Three seasons. It has been three seasons since the fans lit up an area with cheers for their favorite teams who are fighting to win it all. For many fans, this was the first experience going to the Grand Finals or any Overwatch League match. And for those who had gone, it was a throwback to the old BALA days of the community. Here is a look at the experience at the Anaheim Convention Center for the OWL Season 5 Grand Finals.
The type of awe to walking towards the Anaheim Convention Center with the large white ‘Overwatch League Grand Finals 2022’ banner hanging cannot be truly expressed. For many fans, this was the materialization of what they had watched for years on the screen. From the outside GA admission line with food trucks and cheer stations, the line quickly grew hours before the doors open which was hours before the first match started.
Inside the Venue
Once the long line to get in was navigated the inside of the area was just as spectacular. There were the iconic statues of the beloved heroes of Tracer, Widowmaker and Junkrat as well as the Grand Final trophy on display. Food venues to grab meals were available, which was highly needed for hours of Overwatch consumption. The two most popular areas were the merchandise that was close to the UpperDeck table where fans could be on their own card.
The real action was right inside the doors. The two large double doors opened up, and immediately what catches the eye is the huge screens and raised platform where the players would be competing. The playlist on the sound system was a good mix of classic hype songs and recent bops. The lighting circulated as fans started to walk to find their seats. So many were just staring at the stage with wonderment.
The seating was well spaced out with enough room to move. All around the arena, there were large screens to watch the action so that there was no place where the action in the game couldn’t be seen. Though they did tend to favor the one side, which would be deemed the front more than the back. The back did have the advantage as that was where the players walked out from.
The venue itself brought expectations high for what was to come in the following days.
The Atmosphere in the Arena
The chants echo in the arena. From ‘MVP’ as Donghyun ‘Proper’ Kim got a 4k or him falling off the map to ‘Butter-fingers’ whenever the brand advertising popped up. As the lights dimmed and the intro played for the first time opening the pre-show the anticipation was electrifying. All the pent-up energy fans had toward their teams erupted out once their players hit the stage. From the walkout where they stared down each other, to the customary handshakes at the end of the match. It was nice to see some sense of normality come back since the era of online play.
Goldenboy who was the host of the event played a huge part. He was able to hype up the fans even when it was 5 plus hours deep into sitting and watching Overwatch. As the host, he not only made it feel welcoming back but was also able to relate to the large age range of the audience members in the arena. It was great to see him back in the Overwatch League events that reminded many fans to back to the first two seasons of the league.
The fans had many opportunities to interact. This was both inside and outside of the arena. Outside there were food trucks, backdrops that fans could take pictures with, a cheer station to make signs, and booths near the GA line for contenders and to give away freebies.
All in attendance were able from the Overwatch League app to go around the arena to scan QR codes to give them in-game content. In between maps, the fans had opportunities to play games from trivia, shooting cups, and audio flappy bird. There was no moment where fans weren’t engaged in some way or form.
If it wasn’t outside of the match it was watching the game. The observers did a great job following the action. Though the meta was not the most interesting, the observation team ensured that the audience caught all the important moments. Though some of the score lines look like a blowout with 3-0s the stories behind the score tell a much different story, which was all caught on the screen. So many of the matches came down to a single moment where a mistake was made and the observation team was able to catch those moments for us all.
Season 5 Grand Finals
The OWL Grand Finals had so much for fans. From the announcement of Ramattra, amazing gameplay, seeing the teams in person, and all the fan events, the grand finals were a major success on all sides.
Going to the Grand Finals at Anaheim represented both the past and the future. It highlighted the areas that fans missed the most during the online seasons, but also fresh new elements that excited fans about the future of the league.
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