"Ana, for example, is a sniper-slash-healer," said Hank. "She’s like, a mom. It's not a demographic you see very often." Other members of Overwatch include Doomfist (a Nigerian prosthetics-technology heir), Symmetra (a progressive Indian architect), and Tracer (a disabled, time-traveling lesbian, arguably the protagonist of the game).
"Who’s the hottest one?" I asked.
"Well," Hank explained, "a lot of them are really hot, but the one that's most fetishized, and you see most in porn or whatever, is D.Va., who is this 19-year-old Korean e-sport champion, which is sort of--"
"Wait, there’s an e-sports champion in the game?"
"Yeah," he said. "The company that makes the game -- Blizzard -- exists in the game."
Setting this aside, Overwatch is pretty simple. It’s basically a gamified version of FedEx: Two teams of six compete to guide a truck as it moves along a road to its final destination. In official OWL competitions, one team of six defends the truck, while another fights to take possession. This can take anywhere from 10 to 20 minutes; then the teams switch roles, for fairness. To understand why this is fun, or interesting enough to deserve its own league, you have to understand a concept called the meta and how it relates to the Overwatch game. In this case, actual sports knowledge helps:
When basketball was first invented, the only way to move the ball was by passing to another player down the court. Then, sometime around 1897, a genius on the Yale University team figured that he could just pass to the ball to himself, and so the idea of dribbling was born. This was the first shift in the meta, or overall strategy, of basketball. Over the course of the next hundred years, the meta of basketball would change at least two more times as players got better: once with the discovery of one-handed shooting, and then with the triumphant arrival of the dunk.
Now, think about all the things you could do if you wanted to force the meta of basketball to change faster. Instead of waiting for players to improve, maybe you’d make the the hoop a bit wider, or add five more hoops, or put a player on stilts. In Overwatch, the terms of the game are always changing. Developers add new maps; characters become weaker or stronger. A good Overwatch team has skilled players, but more importantly, it has players that are good at adapting their skills to a game whose terms are always in flux. For Overwatch fans, Hank said, part of the fun of The Overwatch League is watching the meta evolve in response. Following the league is like following a sport, but it's also like reading Harry Potter or Knausgaard. Each new iteration of the game changes and deepens the nature of fandom.