‘Retirement’ just doesn’t feel like the right word for my future plans... but there it is. There’s a few factors that led me to the decision to step away from professional Overwatch competition, and I want to be as transparent as possible in explaining it to the community.
I’ve sacrificed relationships, sleep, and SO much time to become a professional player. Despite the sacrifices, though, I do not regret chasing down my childhood dream. The chance to compete at the highest level among the best players on the planet was worth it all. I think I would have always regretted not giving it my 100% best possible effort had I gone a different direction with my life or, worse, given esports less than my best attempt. That said, I’ve changed a lot as a person since the start of my journey.
Reaching a level of success in OW has led me to reevaluate my goals and, for the first time since being 13 years old and wanting nothing other than to be the best player in the game, think big-picture about what I want to do in my life. As a player, I felt that I had a responsibility to always work to improve & contribute more to winning matches. I’ve always expected a high level of effort from myself and my teammates, even in scrims and personal practice. When I felt that streaming was adding friction to my individual practice during the season, I gave it up almost entirely in order to train with greater focus. I guess I still am a competitive purist even now, because I’d rather retire and pursue new dreams/goals than give less than 100% effort and collect an OWL player salary for another 12 months... in my heart that would feel like a betrayal of the teammates I have competed alongside over these past two years, as well as all of the dedicated, amazing fans who have cheered us on through all our setbacks.
Speaking of setbacks, I can’t say either of my two seasons playing in the Overwatch League went exactly the way I had hoped they would, but in my memory the good times stand out strongly and the bad seem distant and easily discarded. I still love my teammates & wish them the best, and yes, I still enjoy playing Overwatch. In service of my own fulfillment and happiness, though, I know that I must step away from professional play for now. In giving everything to grind the game, I have forcibly stagnated my process of learning, growth, and exploration that I feel allowed me to reach this competitive level in the first place. As a pro player, I felt that I was just treading water trying to keep pace with the rapid pace of improvement/adaptation that is a constant in the OWL. With the added burden of global travel looming over the next year of professional competition, I knew that the time was now to make a big change in my life.
To those fans who may have followed my journey from Bird Noises to LG Evil to Team USA and finally the Outlaws, your support has meant the world to me. It makes me really happy to meet people who enjoy cheering us on. As a fan of many esports players from a variety of titles, I know where you are coming from! I also know that my stepping away from competition may come as a disappointment, but I hope you’ll recover quickly ;-).
I can’t announce the full scope of my future plans just yet, but suffice to say that you haven’t seen the last of me in the Overwatch scene! For now, you can find me streaming my Overwatch gameplay pretty consistently in the afternoons/evenings PST (https://www.twitch.tv/jake_ow/).
P.S. Now that I’m formally retiring as a professional player... perhaps it's time to resurrect the Jakerat... you’ll have to tune in to the stream to find out :O)