With the second season of the Overwatch League set to kick off in February, its a quiet time of the year for Overwatch fans. For some players, the scourge of Brigitte and GOATS in competitive play is their biggest concern. For other people who follow the esport, the biggest worry of the Overwatch League is whether teams will be able to learn the lessons from the first season. Overwork, burnout, social media meltdowns, mental health issues, reality TV style controversies and more all occurred during the league’s inaugural season.
The Seoul Dynasty, in retrospect, may have been one of the teams where fans might have expected such issues to manifest. The team entered the league with high expectations on their shoulders; even the team’s name demanded respect and suggested results. While the team was not without minor controversies around events or mid-season switch ups, the team kept their heads high. Heroes Never Die had the opportunity to talk to Seoul Dynasty — and the team’s parent organization, Gen.G’s — Chief Growth Officer, Arnold Hur, about the team’s first season and the standard of player treatment that must be met.
The Seoul Dynasty, as we all now know, did not live up to their season one expectations. The London Spitfire hoisted the trophy in New York City, and the Dynasty returned home, without even making the playoffs, and began to prepare for season two. The fact that the Dynasty is part of a greater esports organization in Gen.G paid off in spades, and its an advantage that not every Overwatch League team can claim. There is, of course, the benefit of rest and relaxation, but the Dynasty aim for a more comprehensive approach to downtime.
Coming back to Korea meant that not only was the team able to adjust to new changes, including the pick up of Hwang“Marve1” Min-seo, Baek “Fissure” Chan-hyung and Lee ”Jecse” Seung-soo, but they had access to new avenues of support. “They were able to hit the off-season, come home to Korea, and they were able to not just work with the team and the new team, but the entire esports organization,” said Hur. “They could talk to the League of Legends coach, our silver medalists from the Asian games.”
Hur describes the Dynasty’s Seoul HQ as a nucleus, a place where players can refresh and connect with their peers. It’s not an approach unique to the Dynasty; the Los Angeles Valiant’s multi-team compound is similarly structured. The Dynasty take pride in the other benefits they can offer: a personal physical trainer for each and every athlete, psychologists, and more.
“Just because the results aren’t good doesn’t mean you shouldn’t take care of your players,” says Hur. “We always want to provide our players top of the line treatment when it comes to housing, nutrition, and helping them deal with the stress throughout all of that.” Hur, and the Dynasty, recognizes that stresses compound when the team is struggling — it’s a situation that must be handled carefully, and the Dynasty is betting foresight will help with the future.
Refreshed, refocused, revitalized
When I ask about season two, Hur is optimistic. He’s a measured, thoughtful man, but when I ask him about his thoughts on the Dynasty’s competitive chances he clearly brightens. “One thing we’re excited about is we’re going in underrated. I’m putting this down right now! I think we’re underrated.”
That’s a position of power for the Dynasty, and Hur anticipates it to favor them, especially with the reflection the team has undergone between seasons. “We had a bird’s eye view on the team results, and we’ll see results from the off season,” he says. “We’re working on a unified identity and team voice. All of the coaches and players will be trying the same thing, with one unified strategy.”
During the second season, Gen.G will be opening a second facility in Los Angeles, which will create a dual HQ, and an opportunity for the Dynasty to receive that support without having to fly home to Seoul.
There will still be burnout to contend with, however. During the tail end of season one, the Shanghai Dragons came under fire for 12 hour practice days. In a post about his retirement from professional Overwatch, Ted “silkthread” Wang shared that the Chengdu Hunters currently practice 14 hours a day. In the competitive League of Legends scene, a franchised team had veteran coach Brandon “Saintvicious” DiMarco resign after candid contents that depression, anxiety, and ADHD “aren’t real” and are a “made up excuse”. Overall, its clear that the field has room to grow.
When I asked if the Dynasty was aware of these crunch issues, Hur agreed that its an issue to address. “We try to use our time as efficiently as possible,” he said. People talk about Korean esports team, all they do is spend their time practicing! That’s not true. But when we do a scrim block, we use our time as efficiency as possible.”
While Hur does agree that the team works very hard and relatively long hours, there needs to be a clear distinction between work and home life — as well as enough time to enjoy that time off. “We’ve always viewed player well being as a top priority, not just from a reputation angle but from a competitive angle as well. One of the reasons we’re investing into a facility is so employees can separate work and life.”
In addition, the Dynasty has an eye on the future. “We always make sure that we take care of these guys,” says Hur. “Ultimately we build players and teams for the long run, not for just one year.”
Full speed ahead
When I ask Hur which teams he’s excited to play against, he lists off nearly half the league. “Spitfire, NYXL, Gladiators ...” He continues on, and then laughs. “We want to go against the top teams. We’re also excited about the new expansion teams, especially in China, with talent that people may not know about.”
The Gladiators match, which will mark the Dynasty’s debut in season two, is especially spicy with the recent main tank trade of Fissure. Hur is also convinced that the China and Korea clash will be a huge rivalry throughout season two, and he’s excited to kick it off with a match against the Chengdu Hunters on Feb. 21. “Across the board, we want to play against the best.”
The ultimate lesson that the Dynasty may have learned from season one, however, is that in the end, it’s not about winning or losing. “It’s about fundamentals,” Hur admits. “Winning is important, and fundamentals come first.”
As for any final messages to the fan base, Hur signs off with this: “We care. We want you guys know that we definitely care.” The fan art, reception, meet ups and more have fueled the Dynasty even in tough times, and they hope to continue to cultivate that fan base in season two.