As someone involved in Los Angeles Valiant event coverage since their initial team announcement, writer Austin Hanlin delves into what has changed from their first local event to their last, the California Cup.
The first significant difference I detected when I was heading to the Esports Arena for a second LA Valiant event was the energy. As I was driving by, I spotted the team walking inside and saw that they had already begun setting up on the street; I could tell I was in for a fun time. As I made my way to the door and inside, Valiant fans had already packed the entire arena full a good hour before my arrival. The energy at this point was quite lively as the University teams were playing on the stage, fans from the schools cheering them on as they played. I watched for a few minutes, observing the packed crowd before I made my way up to the VIP section on the overlook, which was also packed full. All of it was not so surprising once I learned that they had sold out of VIP tickets the first week they were available; they’d also sold out of all general admission tickets just the night before.
The Hype Is Real
The mood is different than what I had first experienced when I attended the first “Be Valiant” event all the way back at the start of the Overwatch League season. There were more fans present than there ever was at any previous occasions, this event being the culmination of all the Valiant’s events: one final bang to give something to their fans before the next season. So did it live up to the hype? Yes, I believe it did.
The previously mentioned energy didn’t seem to die down the entire time. Many fans showed up in large groups of their friends or met up with other friends they had made due to the league. The same energy could be felt in the small number of Shock fans there as well, who tried to keep themselves as vocal as possible to let their team know that they were behind them in this friendly match for dominance over California. This energy carried over to the players, who were doing a signing for their fans. After the fans were satisfied, I was able to have a moment to speak to DPS player Brady “Agilities” Girardi.
“They’ll Get Bigger Every Time”
Now, I had spoken to Agilities at the first event in the Blizzard Arena about what he thought this would all eventually build to up to. Back then he said, “If we host events like these, we get more people to show up because we are in LA and we’re an LA-based team.” Speaking to him again all this time later, I got his thoughts on what it had become now. “There’s a lot more interaction, it feels really good. To meet all the fans I’ve seen and seen online, it’s just nice to meet them.” he said. But what does he think Valiant is going to take away from all this for season 2? “Yeah, I think they’ll grow bigger. They’ll get bigger every time, we’ll grow exponentially and then season 3 it’ll be a lot more local,” he explains. All of which sounds perfectly reasonable. With the shows the Valiant put on, there’s no reason that Valiant fans shouldn’t come down and participate.
Block Party, The Real Party
I thank Agilities for his time and go back to mingling with the rest of the staff and fellow media people of the League, but soon enough we all head outside to see the start of the block party. It’s quite odd to imagine that one day you’d be having a block party for an esports team. You see a lot of events like these at the big conventions, trying to market and advertise their games. The Valiant Block party in my view was run like any other block party you might imagine: food trucks and music, artists booths and small vendors all set up and down the block.
I think what stood out to me the most was how normal it all was, that while the Block Party was nothing all too unique, the fact that it was even organized was what grabbed my attention the most. This, along with all the other Valiant events, makes it clear to me and many other esports fans that our favorite pastime is starting to become normalized in everyday society. It became clear to me that the Overwatch League and the Valiant have made a community for themselves, the Valiant especially now having most one of the dedicated and involved fan communities of any of the teams. This was their moment, their celebration of all things Valiant and how this team created a community around their identity.
Of course, the Block Party began to die down, and the fans moved inside as the main attraction was starting on the stage. To begin with, there were some fun little games played by both the teams. The first involved players taking control of just the mouse and their partner taking control of the keyboard as both sides attempted to win in three vs. three deathmatches. But then the real match began, and by this point, most of you know how that went: the Valiant came out on top and took the Cali Cup. It may be surprising to see that the thing covered least in this article on the California Cup was, in fact, the match itself, but I feel the need to bring the discussion elsewhere.
In my time at OverwatchScore. I have attended nearly every single Valiant event, only missing their campus event due to more pressing matters in my life. I’d like to sum up what the Be Valiant events have meant to me. When I went to the first event at the Santa Ana Arena, I had just begun writing and getting involved with the scene. But I was very pleasantly surprised to see the number of fans who showed up and how many more were willing to share their stories with me. I left that night feeling with a sense of belonging, not so much to the community of Valiant, but to the League overall. Next was the art gallery event, which came as such a surprise to me. Who would ever think you’d be attending an art gallery putting an esports team’s fan art on display? But yet again, I was still pleasantly surprised at the banter and the fun time I had at the event.
Going into the final Valiant event, I knew what to expect, this same feeling of community and all around the love I had come to expect from the Valiant. So at the end of it all, I have to say that the Valiant’s first attempt at creating events for their team’s fan base was a success. As corny as it sounds, they helped a lot of people who had no community Be Valiant and put themselves out there. I, like many others, are quite excited to see what the Valiant Team has planned for next season, and I hope to see you all there.