The Dallas Fuel is a broken kingdom. The walls have been taken, the city under siege. Each time the fans think it can’t get worse, things get worse. Suspensions have wreaked havoc, the team members are splintering apart at the seams. Dallas Fuel have fielded the most roster combinations in the league in a desperate attempt to find the right six. Through all of that desolation, through all of that darkness, Hyeon “EFFECT” Hwang still stands in defiance. No matter how terrible things get, he rages against destiny, he is the last soldier at the gates, the last hope of the Fuel, the flame burning against into the dark night.
It was never supposed to be like this. Before Overwatch League started, the Dallas Fuel were predicted to be a top four team in the league. They were supposed to be the best western team going into it with a potential chance of defeating the Koreans. Now here we are halfway through Stage 3 as one of the worst teams in the league, a team that analysts on the desk predicted to lose to the Shanghai Dragons, a team that has set a new benchmark of failure and losing in all of esports history.
There have been roster problems, suspensions, personality conflicts, and managerial issues. As far as we know, the coaching and managerial staff didn’t have full control of their roster until the second stage of week 4 in Overwatch League, which meant there was too little time to do anything. The team tried to be patient and deal with Felix “xQc” Lengyel’s problems, but it ended up costing them the first stages of OWL instead. We’ve had players completely disappear like Christian “cocco” Jonsson or Timo “Taimou” Kettunen switch roles.
Through the unmitigated disaster that has been Fuel’s time in OWL, EFFECT has done everything he could to prop up the team. When the team started to first face issues he tried to bring up the team more. xQc recounts,
“The thing with Effect is that–the other day you guys were spamming in chat, like “Effect is crying” or something, and I mean, I just feel like everyone on my team tries really hard and everyone tries to be the best. But Effect goes further. He gives his life to become better at the game. And when he turned off the stream, he went on to Discord and he tagged me and Cocco and he said “Tomorrow, duo-q with me” and he said “call targets,” because if it was a “him only” thing, he would just go back and practice his aim and become better at the game–that’s what he does. But for once it was something that he can’t control, which is us, and he wants us to be better as a team.”
From that anecdote, we see EFFECT’s raw competitive drive. He isn’t a player that is willing to stop trying when things go badly. He wants to win and he wants to raise up his team with him to win. He is willing to put in more hours than the rest of his teammates if that is what it takes to bring his team to the top.
However it’s been rough. The problems with the Fuels are multifaceted. There is a problem with individual skill, teamwork, strategic, managerial, and personality conflicts. Even now, when we look at the team on paper, this should still be a strong Overwatch team, not a team that is standing as the third worst in the entire league.
The fans and the community that once glorified the Fuel have now been forced to question it. How could everything go wrong so badly and so quickly? How could the best western team go from the top of Overwatch to the doldrums? It has betrayed the fans expectations and they feel a level of sadness, frustration, and anger.
Perhaps that is why the community has rallied around EFFECT as an emblematic player. He has become the idol of Fuel, their hero, their savior. They have congregated him in an almost religious fervor hoping that he can save them. The reasons are obvious. In game, EFFECT is an amazing player, one of the best in the league despite being on one of the worst teams in the league. On top of that, we see that he cares with a passion and rage that resonates with the fans. He is a player who has proven through both words and action that he won’t stop, can’t stop. That he will fight to the end to get a win. That no matter how badly everything else is going on inside and outside the server, that he is the man they can rely on.
It has become almost tradition to see EFFECT go on social media and give his blunt and emotional response to losses every time Fuel loses now. One of the most recent examples of that was when the Fuel played against the Shanghai Dragons, he heard the analysts all predict the Dragons to win. He wrote after the match (which has since been deleted),
“When the three analysts on the stream picked Shanghai as the winner I was pissed off and went inside the stadium thinking I will kill everybody [in-game]. I wasn’t able to think of the high-five because I was mad. Also, I almost lost my temper after losing one map.”
He then dismantled the Dragons in an awe-inspiring performance. That rage and anger is what gives him a competitive edge. It keeps him focused in the game, but more than that. It is what keeps him up at night constantly practicing, it is what makes him get up early, it is what makes him practice tirelessly through all hope seems to have been lost for the fuel. It is that rage, that passion that burns like a bonfire into a dimming night that has endeared him so to the fan base because it resonates with them. EFFECT not only shares the fans frustrations, he seems to be going above and beyond the call to do anything he can to save the team. But no matter how much he tries, it is never enough. When I watch him play, I feel like I’ve time traveled back a decade when anime music videos with Linkin Park were the norm, except this time EFFECT is the star.
One of the most recent examples I can think of was when I was watching the Dallas Fuel play the L.A. Valiant in Stage 3, Week 2 on Numbani. Fuel were on the defense of the first point and the entire team except EFFECT had been taken out. In that moment, EFFECT tried to survive and delay the point for as long as he could and time was ticking into overtime. In the end, the numbers were too much and he was eventually taken out. Fuel eventually won that map, but they lost the series. At that moment, I couldn’t help but think of Linkin Park as I saw EFFECT lose another match.
“I tried so hard, And got so far
But in the end, It doesn’t even matter.” – In the End by Linkin Park
After that match, EFFECT said, “We lost again. Ever since OWL started I thought we tried our best, but we are still lacking. I knew this would be a hard journey beforehand, but experiencing it myself the word ‘give up’ almost came up to the end of my mouth….But the certain thing is, I am still enduring with my teeth clenched, and I will try my best to change the team that is the Dallas Fuel, step by step. We can’t keep losing forever. The ‘best team’ tag seems so far away that it’s almost invisible.”
No matter how hopeless things have gone, EFFECT has not given up. Everything has fallen around him, his team is in shambles. The days when Dallas Fuel were a feared force in the world have long past. With the destruction of their kingdom. Despite that, EFFECT still dreams of being the world’s best. He still fights on and perhaps that is what attracts the community. He is a warrior standing in defiance of the apocalypse. He is Rorschach screaming that he will never compromise. He fights with a rage and passion that can still make you believe that the Fuel can be saved. He has become the last hope of the fuel, the player they have pinned all their hopes on. But even that fire is flickering out.
With the recent developments of the Fuel kicking both Kyle “KyKy” Souder and Dong-jun “Rascal” Kim, EFFECT is close to the end. He tweeted,
“I am not going to do anything foolish anymore such as believing in someone and stupidly waiting. I guess it’s either me getting out of the team, or the team changing.”
We seem to be at the very end of the Dallas Fuel team. The last man that stood against the darkness was EFFECT. No matter how dark it gets, how terrible things are, so long as EFFECT keeps going. So long as he stands tall as the beacon, so long as he continues to rage against the dying of the light, so long as his fire doesn’t burn out, there is hope for a better tomorrow. Hope that one day Fuel can fix themselves, hope that they can once again rebuild their team, and that hope seems to be flickering away. Should it ever get extinguished then so too does Dallas Fuel’s future.