Expansion teams and new meta aside, Overwatch League season two has felt, for the most part, like business as usual. Behind the scenes, however, teams continue to practice, scrimmage, and prepare rigorously, all while planning for a third season in which they’ll move to their respective cities all across the world. It appears to be taking a toll.
Following the abrupt departure of troll king extraordinaire Daniel “Dafran” Francesca from the Atlanta Reign two weeks ago, three more people have left the Overwatch League: Toronto Defiant DPS Dohyung “Stellar” Lee, Dallas Fuel star DPS Hyeon “Effect” Hwang, and Dallas Fuel tank-player-turned-assistant-coach Christian “Cocco” Jonsson.
It seems that Jonsson just can’t find his groove with Overwatch these days. “I don’t think Overwatch is really for me anymore,” he said in a video released by the Dallas Fuel. “It’s nothing about the team or our setup here. It’s more about me not really enjoying the game as much as I once did, and I don’t really enjoy living in Southern California, as weird as that sounds to most people.”
Lee and Hwang cited mental troubles as the reasons for their departures. Lee chalked his retirement up to “some personal stress issues from mentally and general lifestyle wise,” while Hwang published a lengthy Facebook note in Korean (translation) about his deteriorating relationship with Overwatch and his struggles with self-harm and thoughts of suicide. “The game itself couldn’t tug at my interest anymore, and I couldn’t become the star. The same comps, the same maps, the same strategies,” he wrote.
Hwang said he has struggled with pervasive feelings of shame ever since he was a kid, and his conflicted feelings about Overwatch and his career had started to bring those out in a dangerous way. “Because the negative thoughts and shame started permeating my thoughts while I was doing nothing else, when I came to my senses I realized I’d been self-harming,” he said. “I’d fallen into a moment’s depression and made the wrong decision. When I thought to myself ‘The depression inside of me has become this big,’ I felt afraid. Because I felt like if I continued on like this, I might eventually kill myself in a heated moment.”
Hwang said he plans to “consult with doctors” in hopes of getting his mental health on a better track. He hopes to eventually return to YouTube and streaming in time.
Mental health issues stemming from intense practice schedules and burnout played a big role in OWL season one, as well. New York Excelsior star DPS Do-hyeon “Pine” Kim missed games over a “stress and panic disorder,” to name just one example. Many others took hiatuses before the season was over. After the season ended, a handful of players, including fan-favorite Brandon “Seagull” Larned, retired from the league.
Ahead of season two, the league announced measures aimed at lightening the load on players’ shoulders, including a reduced number of games for each team throughout the season. Teams also discussed measures of their own, like more efficient practice schedules and bringing on sports psychologists. If what’s happened so far in season two is any indication, they need to do more.