Last weekend’s UCLA Summer Invitational felt like a West Coast block party for the folks living in the Overwatch neighborhood. No barbecue, but teams from up and down the coast, including some from the Midwest like Purdue, Ohio Northern University and the University of Michigan, made the long commute by wire to play some games, and get demolished by UC Irvine.
It was a display of dominance. The first seeded UCI team didn’t drop a single game throughout the whole tournament, taking out UT Dallas in the finals in a 3-0 sweep.
The tournament was a success according to UCLA esports director Cathy Ge, a junior studying Economics, and Sophomore Dillon LeDuc. Their stream peaked at 8.7 thousand viewers, which “blew our channel’s previous stats out of the water,” they said. Some of the boost may have also come from UCLA’s recent Twitch partnership, allowing the Summer Invitational to grab a spot on Twitch’s front page.
Ge and LeDuc were also happy about the host of teams participating, especially those who were new to the competitive scene.
“UCI was great as always, but the University of Hawaii was one of the new schools entering the competitive scene who took some unexpected wins in the Overwatch tournament last weekend,” they said.
Hawaii lost to UCI in the first round, but steamrolled through UC San Diego and Colorado State University until they lost to Ohio Northern.
The Summer Invitational Overwatch tournament came a week after a Valorant tournament with the same name, and just about the same result. UCI romped through the bracket, but had a close 13-11 final match against San Jose State University.
Tournaments like these create a mixture of organic, yet deeply deterministic communities temporally and structurally locked, bursting with boundless feats of human performance while bubbling with articles of careful prediction until the skeletal, abstract finale takes on a storied and concrete conclusion. For esports tournaments, that community gathers around the Twitch stream, and fractals into discussions on various Discord servers and Twitter threads.
Twitch chat becomes the main forum of discussion, and with so many schools participating, the atmosphere of UCLA’s stream was lively with viewers from every school chiming in at every push.
Levi Meeks, a Junior at Colorado State University, recalled the positive energy.
“I can speak for the Overwatch team in that the chat was super kind and got hype no matter who was playing. It was super fun to hear great casters and have the community support not just their school but the whole event with active cheering,” he said.
Chat aside, Ge and LeDuc think the tournament was a good indication as to how the rest of the season may go.
“We expect our usual powerhouses to continue with their strong performance, such as Maryville and UCI. We’re also excited to see the new schools that have entered the invitational continue to show off during the rest of the season,” they said.
USC didn’t quite make it to the limelight of UCLA’s Twitch stream after their tough first round match against Cal State Fullerton. They lost 1-2, and dropped into the lower bracket where they beat Cal State Northridge 2-0 before losing to UC Riverside 0-2.
Quiana “jaru” Dang, the manager of the team, mentioned that the team didn’t do as well as they hoped.
“California schools are pretty competitive and they made up most of the entrants in this tournament so I wasn’t surprised that the competition was hard,” she said.
The team’s fluctuating roster made things difficult as well, as they picked up Mike “BianDang” Zhou minutes before the tournament.
“I think the last-minute addition of Mike definitely shook up our plans, although he pops off so it’s not like we played worse or anything,” said Jaru.
The Summer Invitational comes after a buff to Heroes like Road Hog and Zenyatta, and nerfs to Brigitte and Orisa. The result was a brief foray into Road Hog on the part of UCLA’s John “YaBoiJJohnny” Walkiewicz who took to the Hero on Kings Row against Ohio Northern, and again vs. UCI with a bit less success. Reaper was super hit or miss, and he either hit a huge death blossom that won a point like in UCR vs. Purdue where Kevin “Kreid” Reid kept the series alive, or he floundered into irrelevance like every time he was picked on Lijiang.
Sombra was a staple in just about every game, especially for UTD where Caleb “Stasis” Wang was a serious loyalist for that character. Orisa was an interesting pick that worked in some instances for UCR, but really handicapped them in others.
Ashe (and more specifically Bob) provided some moments of strategic brilliance as well. University of Michigan was struggling against Colorado State in game one, and it was all up to Bob in overtime on Lijiang Tower. Tyler “Upnorth” Spurr launched Bob into the capture point in the hopes of a miracle, and the character proceeded to fire away towards a 3k on point, almost saving Michigan from a loss. But CSU nabbed the control point, and eked out a 2-0 win on Kings Row in another overtime game.
The tournament came during the COVID-19 pandemic, and had to be run remotely, a feat made easier when everyone’s there to watch and play video games. Remote streaming still made for some difficulties, however.
“Unfortunately, due to COVID, we are currently running our streams at students’ homes and relying on the PCs and laptops they have there. Post-COVID, we would like to stream from our esports training room on campus instead,” said Ge and LeDuc.
With more finalized rosters, and USC’s tryouts happening on September 5, we’ll be watching how the rest of the season goes with this tournament as a benchmark.
Additional reporting from Dylan Palacios