As a millennial in his mid-20s, I’ve grown in a world where eSports has flourished. The days of local arcade tournaments are existent but waning, and now competitive gaming has reached exponential growth with games like Fortnite and Apex Legends. Austin Moorhead’s Young Guns: Obsession, Overwatch, and the Future of Gaming takes an in-depth look at the first season of the OWL (Overwatch League), and while it’s a surprisingly knowledgeable take on the infancy of the competitive shooter, it’s hampered by inconsistent pacing and lack of focus.
Young Guns begins with NRG eSports’ President Brett Lautenback pitching Activision-Blizzard CEO Bobby Kotick and several others for the competitive success of the newest competitive shooter Overwatch. A few big investments later, the journey of the Overwatch League’s first season begins. The first three chapters delves into the nitty gritty on how funding and investments for a new eSports organization occurs, and while it might be dry to the intended audience, I loved seeing the business aspects of eSports.
While Young Guns references most of the upper echelon of teams within the OWL’s first season, it focuses mainly on the San Francisco Shock, an up-and-coming team. Of the members, there is a huge amount of emphasis Jay Won, otherwise known as Sinatraa; which, in hindsight is a bit unfortunate considering he has since left the OWL to play Valorant since April. (This book was released in March, so that stings just a bit.) The main narrative thus centers around the exploits and shenanigans the team faces, from rowdy teammates to growing pains (quite literally; in the beginning, some of the players aren’t even old enough to play competitively), and it creates a fun little underdog drama that’s not out of place next to something like Remember the Titans.
The main problem that Young Guns has is that it’s all over the place in terms of pacing and focus. Remember how I said I loved the first three chapters? The rest of the book was hit or miss for me. Since Overwatch isn’t something I regularly follow, it was difficult to try and follow what was going on with the descriptions Moorhead provides. Most of the time he either adds too much detail to pad out an anecdote (such as describing Tracer and Winston’s backstories in addition to their roles) or skims on some crucial exposition. It gives major details to things that don’t need them and minimizes events that should be exciting and important. The middle chapters are the most polarizing, since it delves into personal drama surrounding different teams within the league (though again, it mostly centers around Shock).
This pacing is frustratingly apparent in the last few chapters of the book; due to the loss of the San Francisco Shock, the first season’s championship is glossed over in a few pages. It’s egregious because the epilogue that recounts the second season feels longer than the winning match of the season the book just went into detail describing. Young Guns doesn’t give me a reason to invest in any team other than Shock, so why bother with Philadelphia Fusion or London Spitfire? There are way too many names to keep track of, which is a bit of an issue when this book aims to be an accessible look into the world of Overwatch’s competitive league.
That said, I think Young Guns is perfect for the Overwatch fan in your life that wants to explore the origin story of one of the more memorable team-based games in recent years. For its missteps, I can see the passion that the author has for following the scene, and when the pacing works, it’s golden. I just wish the rest of the book had much more care put into it.
Young Guns: Obsession Overwatch and the Future of Gaming
Young Guns is an interesting look at the beginnings of the Overwatch League, though its problems with pacing and focusing on a coherent narrative make it a must-read for die-hard fans of the game only.