BURBANK, Calif. — Not too long ago, UPROXX got to spend the day with Xavier Woods as the gaming guru and WWE Superstar hung out at Blizzard Arena, checking out the beginning of Stage Two of the first Overwatch League season. Woods got to kick it up close and personal with the London Spitfire, who won Stage One in a match people are still talking about.
We talked to Woods about Overwatch League, the nature and future of eSports, Black History Month, pancakes, and what drove the New Day and the Usos to have the best matches of 2017.
This is just a portion of our half-hour interview with Woods, and you can find the entire thing over on the With Spandex Podcast. So check it out!
With Spandex: You’re wearing a London Spitfire jersey, and you’re here hanging out with the London Spitfire, which is the Overwatch League’s team in London — at some point it’ll be in London. How do you feel about Overwatch League?
Xavier Woods: Overwatch League is easily one of the coolest things in eSports that’s popped up in awhile. Also really cool because seeing the history of Overwatch, how there wasn’t a story mode or anything. They dropped [the title] and Blizzard’s like, “Hey, this is a just a game, just play this game.” And then they way that they would drop little videos about each character, so you kind of learn a little bit, but there was never a sit down functional story mode. When it first dropped some of my friends were like, “I don’t know about this, I want a story mode.” It’s like dude we don’t need this, and so to be able to see it grow from that into this league where we’ve got geolocated cities. It’s going to be something that rivals the NBA, NFL, it’s going to be the same thing.
eSports is in that place right now where the mainstream coverage of it is like, “Can you believe that people think that they can play video games for a living?” How long do you think it’s going to be for eSports and pro gamers to gain credibility?
I don’t know, that’s something that we kind of talk about a lot, because when you look at other sports — basketball, football, what have you — people automatically take those seriously. It’s like, okay, well somebody made this play, this 40-yard catch, oh this is amazing. They made that catch because they trained for hours. They took parts of their lives and they threw them in the background so that they can practice for this one moment, for this one catch so that people would be amazing. That’s the same thing that these guys and girls do in eSports. They train constantly, they’re playing 6, 8, 12, 15 hours a day in order to get to this stage, in order to be at the top of the League, in order to win.
[In the Stage One finale], Spitfire won $100,000. I was watching the end of Stage One — some people saw me watching it on my phone like, “What are you doing?” I’m like “I’m watching Overwatch.” Then, first off, “What’s that? I don’t play video games.” It’s like, “Well, Overwatch is a first-person shooter. You run around, you shoot stuff, you’re on a team.” They go, “Why is this important?” It’s like, “Well, one, I like it, and they’re playing for 100 grand.” Then people stop, and they go, “Wait, what?” Then they try to learn more about it because I think that people vote with their dollar. So when they see lots of dollars going towards a thing they go, “Oh, this thing is clearly important.”
Unfortunately, that’s a thing in our society right now. I think for casual people who don’t play video games who might come across it, they might see it on ESPN, or they might just see it randomly pop up online on whatever they’re browsing around on. When they see this dollar sign amount cash prize attached, suddenly they go, “Oh, someone has invested their money into this because it’s of some importance, so let me now see what this is.”
I feel like that’s the hook for a lot of people that don’t play video games, and then when they see how fun it is, and see the personalities involved, and see how great the game is then they go, “Oh, I start to understand this a little bit more now.” I wish it wasn’t like that. I wish that people just saw awesome stuff happening, people getting hype and then they’re like, oh cool I’ll watch this.
I think from a social aspect too things kind of help, because when we do have these big matches of tournaments in this Overwatch League, and they do clip off like awesome play, and a person who doesn’t play video games might not know what that awesome play is, but then when they cut to this side of the audience and everyone’s jumping up and high-fiving, they go, “Oh, okay. Now I saw this on Instagram and now I want to know what this is from.” And they backtrack and do the work, and they go, “Oh, Overwatch, what is this?” Then they start playing the game, and now they understand it next time that they see it.