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Grant Schaefer Levels Up in his Esports Game

Grant Schafer
Grant Schafer streams Overwatch on Twitch

Strike. Palms are sweaty and spectators are on the edge of their seats as the 5th match of the day begins. Exhausted, both sides prepare for the rematch, hearts racing. However, this isn’t a soccer tournament, rather, it’s a ranked match of Overwatch – a competitive video game – with PHS senior Grant Schaefer competing against some of the world’s best players. 

Schaefer is in the top 500 Overwatch players in the world, with a peak ranking of 187 among the 24 million players worldwide. In addition, Schaefer streams his gameplay on Twitch and coaches other school’s varsity esports teams.

According to developer Blizzard Entertainment, Overwatch is a popular first-person shooter game in which players in teams of two compete to complete different objectives, including capturing control points and escorting payloads across the map. Each match, the game forms teams between similarly ranked players, allowing Schaefer to play with some of the top professional players, including world champion Supertf. 

Schaefer has played video games since he was 7 years old, switching between various games on the Wii to playing on his iPad. However, when Overwatch was released in 2016, Schaefer was instantly attracted.

“I love the graphics, all the small details, and just the idea of the game,” Schaefer said.

When he started out, Schaefer didn’t yet rank in the top million, but he continued to play and improve his skills, Schaefer said. When the COVID pandemic hit in 2020, he found much more time to explore his love for the game. He upgraded his XBox to a more powerful computer, and after playing 8 hours a day nearly every day, he began to rise the ranks quickly. He went on to achieve the rank of Grandmaster later that year, only one rank below the top 500, and has sustained that rank or higher for the past 3 years. 

“It took a lot of time and effort, but was definitely worth it. Being that high rank really made me feel fantastic and helped me realize that you can really do anything you want,” Schaefer said.

Schaefer found a community of friends to play with, both inside and outside of PHS, which also assisted his success, Schaefer said. While initially he played with friends, as his rank continued to climb above theirs, he no longer matched in-game with them. Despite this, he continues to play on alternate accounts with them in order to not have to worry about losing his rank.

“He doesn’t take it too seriously when playing with me, and it’s a lot more fun because of that. When I play well, he hypes me up, and when it comes from someone as good as him, it feels more meaningful,” senior Jonah Dupree said. Dupree has been playing Overwatch with Schaefer for over 3 years.

Finding people of similar rank to play with, however, is sometimes difficult, Schaefer said. The Overwatch community is notorious for its toxicity, however, among the top players, there are still many nice people, he said. Finding those nice players and being able to connect and continue playing with them is one of the reasons he continues. 

“You have your super toxic people who hate you for making one mistake, but you also have your super friendly players,” Schaefer said, “the reason I keep playing is because I get [matched with] other people like that and I get to express my shared interest with them and have a good time.”

One year after reaching the top 500, Schaefer joined an official esports team in order to play more competitively and train consistently with others. However, he quickly quit the team, feeling that the environment was too toxic, distracting him from his goal of simply having fun, Schaefer said.

While his rank continued to climb, Schaefer began streaming his gameplay under the username yurusu0_0 on Twitch, a live-streaming platform used by many for watching their favorite top video game players compete in real time. The viewers of his stream often comment on his gameplay, forming a supportive and fun environment, Schaefer said. 

“Watching his stream is really fun, just because he is just so good. It’s super fun and his viewers are very nice,” Dupree said.

In addition, Schaefer’s stream isn’t limited to just Overwatch, he also streams himself building Lego sets or just chatting with the audience. 

“[Schaefer] has the most extroverted energy out of any group he’s in. Just like when he’s online, he’s always positive. He’s never like bringing bad vibes and never putting you down,” senior Oliver Amen said. Amen has been playing Overwatch with Schaefer since the game’s release, and frequently plays alongside Schaefer on stream.

“They’re especially fun because he portrays who he actually is to the entire world, the same way he does to just his friends,” Amen said.

Schaefer’s stream often includes viewers from around the world, with regular viewers from countries like South Africa and the UK. Being able to connect with this diverse group of people has also helped Schaefer broaden his horizons and learn about life not only around the country but also around the world, he said.

“I’ve met a bunch of new friends from around the world. I have some friends that I have been playing with for about two years now. We are always talking and are a part of each other’s lives, which I’m grateful for every day,” Schaefer said. 

Schaefer also plays many other video games, although none at as high a level as he does with Overwatch.  Schaefer often quickly picks up techniques and skills in any new game, outpacing his friends who’ve played these games for years.

“[Schaefer] gets good at every game so fast, even if he’s only been playing for a couple hours,” Amen said.

Overwatch has helped Schaefer improve his gaming skills and techniques, especially reflexes and precision, Schaefer said. These skills are also what allow him to excel at so many other games. Despite this, he still continues to train and work on improving himself.

“At the start I was okay, but not where I wanted to be, so I sat down and practiced and over time I got where I wanted to be. Even when you are among the best in the world, you are always looking at small things you can do better,” Schaefer said.

However, Schaefer has learned much more than just technical skills from Overwatch; it has also helped him build his communication, adaptability, and problem solving skills. 

“Over time, playing Overwatch made it super easy to talk to strangers, because I’m always talking to random people in the game,” Schaefer said.

In addition to playing video games, Schaefer also loves getting outside and playing soccer with his friends. Although they aren’t competing for the top 500, their soccer tournaments are still just as fun and exhausting for Schaefer.

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About the Contributor
Mark Hsia
Mark Hsia, News Editor
Mark Hsia (12) is the news editor at the Piedmont Highlander. He joined Journalism in the 2021-2022 school year and is continuing with it this year because he has always enjoyed reading the news and enjoys getting involved. He enjoys spending time outside, whether that's mountain biking and playing tennis or just relaxing with his family or friends.
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