12 months ago, Chris “August” Norgrove was on the outside.
The Masterminds of old had capitulated, with the Kiwi DPS main forced onto flex support for an entire season. It was the worst two months of his time playing Overwatch, and almost drove him to quit the game entirely.
However, he decided to give it one last crack, and he wasn’t too sure if he was cut out for it.
“I was having fun with streaming, and eventually my internet went to shit, so I wanted to do something,” he said. “That’s when I started competing again. I didn’t really put too much thought the way this season would end up.”
The grind was rough, but it was enough for him to get a trial for Mindfreak. The team looking to invest more money than any other in the region to assemble a roster to take down the likes of the Sydney Drop Bears and Order.
“I asked Joel [Mindfreak’s coach] for a trial with Mindfreak, and he allowed me on. I asked the Sydney Drop Bears, they turned me down, but look at me now,” he laughed.
He would prove to be one of their best pickups of the season.
August made himself one of the most effective Brigitte’s in the league when GOATS was around, and then when he was let loose on picks like Sombra and Hanzo, he terrorised the backline of anyone who crossed his path. His aim was lethal, and his game sense ascended. He was the player he wanted to be when he was in Contenders 12 months ago, but for him, anything was better than being stuck on support.
“It felt great to go back to DPS. I didn’t have to stay on a singular hero like Zenyatta – a hero I don’t know how to play – against people who did. It was comfortable.”
Sure, Mindfreak had a star-studded line up. Marcus “Kiki” Jacob, one of the veterans of the scene who was a part of the 2017 Blank roster which took over Pacific. Joshua “Bus” Bussell had gone from the 0-20 Bin Chickens to making LAN with Heist, while Isaac “Ackyyy” Berry is one of Australia’s best aim support talents at just the age of 17. That’s not to mention Elliot “Addy” Dunne and Sam “Swilko” Wilkinson.
The only issue there was that playing on LAN is a different beast to playing online. Experience usually conquers any mechanical skill on LAN, and maintaining composure is key. August didn’t really feel the pressure, even on game day.
“The only time it really got to me was when we were doing rehearsals to go out on stage at MEO. That was really cool, and the nerves kicked in, but on game day, I wasn’t feeling too bad.”
While the Mindfreak boys were completely shut down on the day 4-0, it was an unforgettable experience for August to play on LAN for the first time.
“Playing in front of a crowd was really exciting,” he said. “It’s really hard to describe, when you can hear the crowd cheering through the mics, you get a little amped up.”
The irony of losing the Melbourne Esports Open final on the first day of September was not lost though. “God, all the memes people are going to send to me about losing LAN because August just finished.”
But, a year ago, a September on the Melbourne Esports Open stage was not even on the cards. It’s hard to put into perspective the achievement of making LAN after you’ve just been handed a resounding defeat on stage, but August had already proven to himself that there’s a future for him in the scene.
“It’s a proving point for me – it showed that I can do something with this, and that I’ve accomplished something with this,” he said.
“I had to prove it to myself and the community in Australia. When you’ve only been on low-tier teams and then you take a break and you see your mates doing cool shit you think “I really want to do that again,” and now I’m doing it.”
The focus has now shifted to the Overwatch World Cup, where August was selected onto the New Zealand roster alongside Order’s Dale “Signed” Tang and Boston Uprising’s Kelsey “Colourhex” Birse in the DPS slots.
“It’s going to be amazing to actually go international and meet all these people I’ve seen and idolised. I get to play against them in a serious match, and that’s awesome.”
He’s got a pretty good shot at getting a spot on stage in Los Angeles too. His wide hero pool that he displayed across the Contenders Australia season will give the New Zealand roster a bunch of room to flex.
“I cover a lot of heroes that Signed and Colourhex don’t play. They both play Widowmaker, but I play Hanzo. Signed plays a bit of Sombra, but I’m definitely a Sombra player. We’ve got different heroes picks depending on the situation, but it’s all up to Noxious [NZ coach].”
The World Cup is the next step on a journey for August. It’s a journey he’s undertaken to reach the pinnacle of Australian Overwatch after almost giving up entirely. The drive to push towards the Overwatch League is stronger than ever for the New Zealander. He’s rejuvenated himself, and his love of the game.
“I’m looking towards NA for next season. Contenders, Overwatch League, whatever is thrown my way I’ll take. I’ve got the Overwatch World Cup to prove myself at for New Zealand, and maybe the offers will come.”
Once on the outside, August is now looking to break the barrier he couldn’t breach and fulfil the fairy tale every aspiring pro dreams of. And there’s no more talented player in the region to do so.