Two of the best teams in the Onward circuit have something special in common. Both teams have a pair of brothers who practice, strategize, play, and travel to events together in a time when many adults don’t talk with their siblings for months.
The concept that virtual reality will isolate people is not only false, but in fact those who use VR have actually found the opposite to be true. VR is so immersive that it’s actually bringing people closer together, including families. VR esports is one way this is evident.
Texas brothers Luke and Jeremy Kotin, started playing Onward, the popular VR first-person shooter when it was released in early access in August 2016. They had purchased their VR setups only about a week earlier.
“We absolutely loved the game from day one and talked about doing tournaments even before we had discovered the [Onward] Discord,” says Luke Kotin (Thund3rPilot).
In early 2017, they got their wish when DaKinMan established the VR Master League, a community driven platform where Onward enthusiasts can find teammates and coordinate competitive games through the VRML. Dante Buckley, the creator of Onward, and the VRML collaborated with the VR League in 2017 to present Onward as part of VRL Season 2. It is also one of the four featured games for VR League Season 3.
Luke and Jeremy (Auto), who had been playing games together since they were young, formed Globochem in VRML season one. They lived together at that time, but since then Luke moved about 10 hours away to go to school.
Playing competitive VR esports has allowed them to remain in close contact even though they no longer live together.
“I love playing with my brother,” explains Luke. “Our familiarity and trust is a great foundation for our team and going into battle with him is so much fun. We just seem to know where the other will be, what they are thinking before they do it, and ways to support [each other] without any communication.”
Both brothers say they appreciate the positive attitude of the other.
“Playing with Thund3rPilot is awesome,” says Jeremy, using Luke’s gamertag. “He has so much passion for the game and our team. He’s an excellent teammate and one of the top players in Onward. … I feel fortunate to be able to play this game competitively with my brother.”
Another pair of well-known brothers in Onward is on Beginners in the European region.
Carl, 37, better known as Woods43, began playing within a week or so after the game released while Dean, 38, watched from the sidelines.
“My brother started playing before me,” says Dean (ICWoods). “I thought, ‘Wow. I wouldn’t mind having a go of that.’”
About six months after his brother began playing, ICWoods joined the VRML with BossFight. He later received an invite to his brother’s team. He has played with Beginners since VRML Season 5 and now plays with them in VR League Season 3.
The Woods brothers do have the opportunity to see each other regularly since they both live in Liverpool, England, but playing VR together gives them the opportunity to retain the closeness they had growing up.
The success of the Woods and Kotin brothers has inspired other players such as Snakebite and LionHeartVR from Spokane, Washington.
They live down the street from each other and have never played on an official team together, but they do run into each other in Onward lobbies so they can join the same match.
“Our playstyle is more a sledgehammer rather than a surgical pick,” explains LionHeartVR, 32. “If you saw us coordinating, it would most likely be an aggressive smoke and rush play rather than slow play.”
“Playing with him is very fun and challenging,” says Snakebite, 29, repeating a sentiment we hear repeatedly from people who play with their siblings, spouses, and even parents. “We do very well together strategically even against each other.”
It seems like perhaps there is a slight advantage for these players who already have a lifetime of history and they’re able to transition those relationships naturally to the immersiveness of VR. Although obviously everyone doesn’t have a family member to play with, it’s great to see the positive dynamics developing between all players in VR esports. It’s also encouraging to see how these games can strengthen relationships, particularly between family members.
- About the author
Sonya Haskins is better known among the gaming community by the username "hasko7." She greatly enjoys playing and promoting VR esports. Sonya lives with her husband and five children in the foothills of the Appalachian mountains in Northeast Tennessee.