Despite a lengthy history in Overwatch’s pre-Overwatch League pro scene and a Twitch following of more than 250,000 fans, San Francisco Shock player André “Iddqd” Dahlström has yet to play in a single official OWL match. He’s been on the bench for the entirety of the season, only briefly donning his team’s signature Naruto-orange duds and taking the stage during the OWL’s one-week preseason. Since the regular season started, he’s been stuck on the sidelines, watching and waiting.
It’s such a common occurrence that it’s practically a meme at this point: once a week or so, somebody starts a Reddit thread or a big tweet chain asking the same question: “Where’s Iddqd?” He has a boatload of fans from his lengthy (by Overwatch standards) career and Twitch streaming, and they really want to know what’s up.
Dahlström, who’s competed in over 30 Overwatch events since 2016 including Blizzard’s own Overwatch World Cup, describes himself as a “stage player.” He loves competing in front of audiences. It’s what he traveled from his homeland of Sweden all the way to Los Angeles, the Overwatch League’s current base of operations, to do. He can’t help but feel disappointed, then, that it’s not what he’s doing, and he has no idea when that’ll change.
“I do get homesick,” he told me when I spoke to him at the Game Developer’s Conference in San Francisco last week, “because I feel like I’m not doing what I set out to do.” He added that, in what’s become a common occurrence for him, he’d been approached by “nine or ten” people at GDC who wanted to know when he was finally gonna get to play. He wished he had a good answer for them.
“I can see them get a little courage to walk up and say hi, and then they get the courage to ask the question, and all I have in return is ‘I don’t know,’” he said. “It makes me sad, because arguably I have the biggest fanbase of SF Shock. I have a very loyal fanbase that’s stuck with me since the beginning. They’ve always had my back, and it feels so shitty that I can’t say anything. I hope one day I can be up on stage and pop the hell off and show them that I’m still here.”
Iddqd was sick during OWL stage one’s early goings, which took him out of the running for the main team. He also specializes in many of the same heroes as SF Shock’s star DPS and posterboy, Babybay, which makes slotting him in tricky. On top of that, SF Shock’s coach is, as a general rule, not a big fan of subbing players in mid-match. At this point, Iddqd believes that his coach “obviously has a plan,” and for now, his status as a fixture on the bench is part of it.
In the meantime, he claims that he’s trying to be a good teammate and help his teammates by watching tape and strategizing for future matches. “Right now, I’m seen as the seasoned veteran,” said Iddqd, who at age 26 is one of the older players in the league. “I can help the kids get their nerves down—think about positive things. I think a lot of victory in Overwatch is mental.”
His teammates and coaches haven’t said much publicly about why he’s been nailed to the bench, but his teammates seem to like him, though what really happens in a locker room, or the esports equivalent, is often hard to know.
Iddqd also says he’s matured in his years in esports. “If I was 18, I’d be fucking boiling. I’d be frustrated like a little kid running around screaming all the time. And at the end of the day, I really wish that was me playing 12 hours a day, practicing, and being able to play on stage. But my time is not now.” He’s not sure when it will be his time, but he’s made an uneasy peace with his role as a sorta-but-not-quite secondary coach.
Make no mistake, though: Iddqd isn’t just focusing on his teammates. He’s practicing his butt off, too. He told me that he plays between 10 and 12 hours every day, so that when (or perhaps if, at this point) the time comes, he’ll be ready.
“Call it confidence or call it being an idiot, but if I got the chance to show what I’m good for, I could take down the big boys in the league. No problem,” he said, noting that he frequently plays against Overwatch League’s biggest bogeymen while practicing. (One unique thing about the OWL, compared to their major sport counterparts, is that the teams all practice against each other.) “Going toe-to-toe with Pine and Linkzr in Widowmaker battles, it really boosts my confidence. Playing in ranked is nothing like playing on stage, but I’d really like to get up on stage and see if I could beat them there too, because I really think that I can.”
Compete is Deadspin and Kotaku’s joint site dedicated to competitive gaming.