Xu "Guxue" Qiulin grins after his victory against the Atlanta Reign. Only months ago, he placed second overall in Chinese Contenders as one of the stars of LGD Gaming. Since then, the 18-year-old Main Tank has experienced a year of trials and transitions.
Success is one of the only true consistencies, however—the Hangzhou Spark continue to rise in the Overwatch League’s standings and are now ranked by many as a top team. However, Guxue still finds victories with the Spark special.
“I feel like the players in the Overwatch League are much stronger,” he said. “I feel happier winning games in OWL.”
While the world finally recognized Guxue’s talent as he lead Team China to a second place finish during the 2018 Overwatch World Cup, his uncle was the first to recognize and encourage his love for gaming at a young age. He brought Guxue to an internet cafe in kindergarten, where they played Counter-Strike together.
“Then I started playing video games, and in primary school my family purchased a PS2 for me,” Guxue said. “Eventually, I started going to internet cafes a lot. My family wanted to keep me in the house. That’s when they purchased me a gaming PC.”
Guxue enjoyed playing on his console and PC after school, but a career in esports wasn’t one of his goals until Overwatch. A longtime Blizzard fan, he discovered the game while watching some of his favorite Hearthstone streamers and decided to give it a try. He said he still remembers how his first Dragonblade as Genji pulled him deeper into the game.
“It was so awesome, so I started playing Overwatch a lot more frequently,” Guxue said. “But when I was wanting to playing Genji and then got in a game, other players would just take him from me. So I would end up playing heroes like Reinhardt and Lucio, and eventually realized that those two heroes took up most of my playtime.”
Soon after he became a Main Tank player, Winston captivated Guxue due to the hero’s high health pool and ability to dive onto low-health supports in the back line. This love for tank play evolved into skill, which helped him gain recognition while Guxue was still in school.
“Back in 2016, I got an offer for a lot of teams in China,” Guxue said. “I didn’t think my family would support me, so I turned down a lot of offers at the beginning. But after I placed higher and higher on the Chinese ladder, and eventually reached the top 10 in the Chinese servers, that’s when I knew I had to give it a shot. I joined a professional team and started to balance scrims and school, around December of 2016.”
Guxue’s instincts regarding his family’s concerns turned out to be well-founded. Although his parents supported his passion for gaming, Guxue shared they were worried about the prospect of a professional gamer.
“They didn’t understand esports as a career,” Guxue said. “But one of my cousins talked with my parents for a couple of days and helped them realize what esports was. They support me now.”
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With his family’s support, Guxue’s strengths continued to develop on LGD Gaming in Chinese Contenders. Alongside eventual Guangzhou Charge players Chen "OnlyWish" Lizhen and Ou "Eileen" Yiliang, the three were instrumental in securing two second-place finishes in Contenders, losing twice to Lucky Future Zenith.
Lucky Future Zenith was home to many other eventual Overwatch League players, including Seoul Dynasty’s Min-seo "Marve1" Hwang and Min-hyuk "Michelle" Choi, Shanghai Dragon’s Min-seong "diem" Bae, Joon "Erster" Jeong of the Atlanta Reign, and Guxue’s future teammate, Ho-jin "iDK" Park.
The experience of competing with and against some of the most elite Tier 2 talent at the time pushed Guxue to perform at the highest level, to the point where he became the breakout star of the 2018 Overwatch World Cup. This event provided additional challenges and the largest audience Guxue had ever played in front of.
“The World Cup was the first time I was competing outside of China and I really enjoyed the atmosphere of a bigger stage and audience,” Guxue said. “I compete better in front of a larger audience.”
Guxue’s aggressive yet precise Winston play, highlighted by his impactful juggles in Primal Rage, became an overnight sensation for those unfamiliar with the Chinese Overwatch scene. Team China defeating Team Sweden 3-1 in their first match of the Bangkok Qualifiers set the tone for the rest of the tournament.
China went 5-0 in the group stage, carrying their dominance over to BlizzCon where they defeated the previous years’ powerhouses, Finland and Canada, 3-0. But after two-time champions South Korea swept Team China, Guxue’s World Cup journey came to an end. He had established himself as one of the most eligible players for Season 2 of the Overwatch League.
Less than two weeks after the World Cup Finals, the Hangzhou Spark announced they had signed Guxue.
“I was so happy to be a part of the Hangzhou Spark, and to share the stage with players I respect a lot,” Guxue said. “I never thought I would be able to play against those players. It’s a dream come true.”
The Hangzhou Spark’s first season in the league has resulted in great success after a difficult first stage, and the team is in an excellent position to qualify for both the Stage 3 and Season Playoffs. Guxue was also voted in by fans as an All Stars starter, and has received game MVP multiple times. Despite the success, Guxue is still looking towards the future.
“I just want our team to reach the Season Playoffs and be in the final four for all remaining stages,” Guxue said. “For myself, I want to be MVP for every single game.”