With all eyes on the inaugural season of the Overwatch League, it’s easy to forget that there’s even more competition going on just below – a second tier of Overwatch esports full of players who are, in many cases, just as passionate as their OWL brethren. For the last few months they’ve been vying for the top in unofficial tournaments like APAC Premier, BEAT, and PIT, but the true test – Overwatch Contenders – begins in less than a week. In “In Contention,” I’ll be talking to players from some of the more than 80 teams participating in Contenders – the ragtag squads from Contenders Trials, the established independent teams, the prestigious OWL Academy rosters – about their journeys to this point and their hopes for the season.
Anita: Your interview is going to be the first in a series, “In Contention,” about Contenders players’ journeys through esports, the game of Overwatch, and general team politics. So I’m here to talk about Contenders, yes, but mostly I’m here to talk about you. So: tell me about you.
Why Overwatch? What made you decide you wanted to go pro?
Jaru: I picked Overwatch because I wanted something new and upcoming. I first saw it being played by a streamer during closed beta and I thought it had really cool characters that seemed like a blast to play. When I decided to go pro, I was watching players like Taimou and ShaDowBurn. It made me want to compete against the best players in the world. I wanted to make a name for myself and be respected as a player for my skill and drive, which is still true to this day. All I have ever wanted was to prove myself to the best players in the world and the competitive community.
“I’m a 17-year-old kid who wants to be a god,” it says in your Twitch “About Me” section. I always found that quite striking.
Haha, yeah, I wrote that in my bio when I first started playing the game. My goals were big then, and I really didn’t know much on what it took to being a pro. Over time I came to realize that you have to sacrifice a lot to be a pro player and your goals need to be clear to improve. Hard work pays off, not only through grinding but self-discipline as well. I keep it there to remind myself that I still have a long way to go before I can consider myself one of the best.
Not such a long way anymore, all things considered. You’re on one of the top independent second-tier teams – you’ve been giving [Fusion University star DPS] WhoRU a run for his money lately. But we’ll get back to that later.
You spent a bit of time on Toronto Esports, but your real break into the scene was when EnVision picked you up very suddenly for the playoffs of Contenders Season 0. That’s quite a short time to get acquainted with a new team.
When EnVision asked me to play for them in playoffs, I saw an opportunity for myself to grow as a player on a different team. Playing on a different team with a completely different environment gave me a breath of fresh air on what my potential could be as a player. We struggled at first in Season 0 playoffs and then I proceeded to play with them again in a BEAT Invitational, but we still fell short as a team. But I knew I wanted to play with this team in the coming months.
Let’s talk about EnVision, then. Your teammates McGravy and Fire have been on the team since before you were, and the three of you together have become a force to be reckoned with. Tell me about playing with them?
Well, I’ll start with McGravy. Gravy is one of the most dedicated, hardworking, and emotional players I have ever had the pleasure of playing with. He has so much drive to win and it makes him the most uplifting player in-game. He can come off a little strong to some people, but deep down all he wants is to win and be the best. Now with Fire – that man is one of the best Lúcios in the game. He has heart, great work ethic, and an amazing personality to be around. I’m glad I have had the pleasure to play with these guys.
More recently, eV picked up iShiny, Crimzo, and buds. buds, especially, has been spoken of in the context of OWL a lot, though some say he’s lost his touch since the roster leak scandal that allegedly cut him from consideration for the Outlaws. What’s your experience so far with him as your DPS partner?
Buds and I struggled when we first started playing because we had different ideas on how to play together, but it got better once we had more time to play together. He is a very experienced veteran player and brings a lot of insight when it comes to doing VOD reviews or how he wants something to be played. We complement each other well since we both have aggressive playstyles.
What about iShiny and Crimzo? Main tank and flex support are both known as positions that can make or break a game.
Shiny brings a lot to the table with his energy in comms and positive mentality when going into practice and tournaments. He is very reliable in giving ideas on compositions and on how the game should be played. He’s a really nice guy and I always look forward to working with him. Now for Crimzo: we got so lucky with this guy. He is easily one of the best flex supports in Contenders and deserves to be in OWL. He has such a positive mentality, even if we are losing, and tries to keep everyone together by finding solutions. He is also the biggest memer I have ever met, so that’s a plus.
Your most recent tournament was the PIT Championship, where EnVision was swept by Fusion University in the grand finals only a day after eV swept them. What happened?
I think the difference was our mentality. I can’t necessarily pinpoint anything specifically, but we just had a lot of trouble coming together as a team in the grand finals. Fusion learned from their loss, and we did not go into the finals with the right mindset.
Have the results of PIT (and of the BEAT Invitational, where you also narrowly placed second behind FUni) changed how you practice?
Before PIT even started, we were looking at how we wanted to prepare for Contenders, because that is our long-term goal as a team in the coming months. As a team, we can just look forward and forget those tournaments ever happened because winning Contenders is our goal.
Most people seem to think that the OWL Academy teams have a drastic advantage in Contenders due to the resources they share with their OWL teams – not just money, but strategy and organization. An independent team like eV winning would be a major upset. Do you agree?
I do agree. I don’t know, it seems like you answered your own question.
Then tell us why we should keep an eye on EnVision, no pun intended.
We will stop at nothing to be the best and all any of us want is to win. We will put in the hours to support each other to be the team we want to be. We will strive to be better players, amazing teammates, and prove to everyone that we can beat anyone. We love playing together and I do believe we can make anything happen.
Thank you so much for talking with us, Jaru. I look forward to watching EnVision play this season. Is there anything else you’d like to say before we wrap up here?
I would just like to thank everyone who continues to support us. I really do love our community and will continue to do my best for everyone. Another thanks to my coach, Chu, who has always supported me and made me the player I am today. Our analyst, Elbion, is cool too. Thanks for the interview!
I truly enjoyed talking with Jaru; he is enthusiastic, genuine, self-critical, and incredibly dedicated to his team, and between that mindset of constant improvement and the clutch Genji plays he’s known for, I’m certain we’ll be seeing him on the shortlist for OWL trials once he ages into eligibility next season.