Charline ‘Parjüny’ Sanchez, an international student who grew up 45 minutes outside of Paris, has been playing Overwatch since beta in 2016.
But due to a medical condition, the game is a bit more challenging for her than the average student competing in Tespa’s Overwatch Collegiate Championship.
Six years ago, she was diagnosed with Ewing Sarcoma, a rare form of cancer that grows in and around the bones. Her’s was located in the right scapula. She endured a year and half of chemotherapy and radiation and eventually had to have her scapula removed. Although now cured, she only retained about 30 percent of her right arm’s mobility-- the arm that controls the mouse and aiming in a game like Overwatch.
“It was one of the most terrifying years of my life,” she recalled. “Nausea 24/7, intense random shoulder pain, all the blood tests, feeling helpless, not being able to sit nor stand up, starving but not being able to eat. I’m so thankful to have made it out alive.”
Competing in Overwatch at the upper echelons of play while also balancing a full course-load in a foreign country is challenging enough, but Parjüny is doing it all in pain as well.
She’s had to adjust her playstyle to minimize pain and compensate for the lack of mobility caused by missing a bone in her shoulder. She used to play on a low sensitivity, but because Overwatch is a fast-paced game, her arm couldn’t support the 400dpi 1.5 she was used to playing on. She’s now upped her sensitivity and still getting used to it. Thankfully for her matches at the Collegiate Esports Championship, she’s primarily playing positioning-based characters (Mercy, Brigitte) rather than aiming-heavy ones.
“Overwatch is actually a really nice way for me to keep training my arm muscles,” she said. “But it does get challenging and I’m always having shoulder and back pain during and after scrims. I learned just to deal with it.”
As a longtime gamer and Blizzard fan, Parjüny was excited for Overwatch’s announcement in 2014. The game felt unique compared to the other FPS games she was playing at the time, and it would be one of the first games she’d dedicate herself to post-surgery.
When she graduated from highschool in 2016, Parjüny left France behind to study illustration and animation at Orange Coast College just a short drive away from the entertainment companies that shaped her childhood: Cartoon Network, Disney, and Blizzard Entertainment.
“Studying here is getting me closer to my dream of working at Blizzard,” Parjüny said. “But the transition has been tough. I moved here on my own when I was 17. I encountered cultural differences, and I’m not going to lie, I feel homesick. But the people I’ve met here are the best support ever.”
A portion of that support network is OCC’s Overwatch team that Parjüny helped form in 2017.
Upon moving to the United States, Parjüny’s English was choppy, so she found it difficult to climb in ranked on her own. Despite making it to masters, she was tired of competitive and yearning for the core teamwork aspect of the game. That’s how she found the other five players who would become OCC’s official Overwatch team.
They were just a group of six random players who loved Overwatch and happened to go to the same college. They met up one day to simply play the game and have some fun. They tried different comps, played new heroes, and lagged a lot, but something clicked. OCC’s Overwatch team was officially formed.
Despite being on the team since day one, Parjüny has kept her cancer diagnosis a secret from her teammates for nearly two years. Scrims might have been easier if she were able to tell them she needed a 10 minute break to rest her arm, but she couldn’t because none of them knew about her condition.
According to Parjüny, telling people about a medical condition such as her own causes them to treat you differently. Their opinion of you changes, they pity you, and give you special treatment. She didn’t want any of that.
“People tend to be nicer to me once they know I survived cancer and their attitude just doesn’t feel genuine anymore,” she said. “I got put aside on so many projects back in middle and high school because my teachers were worried I would get hurt… I wanted to be a part of this team and invest as much time and care as possible. I couldn’t let my medical problems take that dream away from me.”
With the CEC coming up, Parjüny is finally ready to open up with the team about her condition. “We’re about to spend days together practicing and hanging out. I don’t want to lie about the reasons of why I’m going to be in pain,” she said. At this point, she doesn’t think anything will change once they know about her past. Plus, she adds, “it’s also safer to have someone who knows about my medical condition if something were to happen while we’re away.”
Fortunately for Parjüny, she’s got a solid team to back her up both on and offline.
Each of her teammates has their strengths. According to Parjüny, Jacob ‘Galaxy’ Nguyen is her clutch healing partner and allows her to focus on their Pharah main Andre ‘Chicken’ Merdinoglu. Jesse ‘JETJEL’ Lopez is a W pressing main tank with the point-saving shatters, Joseph ‘EuphoRia’ Huynh is the king of game-winning picks, and their captain, Nick ‘Slayergramps’ Caravaggio, is a Tracer god.
“As cheesy as it sounds, playing with my teammates just makes it all worth it-- the shoulder pain, the back pain-- just getting to hang out with them a bit is something I cherish,” she said. “I’m really grateful to be part of this team.”
Parjüny and her team will take on Grand Canyon University on May 10. Tune in to all the action live on www.twitch.tv/blizzard.
About the CEC
Tespa and ESPN are excited to team up for the Collegiate Esports Championship! Schools from across the U.S. and Canada will compete live in Overwatch, Hearthstone, Heroes of the Storm, and StarCraft II at the George R. Brown Convention Center in Houston, Texas, from May 10–12.
Tickets to the event for Tespa Members can be purchased here.
As our exclusive PC and monitor partner for the year, ROG’s Strix GL12CX and ROG Strix XG258Q will be powering all of the on-stage action at the event. In addition, teams will have access to more ROG products in the official player practice area.