Last night, the Overwatch League audience was treated to one of the best games of the stage. This match wasn’t a playoffs match. In fact, it had absolutely no impact on the playoffs standings. On paper, it had all of the elements of an absolutely terrible game. The Shanghai Dragons and the Florida Mayhem are both on the bottom of the standings, with the Mayhem having a total record of 7-30 and the Dragons sitting at 0-37. This was not exactly a clash of titans... and yet, somehow, this match was one of the League’s most enjoyable yet.
First of all, there’s no denying the fact that Shanghai has one of the most intense fan bases in the League. Everyone is hoping that they avoid the 0-40 lose streak, and they keep coming so close. The pressure on the team must be unimaginable, and the Dragons are pushing themselves with an unsustainable, potentially dangerous training schedule. Every time the Dragons took a point or won a team fight, the crowd went wild. The Dragons even had cheerleaders show up for a previous match. Overwatch is just better when every fight is punctuated by fans screaming and hollering, and Shanghai’s fans delivered last night.
So what about the opposition? The Mayhem are a bunch of likable dudes. They didn’t receive a lot of support throughout the match, but they also got little to no animosity. Everyone wanted Shanghai to win, but that didn’t mean they were cheering hard against the Mayhem. While teams like the Fuel have earned anti-fans through controversies earlier in the season, the Mayhem have swaggered their way through the season with cute entrances and perfectly lovely personalities.
The stars aligned: you had a team everyone wanted to win, a set of antagonists who doesn’t make anyone genuinely angry, and the stakes of Shanghai’s first win. The teams delivered, as well. The game went back and forth, ultimately going to the third round of map five. The Mayhem took Blizzard World, but the Dragons fought back to claim Horizon and Lijang Tower. Excitement mounted. Was this it? Was this the match that would end the Dragons’ legendary losing streak?
It wasn’t. The Mayhem took Watchpoint and Nepal, but for the rest of the match, the sweet taste of hope was upon every fan’s tongue.
Unfortunately, the Dragons lost. We all enjoyed a magical match together, a time in which we thought we could all witness history... until the Mayhem pulled away. No moral. Everyone was sad.
Despite the crushing end to the match, the Overwatch League needs more games where everyone is so invested in the outcome, games where people care about the result. The constant parade of games offers high level gameplay and a glimpse at the pros’ technical and mechanical skills ... but the best matches are the one where we get emotionally engaged in the stakes. The Battle for LA or a close match for the Dragons sticks in many fans’ memories, whereas a far more competently executed match fades into the blur of such a long season.
The Dragons have another shot of victory on Friday, June 8th, when they go up against the Boston Uprising.