It’s sometimes hard to remember at my age and with all the insanity I’ve been through in what is relatively a short period of time, that there are people out there who truly enjoy what they do and who truly live in the moment. Even my cold, bitter, whiskey-dipped heart can’t help but feel inspired by those who come to Los Angeles with a goal in mind and not only reaching that goal, but also able to share that joy with others.
All of this was apparently as I sat down with Kelsey “Colourhex” Birse, flex DPS for the Boston Uprising and current Zarya playmaker. Coming all the way from Queenstown, New Zealand after having played for the Sydney Drop Bears in Overwatch Contenders, he was signed to Boston Uprising as a flex DPS, but the meta had other plans. While he has played Brigitte in the current meta given his role, he ended up playing Zarya, and while there were clear growing pains at the beginning, he grew to be a part of a solid tank line that consists of him, Note, and Fusions.
I spoke with Colourhex after their exciting reverse sweep win against Dallas that helped bring them to the playoffs today and while he and the team couldn’t have known for sure that they would be here today, the excitement and hope was still there as he collapsed in the chair with a combination of exhaustion and excitement that were both well-deserved. We spoke about the meta, what he missed from home (the title should give you a hint), and which is better: hiking or skiing?
Congrats on your win today! And the Shock and Dynasty also owe you guys one since Boston’s win helped them clinch the stage playoffs as well. What were your thoughts on today’s game and what you expect to see as the stage comes to a close?
Today is my first reverse sweep in the Overwatch League!
Yes! Nice work!
I can’t describe the feeling. It’s like…when you 4-0 someone, it feels good, but with a reverse sweep, you feel like you worked for this. The ability to adapt mid-game and after halftime, come back and win? Convincingly as well? Just…(exhausted sigh). I’m ready to go to sleep!
Real talk, you guys almost gave me a stroke, okay?
(laughs) How do you think I feel?
At the final match, I was all but convinced that Dallas may clinch it, and all I could think in my head was, “Guys, I’m old. I can’t handle this much stress, it’s bad for my blood pressure.” So to see a reverse sweep comparatively to a 4-0 was pretty dope.
Yeah, it’s really hard to be hype about a 4-0. And obviously, it feels good to win convincingly, because you feel like you really are that good. I live for that sort of stuff.
I can feel how hyped you are! You deserve it. So being a DPS main normally, and along with a lot of other DPS mains coming into this meta, most of them have been put on Zarya given that she’s the main DPS output for GOATs.
Zarya or Brigitte.
Exactly. So I wanted to know what the adjustment period was like going into this, seeing as you along with other DPS mains such as Sinatraa and Kariv have consistently sustained massive damage output with Zarya?
A lot of DPS players, predominantly DPS players, had Zarya in their hero pool already and have played her. For me, I had to pick her up for the Uprising, so I only started playing her about two months ago, since I was the Brigitte player for my previous team, the Sydney Drop Bears. And it’s been…a slow improvement. I would have liked to have been better than I am right now already, but oh my God. At the start, oof. I was absolutely terrible! But I’ve improved a lot on the hero. Thankfully, the meta is coming to a close, maybe? We don’t know. So I’ll get to play DPS again, like my Widomaker today–the five seconds I had on her!
Ohhh, yeah! That was refreshing to see.
I was just as shocked as you. I ran out of spawn and I was like, “Oh no, what have I done?” And then I killed two people and then it was all right.
It was nice to see a DPS player go back to Widow to make me happy, so…
Well, you’re welcome.
I appreciate it.
It has been difficult for me, because I was originally picked up as a flex DPS, not a hitscan player…not really, I play Widow.
(Laughs) We’ll call it the same for now.
I think there are a couple of players like me, like Ivy from Defiant who is a flex DPS.
Yes, he is.
Yeah, his Zarya is nasty. I think it’s like a mix. Some people are comfortable with Zarya, like Sinatraa because he plays her a lot, and people like me who haven’t played as her at all really and didn’t care to learn it. It’s been about 50/50 overall.
The tank line between you and Fusions and Note have stepped up a lot and really has made an impression this stage. What changes did you see between the beginning in the stage and now that brought you to this level?
I think a lot of it has to do with trust, as weird as that sounds. Fusions is a really key part of our team; he’s the dad of the team, kind of. He is very focused, makes sure we’re focused, all of that. He truly leads the team. And even if he doesn’t make the right choice in what we should do, having the trust to all do it with him, even if it’s the wrong thing, it still works out because we are all with him. The trust level, not just with Fusions, but as a team, was the major change between the start of stage one and now.
I know you’ve touched upon GOATs a little bit, and I think you feel the same way a lot of people feel about it in that it needs to die a quick, merciless death.
Me, personally I’m not on a side, seeing as metas eventually die, but with Baptiste coming out along with the new patches, people are interested to see if that will finally do it. What do you think needs to happen for GOATs to die, if this does not work?
That’s a really hard question and not one anyone can answer without assumptions. I mean, if you wanted to kill GOATs, just remove Brigitte…
I mean, #deletebrig 4head.
If Brig got removed, GOATs would die; that’s the only surefire way to do so. GOATs could still very well be the best, though.
I do ask because people are putting a lot of faith in Baptiste and the latest patches to help bring it along and I’m not entirely convinced of that.
Even if it doesn’t kill it, I think there will be more variety. It may not be the most dominant comp anymore; it’ll probably be more mech-specific or team specific. But it’s so hard to know for sure. And we won’t know for a while because at the start, everyone will try out DPS again, or different comps or trying new things. It takes a really long time to solidify what is the best. So GOATs could still very well be alive. I don’t think it will be, but you never know.
With Boston Uprising, there was a lot going on with season one with trading and behind the scenes issues that came to light. I don’t like speculation and gossip literally exhausts me. So I just wanted to ask what your personal experience has been like being on the team?
There is a real focus on being accountable and responsible for yourself and being the best you can be. Obviously, there is off days, but we try to take scrims really seriously, we try to get along, and it’s really become almost like a second family for me. It’s like…no one hates each other, we minimize the amount of tilt and rage as much as possible, and…I don’t know. I love all the people at Boston Uprising.
Given that there are a bunch of new teams that have entered the League and along with an interesting stage that has brought a lot of unexpected results, which teams surprised you in both good and a bad way?
Okay, I think I have an answer for both. Toronto Defiant–way, way better than I thought they would be. Very, very good. Ivy is a nut. They are really, really good. I don’t think I can put them up there along with NYXL and Vancouver. But they are very good.
I think it’s hard to say for bad, because it’s not quite disappointment, but I would say Paris [Eternal] or Hangzhou Spark.
I thought Paris was going to be dominant because they were touted as the “EU GOATs team.” I have no idea what’s going on behind the scenes; it could be anything. I’m not going to speculate. But look at the standings, they just haven’t been playing like they should or like anyone expected them to, including myself.
And I still think the Spark is good. I still think they’re good; everyone thought they’d be the best expansion team other than Paris. I’m not sure what’s going on in the backlines, but–
You’re basing it on what you do see.
Yeah. (thinks for a second) I think they look like they kind of choke sometimes, and I get that. Being on stage, my first map today? I don’t want to talk about it.
It didn’t happen, don’t worry about it.
(Laughs) I was so shaky, my hand was like this (shaking his hand), but by the end of it I was so smooth. Even doing this, the first map always feels really nervous for me. But I’m not sure what’s going on with the Spark. Maybe it’s nerves, maybe it’s something behind the scenes. But those are the two teams that I think are not performing as well as I thought they would.
Fair enough. Coming off that stage fright scenario, having played for the Sydney Drop Bears, you know what it’s sort of like to play in high-stress situations, but Overwatch League is obviously a different beast. How did things really change for you regarding stage play, since it’s easy to go there and just freeze and say, “I don’t wanna be here.”
I think the difference, since I did play onstage with Drop Bears in the finals, which is a bigger stage than normal, it’s quite big. It’s like–it’s different in Overwatch League. Back home, when I was playing on stage, I knew I was the best. And the stakes weren’t as high. Here? I know I have lots to work on, I know there’s players who are better than me, which I can be better than them; I believe in myself to be, or can be. And the stakes are obviously, phenomenally higher.
The team environment is a lot more relaxed in Contenders for me in Australia and New Zealand. And the level of accountability held to be the best for your team is much higher here. There’s a lot more pressure and nerves in the Overwatch League.
In terms of real life, like moving to a different country? I don’t know, it hasn’t really been like…people tell me, “Oh, you’re going to be homesick, it’s going to be a big change,” and I’m like “Eh, yeah yeah. Video games.” I mean, maybe it just hasn’t hit me two months in, but it isn’t really something that concerns me that much. Living on my own is nice. I like that a lot. I was still living at home when I left, so it’s really nice to feel like an adult.
How old are you, if you don’t mind me asking?
Oh, Lordy. You’re gonna learn today.
(Laughs) One of those, huh?
It’s not that I look down, it’s just that having been there, I know that it’s going to be an interesting time for you. I moved all over the country and traveled a lot to make my way around, so I always like to hear about other people’s experiences in that regard.
Coming off of that, obviously there has been a lot of reports about players having trouble adjusting to the life of being a professional gamer and being in the spotlight. Is there anything that you do to keep yourself grounded and positive?
On our off days, when we’re not scrimming, we go out and do team activities and I can go out with members of the team or with friends, and go outside and step away from the computer.
Yeah, I know! And just going to the gym and all that sort of stuff. It’s a lot different than what I’m used to, but I like the level of responsibility and independence that I have. It’s nice.
Is there a personal goal you want to reach while you’re here in America?
This is going to be super cheesy, but it’s to live days like today. Like, the feeling onstage when you get up and everyone’s screaming and you’re hugging and…Fusions almost broke my nose coming in for a hug and he just jumped into me, and of course I’m shorter than him so he ran right into my nose. The level of energy, and the crowd, and the reverse sweep, it’s just…I live for this sort of moment.
Aw! That’s not cheesy at all! I’m gonna say something cheesy then: you’re a wholesome boy!
You just want to have fun and enjoy yourself; that’s rare here in LA. Is there anything that you miss from home–
Well, that was easy!
I miss the color green.The color green, I miss it a lot. It’s not that big of a deal for me, since I do spend a lot of time on the computer, and I do go outside a lot, but I don’t go outside like every single day like most people probably do. But concrete, big city? It’s not the cleanest place in the world. And coming from New Zealand, from Queenstown, surrounded by mountains, snow, green forests, just fresh clean air? I think I miss that the most other than family and friends, of course.
You should go hiking!
I never went hiking in New Zealand, it was just nice to look at.
You should check out the Topanga area, it’s very similar to what you are looking for.
I will probably go skiing. I’ve been a big skier since I was eight.
I lived next to three mountains surrounded by snow, so it was normal.
I always wanted to try skiing, but I was kind of scared of it, so I prefer hiking. I don’t like the cold, so–
Fair enough. I love the cold.
That’s good, I’ll watch you guys ski from the nice warm cabin house with my hot chocolate.
I’m actually surprised at how cold it is here. I thought it would be hotter.
Last year it wasn’t so bad, the lowest it was maybe 40 degrees? This winter? It’s gotten below that into the 30s, so no, it’s not normal.
It’s nutty. It reminds me of home!
I know! How did I move away from the East Coast and it’s rainy and cold still?
You really drew the short straw, didn’t you?
But the silver lining is that California is officially out of a drought.
I have no idea what that is even like (laughs)
You didn’t miss much, I assure you. So Boston is definitely a very different team since last year and given my place of birth, I’m contractually obligated to hate everything regarding Boston. However, even I can’t help but acknowledge how much you guys have improved. There is a lot of synergy and a lot of trust and it shows in your gameplay, as you’ve mentioned. What did you want to tell the community and the fans in terms of what they should expect from you personally and as a team?
(Thinks) Don’t doubt us. Even on days where we look bad, we always get better. Even if it’s a slow climb or we learn quickly, we are always improving. And look forward seeing how good we get.
The Boston Uprising face off against the Vancouver Titans today at 8pm PDT on Twitch and ESPN.