“Overwatch is anime” – Exploring an alternative interpretational framework for competitive gaming


Esports has often been likened and compared to traditional sports. This paper suggests an alternative interpretative framework for competitive gaming by focusing on the team-based first-person shooter game Overwatch. We explore Overwatch esports using multi-sited ethnography and demonstrate how the fans and viewers use a rich spectrum of cultural products to enrich and explain their relationship with esports. In the case of Overwatch, anime is particularly prominent, used not only to enrich and explain, but also to challenge ‘sports normativity’, which is visible in the media discussions on Overwatch as well as in the production choices of the esports tournament organizer. This also has consequences on the norms and the values of the fans and the viewer: for instance, it affects the way masculinity is constructed in the context of competitive Overwatch.