Overwatch League

Havertown teen earns pro eSports contract with Fusion University

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Havertown teen earns pro eSports contract with Fusion University

David “Rownplb” Long made the trek up I-95 on Saturday to try his hand at Fusion University’s Hometown Heroes Showcase at LocalHost, a LAN center in Northern Liberties. The 16-year-old had to convince his parents that trying out for a professional eSports team was a good idea.

“My dad doesn’t really know how eSports work,” he said. “So I spent time explaining how the system worked. He and my mom gave me a shot to try it out.”

Long wanted some competitive experience at the 16-team Overwatch tournament. And as a bonus, maybe even rub shoulders with Fusion University’s roster of young, well-known pro gamers.

By Thursday, he was one of them.

“I was expecting to compete, have fun and maybe get a little bit better,” said Long, who was hand-selected out of 96 local competitive Overwatch players to sign a contract with Fusion University. “I didn’t expect to make the team.

“I’m pretty excited.”

In front of a 200-person capacity crowd, the 16-year-old junior from Havertown, Pennsylvania, survived 12 hours and 95 of the area’s best with an aggressive performance as an off-tank D.Va main.

“Toward the end, I was really tense,” Long said. “But once you start, you barely feel it.”

When the dust settled, after days of deliberation by the Fusion University staff, Long was contacted by coach Aaron Atkins, who offered the youngster an opportunity to join the Fusion’s academy team.

“We love Philadelphia and we want to connect with the community as much as we can,” said Atkins, who is managing Fusion University's inaugural season. “Having a player from Philly will help us achieve that even more. There’s a connection you get when you have a player from your hometown on your hometown team. That connection is what we’re looking for.”

But the Delaware County kid isn’t in the bigs quite yet. Fusion University is an academy team for the Fusion. Both teams are owned by Comcast Spectacor and will work in tandem, with Fusion University developing prospects and potentially feeding into the Fusion’s first-team roster — similar to the partnership between the Flyers and Lehigh Valley Phantoms.

The difference is that the Fusion, who are approaching the midpoint of their season, currently play in Overwatch League, while Fusion University will compete in Overwatch Contenders North America, beginning on March 11.

In other words, Long is going from playground ball to the college game, with the pros within sight.

“It will be very different,” Atkins said. “Structured competitive play is very different than any type of online matchmaking. He will see how the macro game works from the top down and that’s the first thing I’m going to work with them on because it’s so different how everything is structured and play. The first few months will be a lot of learning.”

And luckily for Long, his parents are OK with that.

“I had to explain that I could still focus on my schoolwork but also play Contenders,” Long said. “I’ll have to balance it out.”

Everything to know about Fusion, Overwatch League

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Photo: Fusion

Everything to know about Fusion, Overwatch League

The Fusion are about to make history.

When the freshly minted club takes its seat at Blizzard Arena Thursday night against the Houston Outlaws, not only will it be the first-ever Overwatch League match for the team, but it will mark the first geo-based team from Philadelphia to play in any competitive eSports league.

“Our team, players and staff are very excited for the season to underway," Fusion coach Yann "Kirby" Luu said. "It'll be our first time on stage for an official Overwatch League match, so the players are impatient to show what they can do."

After missing the preseason as a result of a delayed visa process for players, Thursday will be the first time the Fusion will be in public view and in meaningful competition. That’s also what makes the first match such a unique opportunity.

"I don't think we'll be at our peak just yet, but that most likely applies to all teams in the league," Luu said. "Our fans can expect to see our guys ready to play and hungry to compete."

What is the Overwatch League?
Overwatch League is a seasonal eSports competition based on the multi-platform video game Overwatch. Think of it like the NHL, and Overwatch, the game, as ice hockey. Overwatch League is in its inaugural season, which begins on Jan. 10 and runs through mid-June.

This season, the league is broken up into the Pacific and Atlantic Divisions, where 12 teams from around the world will compete twice on a weekly basis at Blizzard Arena in Burbank, California. Like hockey, the matches are six-on-six but played exclusively on PC in a LAN setting (they all sit in the same room using the same equipment).

There will be standings, playoffs and roster alterations, just like any other team-based sports league. And if you haven’t followed eSports and wonder how a video game league is sustainable, just look at the team ownership: Robert Kraft, Jeff Wilpon and Stan and Josh Kroenke are all well invested.

The season one Overwatch League champion will pocket $1 million.

Who are the Fusion?
The orange-and-black Fusion are an Overwatch League franchise owned by Comcast-Spectacor, which also owns the Flyers. The Fusion are the most international of any team in the league, made up of 12 players from around the world (only six can start) and a full coaching staff.

While the Fusion feature talented and well-known players like Jae-Hyeok “Carpe” Lee, Georgii “Shadowburn” Gushcha, Isaac “Boombox” Charles and Gael “Poko” Gouzerch, they are considered an unknown entity because of a visa procurement slog.

On paper, the Fusion have the required talent to compete. The spine of the club (Carpe, Shadowburn and Joe “Joemeister” Gramano, come directly from FaZe Clan, a successful club team that made the Overwatch Contenders finals last season. Managed by the same people, Contenders predates Overwatch League and will work like the AHL to Overwatch League’s NHL.

But if you were to prematurely grade this team in NBA terms, the Fusion won’t likely be the Warriors, Celtics or Cavaliers this season, but be somewhere between the Timberwolves, Sixers, Bucks and Hornets.

What to expect.
At 7 p.m. Thursday and at 2 p.m. Saturday against the Spitfires, the Fusion will kick off their season at Blizzard Arena. Each human player on the team selecting one of 26 characters with a specific set of skills. Those skills range from DPS (offense), which takes out the opposition, to tanks and support (defense), which keep teammates alive through blocking and healing.

Think of it like basketball: How a power forward, center and point guard all have unique abilities and all work in tandem toward an objective. And in Overwatch League, teams design strategies to fit their situation into the game, and their strengths.

Each match features a four-map set, all predetermined and all with unique objectives (control, escort, assault, hybrid). The team that claims the most objectives will win the map. It’s kind of like tennis, but with each game taking 20-30 minutes. 

Where to watch or see them
Unlike traditional sports, you won’t find Overwatch League on TV. But you can find all of the league’s matches for free online at OverwatchLeague.com or on Twitch at Twitch.tv/overwatchleague.

If you want an in-person experience, you can watch the Fusion’s match with other fans at Wahoo’s Fish Taco in University City Thursday at 5 p.m.

If you’re feeling really adventurous, you can catch the Fusion live from Blizzard Arena in Burbank. Tickets are on sale for about $30.

Carpe, Shadowburn lead Fusion's 2017 Overwatch League roster

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Carpe, Shadowburn lead Fusion's 2017 Overwatch League roster

Days after introducing themselves to the world as the Fusion, Philadelphia and Comcast Spectacor’s Overwatch League eSports team has announced its 2017 roster.

And it’s potent.

“We have worked hard to assemble a strong mix of all-star players and hidden gems that are ready to break out and compete with the world’s best,” said Comcast CEO Dave Scott in the club’s official release on Friday.

Of that group, former Faze Clan members and DPS players Jae "Carpe" Hyeok Lee (who is arguably one of the best DPS players in the world) and George “ShaDowBurn” Gushcha, are headliners set to propel the Fusion.

Throw in the strategic mind and top Lucio play of former FaZe support Joe “Joemeister” Gramano, and the Philly team has one of the sturdiest foundations of any club in the league.

“Philly’s strengths will be the core of the FaZe lineup,” said Wilson Xu, former Overwatch Contenders Season 0 manager of You Guys Get Paid and current Overwatch editor at Gusu Gamers told NBC Sports Philadelphia. "The DPS duo is probably one of the strongest in Overwatch League and Joemeister should bring a lot of direction to the team.”

With DPS covered, the Fusion picked up premier European flex player, Isaac “Boombox” Charles, and standout tank, Joona "fragi" Laine, who could be the difference-maker. Accomplished flex player Alberto "NeptuNo" Gonzalez Molinillo and Zarya-pro Gael "Poko" Gouzerch round out what should be a competitive group.

“The biggest signing for me is Fragi,” Xu said. “He’s widely considered one of the best tanks in EU.”

Like most teams in Overwatch League, chemistry, not pure talent, could determine the season. Outside of the three FaZe players, the Fusion, who will live together in a gaming house in California, are an unfamiliar group from nine different countries. That could hurt them out of the gate.

“Chemistry will be one of the most important aspects of this team, as language differences will be obvious at the start,” Xu said, “Especially with the addition of Korean players and drawing from so many different countries.”

Collecting former FaZe members wasn’t a bad choice. FaZe, led by Carpe, Joemeister and ShaDowBurn, reached second place (EnVyUs, who are now the Dallas Fuel, took first) in the North American bracket of Overwatch Contenders Season 1 — the preeminent Blizzard-run league prior to Overwatch League, which begins its preseason in December.

“We are proud to feature outstanding players from FaZe Clan,” Scott said. “A top-tier esports organization who has earned prestige in multiple games.”

Here’s a breakdown of the players and positions.

1. DPS:
Jae "Carpe" Hyeok Lee

George "ShaDowBurn" Gushcha

Josue "Eqo" Corona

Simon "Snillo" Ekstrom

2. TANKS:
Joona "fragi" Laine

Gael "Poko" Gouzarch

Sumin "SADO" Kim

Hong Jun "Hotba" Choi

3. SUPPORT:
Jeonghwan "Dayfly" Park

Joe "Joemeister" Gramano

4. FLEX:
Alberto "NeptuNo" Gonzalez Molinillo

Isaac "Boombox" Charles

5. COACHING STAFF:
Head Coach/General Manager: Yann “Kirby” Luu

Assistant Coach: Elliot “Hayes” Hayes

Assistant Coach: Sehuy “NamedHwi” Go

Analytics: Ethan “Beezy” Spector