Overwatch League's Houston Outlaws Get Warm Welcome

E-sports squad preps for next season surrounded by local fans

Judging by the line outside of Game Over Videogames last Thursday you'd think there was a celebrity inside. While not quite household names, the members of the Houston Outlaws proved quite a draw for local e-sports fans.

Matthew Dias (aka Clockwork) and Daniel Pence (Boink) at Thursday's signing event at Game Over Videogames

The Outlaws – along with the league they're a part of – are relatively new to the world of competitive gaming. In this case the competition takes place in the world of Overwatch, a 6v6, first-person shooter. Players choose from an arsenal of characters with specializations in melee, healing, sniping, and protection. At higher levels of play the differences between characters becomes increasingly important. How these characters interact is second nature to the members of the Houston Outlaws who are some of the best in their profession.

Of course, they are not alone. There are currently a dozen different teams in the Overwatch League from local cities like Houston and Dallas and distant locales like Shanghai and London. And that's what makes the league unique. This is the first time e-sports teams have represented specific cities, letting fans back a regional team (you know, like most professional sports). Texas hasn’t been an exception as local players offered up their overwhelming support to the Houston Outlaws during a recent visit at the 2018 SXSW Gaming Festival. The group returned to the Lone Star State with a signing tour later in the month, giving their fanbase some face time with the burgeoning e-sports icons.

The team made their first stop in Houston on March 27 where they were received by a crowd of hundreds proud to have their city represented by the squad. “It was hard to imagine,” laughed key offensive player Jake Lyon when referring to the team’s popularity. “I mean, I’ve never had fans before.”

Overwatch was released two years ago but only began its competitive run at the beginning of this year. Despite this, the Overwatch League is one of the fastest growing e-sports. “The difference is we have four games a week instead of once a week” explained Shane Flaherty, aka Rawkus, the team's support player. Where most e-sports limit themselves to a single tournament every so often, the league pumps out high-stakes matches at a more frequent rate. This has, in part, led to the league’s rapidly growing fanbase.

This became even more evident as the Houston Outlaws continued their Texas signing tour, making their final stop in Austin. With camera crews, their own private tour bus, and a horde of giddy fans, it was clear that they had made an impression across the state. To their fanbase the Outlaws may have taken on a celebrity athlete status, but to see them interact with one another you could assume they were just goofball teens and twentysomethings. This is partially what has made e-sports such a popular institution in the past few years – having players with relatable personalities who don't live in a bubble of fame and popularity.

After three long days of meeting and greeting, the team bid farewell to the capital city, departing for Los Angeles to prepare for their next match. Fans across the state wished the Outlaws good luck as the Overwatch League prepares to enter its third season. After a disappointing second season that ended on a high note with an impressive underdog victory that saw the team hitting their stride, the Outlaws have no shortage of dedicated fans to keep their momentum into the new season.

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Houston Outlaws, Overwatch League, Overwatch, Rawkus, Jake Lyon

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