With a day tagged onto the end of our E3 trip over to LA, we though what better to do with our free time than head down to Burbank and check out some Overwatch League IRL. 

Let it be known that I’ve been following the inaugural season of the Overwatch League since the second week of competition, and chose to support LA Valiant simply based on the fact that their colours were green and gold. It was fortuitous, then, that they should then go onto acquire Scott ‘Custa’ Kennedy, the only Aussie in the League. #WingsOut

Watching the stream on Twitch versus seeing everything unfold in front of your eyes is a very different experience. On Twitch, you see the shoutcasters, the analysts and the commentators before and after the matches, and hear them in between, with the players’ heroes the only way you can see them represented. You don’t really get a feel for the crowds or the atmosphere when you’re staring at a computer screen – or the chance to grab merch, for that matter.

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Thanks to Blizzard ANZ, I was given the chance to head down to Blizzard Arena in Burbank, California as the last part of my LA adventures for E3. Unfortunately, due to the untimley nature of my flight back, I only got to stay for the first half of the Houston Outlaws vs New York Excelsior game. I must say, with that week being the last week of normal play in Stage 4 of the competition, the atmosphere when the players walked onto the stage was something else. For a relatively small group of people packed into a little arena, the noise was off the charts, with supporters making their love for their favourite players known.

Each team filters out through a section underneath the rear stairs, that then allows them to get high-fives from the people sitting in the front before taking their seats at their stations. The small interaction with fans is great, and anyone who does get acknowledged by the players always looks genuinely stoked. It’s a nice touch that you don’t see at other sporting events, and it just brings everything a little closer to home.

Everyone in the front seated section has a great collection of home-made signs for their favourite players, and put it in their best interest to hold these up whenever the camera is on the shoutcasters at the desk. The effort some of these guys have gone to is awesome, showing a clear love for their teams – much like a cheersquad you might see at an AFL game, for instance. It’s great, too, to see everyone wearing team jerseys, even if their team isn’t necessarily playing on that day.

The presentation of the games themselves is a clear highlight of the Overwatch League formula. Every map is introduced with a neat pre-game graphic, and with the way the screens are positioned it makes for an immersive experience akin to looking at an IMAX screen.

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Esports in Australia is on its way to finding its feet, especially with the announcement of the Melbourne Esports Open happening later in the year, and it’s nice to see events like the Overwatch League giving our country something to aspire to. I, for one, can’t wait to see what surprises and upsets the Season 1 finals have in store, and look forward to seeing what the future holds for esports around the world.