At a coffee shop on the way to an event in Santa Monica, CA, one of the baristas' faces lights up at the mention of esports and Overwatch.
"Are you going to Stage 3 on Wednesday?" she asks. "Is Geguri going to play?"
I mention that she's expected to start in the Dragons' opening match against the Dallas Fuel.
"I hope she can communicate with her new team," she says. "I really want her to do well."
Fans. Detractors. In-game opponents. If you're into professional Overwatch, you know of Kim "Geguri" Se-yeon.
In 2016, the 16-year-old flex/tank of UW Artisan was accused by members of Dizziness of aimbotting on Zarya while playing in the Nexus Cup Korean qualifiers. Her tracking was too good, and appeared to stutter. After online outcry reached an abusive fervor, Geguri was invited to prove her innocence.
The end result was a public demonstration where a shy Geguri showcased her incredible Zarya tracking in front of a live audience. Blizzard Entertainment confirmed that no hacking aids had been used. Geguri's seemingly perfect aim was her own raw talent combined with a glitchy in-game camera and unusually high mouse sensitivity.
Her innocence was proven. Geguri's vindication earned her a dedicated South Korean and international fanbase, both of which have only continued to grow.
At 18, as a starting member of the ROX Orcas, Geguri became the first woman to play in OnGameNet's OGN Apex in Seoul, South Korea. At that time in 2017, it was the world's most competitive professional Overwatch league. Fans showed up with encouraging signs and plush frogs in recognition of her in-game name.
Now Geguri, for a second time, will be the first woman to play Overwatch at a professional level in a premier league. This time it'll be the Overwatch League at the Blizzard Arena in Burbank, CA, clad in the red and gold uniform of the Shanghai Dragons. The Dragons' match against the Dallas Fuel is the opening series of Stage 3.
It's one of the most highly-anticipated player debuts of the Overwatch League.
Similarly, everyone knows the record of the Shanghai Dragons: zero match wins out of 20 across Stage 1 and Stage 2 of OWL's inaugural season. The team has been fraught with rumored internal issues and misfortune. DPS player Lu "Diya" Weida had to return home for a family emergency mid-Stage 2. On March 6, Head Coach Chen "U4" Congshan stepped down. Five days ago, Shanghai announced departure of DPS player Fang "Undead" Chao.
The obvious and unstoppable question of whether Geguri can save the Shanghai Dragons is an unfair one. It places a burden on her arrival; an all or nothing desperate attempt to save the entirety of an Overwatch League franchise's fate, all on the shoulders of a young rookie flex/tank player. A more charitable question would be about how well her playstyle will fit her new team.
Geguri's arrival to the Shanghai Dragons coincidences with several roster changes. When the initial lineup was formed, U4 came to the team with three of his former LGD Gaming players: Undead, support Cheng "Altering" Yage, and flex/tank Wu "MG" Dongjian. LGD was known for making Undead look good, creating team compositions to facilitate him specifically. For the majority of its Overwatch League matches, the Shanghai Dragons looked very much the same.
The recent departure of Undead changes what was initially expected of Geguri upon signing. Previously, Diya was put on Tracer duty while Undead rotated through the other DPS heroes like McCree, Windowmaker and Soldier 76. The addition of former MVP Space DPS player Chon "Ado" Gi-hyeon could potentially change this. Ado is known for his Genji, but has also played Tracer frequently. Geguri and Ado are two of three South Korean imports picked up by the Shanghai Dragons; main tank Lee "Fearless" Eui-seok is the third.
Former Miraculous Youngster support He "Sky" Junjian also joins the team, having just recently become age-eligible in February. The influx of new players could bring a new flexibility to the team if the members can synergize well enough with each other. Overwatch is a team game after all, and, especially for a flex/tank player like Geguri, requires strong communication.
Although Geguri is known for her Zarya due to how she was pushed into the international spotlight, Geguri spends the vast majority of her time on D.Va. On the Dragons, she'll be tasked with eliminating threats, especially to the team's Tracer while also providing timely Defense Matrices. She has been praised in the past not only for her mechanics, but the order and timeliness of her skills. This will be put to a greater test in the Overwatch League.
For a potential career trajectory, Geguri need look no further than her ex-Orcas teammate Kwon "Striker" Nam-joo, who has improved so much during his time on the Boston Uprising that he's currently in the discussion for best Tracer in the league. The Overwatch League spotlight shines on the best and brightest that the game has to offer, but also has made new stars on its stage.
When she streams with a camera, Geguri only shows her hand and a small pachimari plush. At times, Geguri is impossibly shy, at others, she's rapidly chatting with her viewers and squeezing the plush in between matches.
Above all else, even when she was a trembling high school student wrongfully accused of cheating, Geguri is fiercely stubborn and ambitious. That could propel her on the path to improvement like her former teammate.
Everyone who's into professional Overwatch knows of Geguri.
And now, everyone is waiting to see what happens next.