The Overwatch League aired an excellent video feature on the New York XL’s captain, Saebyeolbe, before their match against the Dallas Fuel. It tells a heartfelt story of a superstar who, due to meta changes, fell out of favour and had to claw his way back.
In the past, stories produced by the league often felt forced and squeezed for every last drop of value until they were no longer compelling. This video feature hits all the right notes and tells one of the most valuable stories the league can possibly tell.
The feature begins with a close up of Saebyeolbe and his trademarked finger blowing, underlined by a commanding beat. An impressive highlight reel by one of the most dominant Tracers of 2018 follows. Supported by excited shout casters that keep repeating his name at every possible pitch in the human range, we get to see some of his most exciting frags.
This part aims to manifest Saebyeolbe’s achievements from last season by showcasing his past greatness in tangible clips, and therefore shares this information intuitively. Having Sideshow frame the point of the video was an excellent choice, as he eloquently and authentically leads us to the point of the video that states “people who’ve only watched in 2019, you might not even know who Saebyeolbe is, as the absolute legend that he was.”
As the music switches to a melancholic tune and then into an arrhythmic atmospheric pad, we get a close up of the man himself. Saebyeolbe confesses his hardship with his sudden disappearance from the stage. All focus is on his facial expressions.
“It felt like GOATS wasn’t going to end,” he says, a sentiment shared by many fans around the league. At the same time, the video demonstrates just how much more this feeling impacts professional players. As if he couldn’t hold his gaze when telling you his secret, Saebyeolbe looks thoughtfully to the floor and he shares that he “felt empty inside”. He confesses that he also thought about quitting, once again with a two thousand yard stare and light nodding.
The video cuts to the NYXL of this season, laughing and winning on stage without him there. He shares that it made feel him very lonely and that he felt he was falling behind in his career, stating it matter of factly. The camera shows him fighting tears while again breaking eye contact.
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Expertly the emotion is transported to the audience and there is no doubt what this means to him. The story then injects hope as Saebyeolbe talks about his comeback and the impact it had on his happiness. Unexpectedly he switches to English.
“Ne [Korean standard yes], I’m so happy and very exciting”. His eyes tell a story of relief, confidence and determination before briefly switching to a mindful place. The fact that it doesn’t require narration from a third party here, that all emotion bubbles up from the interview subject, makes this a rare, introspective moment.
Then he explains that the trust in himself from last season, especially in his Tracer, came from a lot of hard practice, and that he plans to grind to the same place with Sombra. This explanation opens the viewer up to a new path which they can follow Saebyeolbe on. Much like the highlights from last season, the video shows his Sombra highlights from this season and draws those parallels once again.
The feature finishes on an exciting high point with Saebyeolbe promising us in English that he’s “coming home”. And cut.
Rarely has a piece resonated as strongly with me as this one. In under three minutes, it manages to authentically transport the subject’s struggles onto the viewer without it feeling forced down my throat.
While the abnormal strength of a pro player’s desire to be the best may not be something everyone can identify with, the symptomatic emotions of this opportunity being taken away and finally rekindled is something everyone should be able to empathise with. Us, as an audience, are getting a rare glimpse into the pursuit of excellence. Sideshow once again nails the quintessence of the feature.
It’s all for the love of the game.