Jay "Sinatraa" Won will have to buy a larger trophy cover. The 19-year-old professional Overwatch player spent this year winning just about anything he could.
It started when he was named MVP for 2019 Overwatch League season, which he followed by winning the championship as the driving force behind the San Francisco Shock. This weekend he added to his accolades when Team USA the Overwatch World Cup at BlizzCon, and Won was again named the most valuable player. This level of success is among the best individual seasons in the history of e-sports – but when asked, Won does not seem surprised.
"It certainly exceeded my expectations," he says about 2019, "but not so much."
Won has been part of the Shock since OWL & # 39; s inaugural season in 2018, and despite relatively high expectations, the team had a disappointing debut, finished ninth in the 12-team league and misses the play-offs. 2019 was another story. The Shock spent most of the season fighting for the top position with the Vancouver Titans. They lost their first play-off round against the Atlanta Reign, but San Francisco then went on a dominant run and swept every subsequent team they played. For the grand finale against Vancouver, Won predicted that his team would win 4-0 – and they did exactly that.
Winning the World Cup was perhaps an even greater achievement. Although the UIL season lasts a few months, the World Cup takes place during a single weekend, allowing teams to prepare for just a few weeks. Since the start of the tournament, South Korea has been dominant and has won gold in three consecutive competitions. The US is meanwhile largely disappointed and despite several star players failed to earn a medal. According to Won, the difference in 2019 amounted to how the team prepared for the games.
"We had a larger coaching staff to help with everything," he explains. “Whatever competition we had, we were always prepared. We didn't care if it was a very weak team. We would, in any case, fully prepare for them. And I think that was a problem last year and the years before that. We were perhaps too confident and only worried about Korea. This year we assessed every possible team – every folder, every comp, all that sort of thing. & # 39;
The Americans managed to beat South Korea out of the tournament in the semifinals and it was a very hot match for Won. The American team consisted of three players from the Shock, while two other San Francisco players played the lead role in South Korea. For Won, this added an extra incentive to beat the tournament's favorites. "Every year we always want to beat Korea because they are always the best team at every World Cup," he explains. But because some of his Shock teammates were part of the South Korean team, he says: "I just wanted to beat them additional bad. There was certainly a lot of shouting during that match. "
Overwatch is a team game in which six squadrons must work together to achieve different goals. This makes synergy and teamwork demonstrably more important than pure talent. Still, Won managed to shine in both competitions, as shown by his double MVP awards. He says that although championships are always the ultimate goal, individual awards are also important to him. "It means a lot," says Won. "My biggest goal was to win the championships, but my second biggest goal was to be known as a good player in the competition."
2020 will be a very different experience. For next season, OWL is moving to a new format where teams from their respective home cities play, which means a huge amount of travel. In addition to hosting matches in San Francisco, the Shock also plays games in China, South Korea, the United Kingdom, France and multiple cities in North America.
It is a dramatic change, with all kinds of new logistical challenges that can make repeating as champions an even harder challenge. Won has only one specific concern about the new format: he hates flying. "I just don't like planes," he says. "Maybe I take some melatonin, I don't know."
But for now he is taking some free time. After a long season with OWL, he was able to take a two-week break before returning immediately to preparation for the World Cup. Now that that is over, Won says he spends some time outside the game to fight burnout and stay fresh for next year.
But all his recent success has added a new complication: winning has become something of a celebrity. After the shock had finished their championship season, he even appeared The Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon alongside teammate Matthew "Super" DeLisi. Won says he is regularly recognized at places such as airports or in Ubers. He was once even noticed by fans while shopping at a drugstore with some friends.
"It's pretty weird every time," he says.