One of the most interesting teams in the Overwatch League keeps enjoying wide fan support despite losing every single game so far. What’s up with that?
The Shanghai Dragons were, until recently, the only all-Chinese team in OWL. They were expected to perform great before the League started, but so far has dropped every single game they’ve played – a grand total of 24. A plethora of controversy and pressure has been surrounding the red players ever since the qualifiers, and now that the tournament is in its second half, the high expectations seem to only grow.
What do we know about Shanghai?
They were originally led by chief coach Chen ‘U4’ Congshan, who was then let go mid-season and replaced by second coach Sun Jun ‘Kong’ Young.
The team also got rid of Fang ‘Undead’ Chao, who was one of the star players, without providing too much of an explanation why.
The ranks of the already losing team were boosted with the addition of three Korean players - tank Lee "Fearless" Eui-Seok, flex Cheon "Ado" Ki-hyun, and the one who made headlines - Kim "Geguri" Se-yeon.
Why are we talking about the line-up changes so much? Well, mostly because it stirred a lot of controversy in the professional Overwatch scene. There has been many allegations of all sorts of rule violations and overall improper behaviour by the red camp. From boosting scandals with players and the coach to questionable behaviour in one of the players’ personal lives. Some of these are still in ‘he said, she said’ territory, while others have been acknowledged and proven by Blizzard themselves, and punishments have been issued.
As far as boosting is concerned – according to industry insiders, this is a practice vastly spread among the pro player community and a solid revenue stream for many of them. Though strongly disapproved of by gamers and fans, it is suggested by many, that the practice involves a lot more OWL players than meets the eye. Shanghai already have a history of proven instances of boosting, which was punished with hefty fines.
As far as the new players are concerned, there is much more pressure put on them, compared to what’s expected from other teams in OWL. When the San Francisco Shock welcomed young-bloods Moth and Architect, fans welcomed them with high hopes. When Ado and Fearless were announced, people expected miracles from them. While the fan support is a truly positive force and can drive players to achieve impossible feats of strength, this intimidating sense of expectation and the constant increasing of the bar must feel crushing for the newcomers, even though they are world-class top performing pro gamers.
And then there’s the additional pressure for Geguri. Just because she happens to be the only female in the League to date, even more sets of eyes are attracted by her, despite her many statements that she does not want to be viewed as the ‘female pro’ or receive any different treatment just because of her gender.
She recently shared that she’s negatively affected by all the unwanted attention, including sources that aren’t normally interested in the eSports scene. By simply displaying her sheer skill and excellent performance in the past, she involuntarily achieved the status of feminist role-model in her home country – something she never asked for.
With all eyes on them and the big predictions from the analysts at the start of Stage three, the Dragons did the only thing they can – go out there and shoot some enemies.
Now that the Stage is advancing, luck is yet to smile upon them. They did lose all their games in the Stage so far, but something is sensibly different. These weren’t the one-sided games of old. Neither did they make so much rookie mistakes, breaking formation and popping ults at the wrong times.
The Dragons that play in Stage three are ferocious, skilled and give a hard time to their rivals – as hard as any other team.
And it shows.
They enjoy vast support from a passionate fan community, and we can hear the fans cheering in every stream from Blizzard Arena.
More people are waving the red flags than ever. People are cosplaying Mei in her red uniform. Analysts keep predicting the rise of the dragons.
Their last game was against the Shock and it was a tough one. If they are to continue that trend and improve just a little bit more, they are bound to break the vicious cycle and make their many fans roar in happiness as the hall flashes red for the first time and we finally see the words ‘Shanghai Dragons wins!’ on the huge screens.
It’s just a matter of time.