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Immortals Overwatch players GrimReality and Aythen discuss building an esport and the Overwatch League waiting game

Immortals Overwatch grimreality aythen
Image made during PAX South, Saturday, Jan. 28, 2017, in San Antonio, Texas.

Slingshot’s Vince Nairn caught up with Christopher “GrimReality” Schaefer and Athen “Aythen” Zhu, members of the Immortals Overwatch team, to discuss coming together, their start of 2017 and the state of Overwatch as an esport.

Vince Nairn: Overwatch as an esport is still in its infancy. What’s it like to be a part of the formative time of this game?

Christopher “GrimReality” Schaefer: It’s really nice. Im super grateful to be where I am because as much dedication and hard work I put in, there was a lot of luck and timing. TO get on a team when I did. To start Overwatch when I did. It’s really exciting to be a part of the scene and being part of the development as a whole.

Athen “Aythen” Zhu: Being at the start is awesome because you’re kind of a step ahead of everyone. You see how everything moves forward. You start out at the worst tournaments, poorly organized. You just see them get better and better over time. Tournaments get better and everything.

VN: Did you find anything particularly difficult about climbing the ladder, getting on a team, etc — about the journey as a whole?

CS: Not for me. My drive wasn’t for getting on a team. It was to be the best player I could be and always give it my 100 percent all. It was just improving, and I still carry that on for this day.

AZ: Same for me as well. At the start I wasn’t looking to get on a team or anything as soon as the competitive mode came out. I was just grinding it out, trying to get good at the heroes. I just created a team out of Quick Play players we thought were good. Came in first place at that tournament. It was one of the Gosu weeklies. Surprisingly it’s been pretty easy for me. It was just luck.

VN: Considering how new everything was, when it came to signing with Immortals, did you have an idea of how long you were going to wait before signing with an org? Had you planned on waiting it out longer than you did?

CS: At first, since most of us were new to the esports scene, it was like “There’s money, let’s accept it.” George (“Hyped” Maganzini) was very smart about the situation and didn’t allow us to sign with just anyone. We came across a couple offers. Obviously Immortals was one of them. We just went with the org we thought would care about us most. At first it was a little scary. I did kind of want to go to a lower tier org just because it’s scary representing a big org. But they’ve really made us feel comfortable.

VN: What were you looking for most out of an org?

AZ: We were looking for an org that took care of its players with team houses and stuff like that. They’d help us out with meals. Schedule. Help us out with scrims. I don’t really know what else.

CS: We basically wanted stability as well. We didn’t want to fear any business side of things, like the org not having enough resources, or the org being shady. We just wanted an org that would take care of us and give us the things we needed. We’re not looking for big paychecks or huge house. We just wanted to be the best.

VN: What do you think of the state of the esport right now? There’s been such a dearth of LAN tournaments.

AZ: Online tournaments are getting kind of stale. There’s higher ping and a lot of Europeans on NA teams, so they have over like 130 ping. That factors in a lot. On a LAN, everything is zero ping. LAN also has a higher tick rate, so that also helps as well. Everything is a lot cleaner. The ping factors in a lot. Playing at zero ping is amazing for an FPS. Anything higher than 100 is hard to play. Your shot gets delayed so much that you could kill something and still put a bullet into that body (before the game catches up).

VN: What about the actual feeling of being on LAN, too? Being on stage is such a different feeling. Do you feel like that can make a difference, too, in your comfort level?

CS: I think it can be. Our first LAN, ELEAGUE — beautiful event, by the way. Easily the best LAN we’ve been to. I felt calm but in game I was very tunnel visioned. I just underperformed. Way below what I could have. I felt a lot more comfortable having a crowd, or people in general. It forced me to stay at the game and look at my screen. For some reason, normally LAN jitters are a thing and a team will underperform. But I don’t think (it affected us).

VN: Where do you think you rank among the NA teams?

CS: I think we’re pretty high up there. I think we can beat teams like Selfless and Rogue, it’s just a matter of consistency and studying. I think we are fairly high up there. Just those small things we need to go over. We have shown in the past we can take games of Selfless, and we have taken games in scrims against Rogue. If we can get those values and reenact what we did in that environment, we’ll be fine.

VN: What does it mean to be the best at this point? Because there isn’t really a way to prove that right now and being online comes with such variance.

AZ: It’s kind of inconsistent saying what team is better than the other team. Same as “Is X better than Y?” It’s really hard to do that because a lot of the game is team based. It’s difficult to pinpoint who’s better than who. But I think the real way you’re gonna find the answer is in a LAN or league.

VN: Speaking of, how have you guys navigated this sort of waiting game that everyone is playing with regards to more info about Overwatch League?

AZ: It kind of sucks just because — well, not kind of. It does suck. It puts a halt to a few things. For example, our house. We don’t know where to get it at. We aren’t gonna get it until we know all that information. Only playing online tournaments, that also sucks because being at LANs you get to meet other players and perform well and everything. Real competition is there. It just sucks overall not knowing when and what they’re doing right now. I don’t know if shady is the right word, but they’re just not telling people everything. It’s not too great.

VN: Have you paid attention to OGN Apex in Korea? What do you think of it?

CS: I think that OGN is like a really cool concept and look into the future, I think. It’s really cool because it adds a lot of structure, which adds more to practice and to players. It makes the environment a lot more strict. It’s really good because you really can define who is better than who. People are so strict on themselves because they have to be. With Western teams being invited there, it’s a little scary because right now NA teams are all over the place, taking tournaments in randomly. There’s not nearly as much structure as there needs to be. I think it’s a whole different ballgame.

VN: If you were ever extended an invite, would it be an idea you’d entertain?

CS: I think we’d be pretty interested. I think we’d want to go over some stuff first and make sure.

VN: Last one for you guys: What is one thing you’d like to see changed in the game or the current meta?

CS: I don’t really dislike very much in Overwatch. For me, I just kind of like take the game in and embrace everything that it has, which is good and bad. I don’t know if I would take much away. If I had to change something, it’d probably be the changes to point captures. I do not think they’re good for payloads or hybrid maps.

AZ: It’s probably like spectating the game for me. I feel like the game is really hard to follow. It’s so hard. I don’t know where they’d improve on it, but adding a scoreboard for maybe just spectators. Things like that. Stats like damage done, healing done. Most, like a leaderboard for that. Some way to provide more support POV or something. As a support main, a lot of things go unnoticed.

Cover photo by Darren Abate, courtesy of Immortals