Last season, Bang “Jjonak” Sunghyeon was crowned the Overwatch League’s “most valuable player” (MVP). The Zenyatta player is now being honoured in-game with a skin for his signature hero, which players will be able to buy for a limited time starting next week for 200 tokens (about $10, or you could earn them by watching 33 hours of live OWL broadcasts.)
It’s expensive, but it is very cool, incorporating the colours of Jjonak’s team, the New York Excelsior, and his signature octopus imagery. In other words, the designers got lucky to be working with a brand as strong as Jjonak’s.
Designing a skin to represent Jjonak undoubtedly took a lot of work (a piece by Emerald Gao on the League’s website describes some of the process, and what happened when the New York Excelsior visited the offices for its unveiling), but there are a number of things that make it easier.
Firstly there’s the fact that he’s simply so well known for his Zenyatta play. While many competitors switch between heroes, Jjonak is dedicated to the robotic monk healer. He also doesn’t play quite like anyone else in that role, dealing out huge amounts of damage with precise orb-volleys rather than focusing on healing alone. Excelsior’s dominance last season came in large part from facilitating that style of play in a way that other teams couldn’t replicate.
Then there’s the easy way in which the design, which draws on Excelsior’s colours and logo, could still be personalised to Jjonak. His in-game name is a shortened form of “jjomullak nakji” or “fumbling octopus,” and he also has a tattoo of the creature. No surprise, then, that this Zenyatta gets a cephalopod head and cute, tentacled orbs to fling at your enemies. (Let’s not think about the ethics of hurling his favourite animals at opponents.)
And Zen is easy to switch up like this. He’s previously had all manner of different heads, including Egyptian gods and creepy, grinning nutcracker faces. It’s not really explained in the game why he likes to cycle through faces like a robotic Arya Stark, but it’s convenient when it comes to applying Jjonak’s influence in an easily recognisable way.
This string of good luck doesn’t easily extend to other players. According to Gao’s piece, the MVP from the grand finals, London Spitfire’s Park “Profit” Joonyeong, won’t be getting his own skin, but if he did it wouldn’t even be clear which hero it should be designed for; he’s known for flexing between many damage dealers. And it’s likely that this year the award will go to the main tank player from either Vancouver Titans or San Francisco Shock, whichever ultimately ends up winning: Park “Bumper” Sangbeom or Matthew “Super” DeLisi respectively. Neither of them have a hook quite like Jjonak’s. A yeti-based Reinhart or Winston would suit Bumper via the Vancouver Titans, but that’s his team’s branding, not his own. (Besides, the latter already exists.)
Blizzard’s artists are more creative than me, obviously, and they’ve come up with some great ideas in the past (as well as some terrible ones). But not many players will make it as easy for them as Jjonak, which is a shame, because I’d love to see more of the players who have the brightest stories in the League get highlighted in the game. Fans can buy their team skins, and often do for the hero their favourite player is known for, but that’s not quite the same as showing your affection for the person specifically, who may change roles or teams, severing the association.
The solution, obviously, is to crown Kim “Geguri” Seyeon MVP so that I can finally get the frog D.Va skin I deserve.