hero pool. This could see them remain consistent in the changing Overwatch landscape barring any form of backend problems. Their peak could see them playing spoiler for a stage playoff spot early on, but I have concerns around the team atmosphere as we go into the latter half of the season. The Guangzhou Charge could be solid, but, a conflict behind the scenes could seriously be exasperated by a very weak team culture. Stay tuned where I elaborate on the Charge and what the roster is capable of.
  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

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