Sensei Spotlight: Understanding Overwatch with Shifty!

Overwatch is a game of fantastic depth and complexity, and Blizzard is taking it to the next level with a multi-million dollar competitive scene! There’s so much on the line, and the preseason hasn’t even started yet… It’s a crazy time in esports, and Sensei ShiftyOW has been there from the beginning! As head coach of Team Dignitas, he knows what it takes for pro players to succeed. We sat down to hear about his journey through the gaming world!

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Hello Shifty! Tell us about how you honed your competitive spirit!

I’m incredibly passionate about video games and sports. I played baseball for 10 years growing up and coached it as well. I also used to be a fantasy football writer and prognosticator (forecaster). I’ve got a 12 year old nephew and 10 year old niece who love to come over and challenge me at whatever games I have!


So you’re passing the passion on to the next generation! What’s your journey through the world of gaming been like?

I’ve been gaming my entire life since Mario and Tecmo Super Bowl. My story goes back to the original NES, then through SNES, Genesis, N64, Playstation, Saturn, PS2, Xbox, and beyond. I also got into computer gaming early and played all genres of games.


That’s a glorious path through historic consoles! How did that hobby lead to the competitive scene?

I played Rainbow Six and Overwatch competitively, but started to specialize in Overwatch coaching with Arcadios eSports in May of 2016. Shortly thereafter, I moved onto Creation eSports. We competed as one of the first top Overwatch teams in the world, resulting in our acquisition by Dignitas in August 2016!

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So you realized your potential as a coach quite early! What motivated you to become a professional coach?

Starting out on a team in the Overwatch Gosu Gamer weekly tournaments really shed some light on what a group of six talented players can lack. Overwatch is such a complex game that you really need coordination with your teammates and excellent knowledge of hero mechanics to succeed. It was clear to me that after a fight, most players (and teams) didn’t always understand what went right (or wrong).

Here’s where the value of a coach lies: we provide unbiased and informed suggestions to help a team improve instead of stagnate. That’s why I chose to focus on being that person – I wanted to show players how to overcome the many roadblocks this game throws at them. While assisting the top players in the world, I came to realize that they weren’t the only ones who could use some help. So I decided to work with Gamer Sensei; it’s a perfect partner for my personalized coaching!


You must have gathered ample accolades through your coaching career! Tell us about your proudest moments as a coach.

As the team coach for Dignitas, our run in the Xtra Cup beating Laser Kittens, NiP, and Misfits back-to-back-to-back was one of my proudest moments. I know just how hard the whole team worked leading up to those games, and seeing it pay off was amazing.

As a personal coach on Gamer Sensei, my proudest moment was helping one of my most dedicated students climb from Gold all the way to Top 500. He’s become one of the most flexible and well-respected players in his region, and he’s now on high-level teams and winning tournaments himself. Really an example of every serious Overwatch player’s dreams coming to fruition!


What is your coaching style? What do you do in a typical lesson?

My coaching style is direct, fun, and to the point. First I figure out the student’s skill-level and experience. Then I ask them what their goal is. Different students have different goals, and this is their time – so I make sure it’s spent wisely! Usually we focus on analyzing their habits first, to put together a blueprint of how to accomplish their goal. If they have a video of their gameplay already available, we go over it together pointing out the mistakes.

how to improve overwatch

Of course, I don’t expect low-experience players to perform like high-experience players. Still, there are thing you can do at any skill level to improve decision-making, mechanical skill, and focus. And at the end of the lesson, I make sure to allot time for free discussion and questions the student forgot to ask earlier. After everything is answered, I review the main points to work on for improvement.


What does a skilled MOBA player need to learn to ‘git gud’ at Overwatch?

How to aim. (Partially) kidding! MOBA players need to bring their communication and teamwork skills, and lean on them heavily. They also need to adjust to a much faster-paced game with a lower time-to-kill. What that means is positional and ability mistakes are punished harshly, and opportunities are fleeting. It’s also key to understand the effectiveness of hero-swapping, which is usually not possible in MOBAs but crucial in certain Overwatch situations.


How would you describe the competitive scene in Overwatch?

At the moment, top-heavy. Overwatch League (OWL) is set to be Blizzard’s flagship esports scene. With tens of millions of dollars invested, it’s already looking like one of the biggest titles worldwide! That said, tournaments other than the League are few and far between, and lots of great players are finding it difficult to get enough support to stay committed. Contenders helps fill that gap, but there needs to be much more!


Provide three pieces of advice for Overwatch players that want to improve.
  • Play on the right sensitivity.
    • The first thing I check with newer students, particularly if they’re having trouble aiming. Most pros use around 5.5 – 6 in-game sensitivity, in relation to an 800 dpi mouse. I often see students with sensitivity at 15 or higher, which is way too much for precision shots!
  • Communicate with your team!
    • This is a team game, but you be in trouble if you don’t work together. Talk your allies, and coordinate! That Mercy that you couldn’t finish off? Calling out her vulnerability might mean an easy kill. That Reaper flanking? Don’t take him on alone; get your team to help shut him down!
  • Don’t let negativity affect you.
    • Whether it’s your own or just some troll, don’t let negativity get to you! Your mood and state of mind WILL affect how you play. If someone’s being a jerk, just mute them. And don’t write off your team too early if things aren’t going well. Treat them decently and you’ll be surprised how frequently they’ll turn things around. If you can’t be positive, take a break and come back later with a fresh perspective.

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What’s your opinion on the future of Overwatch? What would you like to see in it?

Blizzard has invested a ton in Overwatch, so they’re going to do everything they can to help it succeed. That said, the current state of in-game Ranked mode is fairly poor. Many people can’t play what they want because of the overwhelming numbers of DPS in queue. I’d like to see Blizzard address this by somehow designing a queue system that makes more balanced compositions naturally come together – without restricting players’ choices too much.


What about the future of esports? Where is it headed?

Esports is quickly approaching a critical time where it could start to reach a much larger demographic. It’s already getting to the point where people see them as legitimate. Blizzard itself is looking to be at the forefront of this wave with the Overwatch League. College students are getting scholarships for video games, ESPN is reporting on it, tournaments are being shown on cable television, and stadiums are being built specifically for esports. People are taking the gaming world seriously, and it’s a fantastic time to watch it all unfold… or even better, be a part of it!


Thanks for joining us, Shifty!

Thank you!


That’s concludes today’s Sensei Spotlight! Read some of Shifty’s past contributions to the Gamer Sensei blog, like this guide to tracking enemy Ultimates!


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