Shortly after announcing their team’s official name, logo and colors, the Los Angeles Gladiators have also announced their starting roster for the opening of the Overwatch League.
Lane “Surefour” Roberts - DPS
Choi “Ashe” Jung Sung - DPS
João Pedro “Hydration” Goes Telles - DPS
Aaron “Bischu” Kim - Tank
Luis “iRemiix” Galarza - Tank
Jonas “Shaz” Suovaara - Support
Benjamin “BigG00se” Isohanni - Support
This roster brings together players from all across the world with players who have a variety of experiences and previous teams. In order to better understand how this roster came to be and what went into it’s creation, Heroes Never Die talked to LA Gladiators head coach, David “dpei” Pei.
Heroes Never Die: How did you initially connect with Gladiators as an organization and what drew you to the team?
David “dpei” Pei: I was looking for coaching positions in Overwatch League throughout that time period, maybe midway through Contenders. Gladiators contacted me because of some player references, so I interviewed with them for like an hour and a half they talked to my references, players, former players stuff like that, and they just really liked me and, and I really liked them as far as team philosophy, as well as proof of concept they had done stuff with the League team that demonstrated that they weren’t just all talk about things like player support, they were really all about it. That’s what really drew me to the Gladiators organization in the first place.
HND: Was there any thought on your end about what it meant to be representing LA?
DP: To be honest, in the very beginning it was, “let’s get into OWL first, I’m not too worried about the city,” but now that I’ve had time to think about it representing LA is actually kind of ideal. I think LA in itself is kind of a melting pot of all different cultures, it’s the biggest west coast city.
And I think our team is representative of that global community, that Overwatch also represents with heroes coming from all over the world. We have two Europeans, a Korean player, a Brazilian player, a Puerto Rican player, a Canadian player. So we are all over the place and coming together to be a part of something greater than ourselves, which I think is sort of the philosophy of Overwatch. It’s kind of a beautiful metaphor in that way. Representing Los Angeles in particular is amazing, because it’s the greatest esports scene, outside of maybe Korea, it’s where everything is happening. It’s the epicenter of esports and I think our team will represent them well.
HND: You were just talking about the roster, a lot of teams chose to go with rosters that were already fully formed, but you guys took sort of a different path.
DP: Yeah, a lot of the existing cores were very strong, but to make the strongest possible team you need to take the best components from those teams. So we did have a kind of build out of a core mentality. In particular, we have two duos with the tank line duo, iRemiix and Bischu, who have been proven throughout Contenders and throughout a long time in Overwatch. Then Shaz and BigG00se who have been the new and up and coming support duo who have proven themselves in EU contenders.
I think building out of those two cores and then filling out the rest was really the optimal solution. It will take some time to get that perfectly down pat. Obviously getting a team right off the bat gives you the best immediate results, but I think a month or two months down the line it will look like a synergistic team.
HND: Something that really focuses on playing in a league and playing in an environment where you can go the player’s skills rather than just a tournament roster?
DP: Yeah, I think that is a big thing too. The infrastructure that we will have with a gaming house, the practices structure and playing next to each other. I think that expedites the process of becoming a team or at least puts it on the fast track. Problems will be hashed out and we’ll be a team pretty quickly. I think even existing teams if they haven’t been together, physically, in person they will have a similar experience where they grow really fast.
HND: When you were looking at all these different players and all the potential people you could pick up, was there anything that stood out outside the game to you about certain players.
DP: Yeah, the core values I wanted in players were really three pronged.
The first one, was that I wanted my players to be really gritty. I guess I’m using a particular definition of grit. Grit is a concept that was developed by Angela Lee Duckworth and it essentially states that the greatest predictor for elite athletes, elite people and people at the top of their field, is their passion and determination in that field, and I think I got players that are really emulative of those things. Intrinsically this makes sense right, people who really care about what they do.
I think about Lebron James or something like that, someone who is probably the most physically talent human being on the planet. I would define him as gritty because he has lost a ton of NBA finals and I think what makes him great, and this is coming from a Warriors fan, is his willingness to come back, and improve and persevere every time it’s clear that he loves basketball and is obsessed with basketball and I think that’s what makes him elite and will help you to be elite in any field. And that’s something I wanted to see in my players was how gritting they were and proof of perseverance and proof of passion were really important.
The second quality was high intelligence and game sense, and this is more an in game thing. At any given point a game is made up of twelve people on the field, and each match or each point could be decided by a hundred different decisions that each of these players make and that’s exponential because if one player makes a decisions the other players change their decision based on that.
So, having people who are really smart and can really adapt in game as well as strategically out of game is really important. Because we don’t really know where the meta is going to be. We could get the best team for the moment, but finding players who can adapt and see these small differences and make those decisions will make us meta agnostic and really future proof as far as the team goes.
The last thing, is being a good teammate. This is a really underrated quality in esports because the environment we grow up in is a solo queue environment. This is where I grind and I’m only at it for me. So you don’t end up with the best teammates because they haven’t been on a team your whole life, like in traditional sports when you are on a team through elementary, middle and high school. Finding the people who are willing to be good teammates is something that’s really important to me and to the team culture moving forward.
Those are the core values that I look for in all my players outside of the game.
HND: Obviously you want to succeed in the first season of Overwatch League you want to win as many games as possible, are there any goals outside of that kind of thing that you’re looking for in the first season?
DP: Two answers to that. Philosophically, I think coaching esports is all about growing players into better people. If we win, but we didn’t turn out to be better people, just more talent, I wouldn’t be really happy about that. Because at the end of the day, this is just sports, there is something greater to life than just winning and losing so my players coming out as better people is really important to me.
As far as the job itself, building an infrastructure and building a team culture is really important so you can build for the future. Even if it is not with the exact same pieces. Maybe if some people don’t necessarily fit or they have other opportunities they want to pursue I think that’s fair of them, but it’s really important that you build a team culture and the infrastructure required to be resistant to the more randomized change in rosters, so you can start to build something more systematically.
I think rosters in esports tend to switch really often and tend not to have an ideology beyond let’s get great players, so building that ground work for season one and using it as a pilot is going to be really important to test out that infrastructure and that team culture.
HND: Is there anything else you want fans to know about the roster in particular?
DP: Not really, I’m really excited to showcase the team and I think LA will really like our team and we look forward to representing LA.
This interview has been edited for length and clarity.