Showing posts with label NA LCS. Show all posts
Showing posts with label NA LCS. Show all posts

Thursday, May 28, 2015

The Difficult Life of a CLG Fan



by Jeremy "Ne0 Jets" Heimann

Growing up with an older brother, I learned to be competitive at a very young age. I always wanted to win, no matter what, whether it was video games, sports, or board games. Memories as a child included watching my brother root for his favorite teams. One day, the Fighting Irish of Notre Dame, a favorite of his, were playing the Michigan Wolverines, and I started rooting for Michigan just to compete against him. Read more...

Thursday, May 21, 2015

NA Summer 2015 – Can TSM stay on top?



by Patrick Garren

The top of the North American competitive League of Legends' landscape has been dichotomous since Cloud9 arrived on the scene a few years back, trading blow for blow with their NA heavyweight counterpart, Team Solomid. TSM has gotten the better of the staggering former champion lately, with two straight NA LCS titles and some international exposure to show for their roster rotations and coaching changes. Up until a couple of weeks ago, Cloud9, unlike their rivals, had maintained a steady roster and with the  addition of Incarnation to their lineup, are now on the road to resurfacing as the primary powerhouse in North America. But can they overtake TSM?

TSM have not been shy about roster swaps. Ever since Reginald stepped back to coach and brought Bjergsen across the pond, they have had a revolving door of replacements at the support and jungle positions. Having finally settled on Korean import Lustboy at support, TSM continued to search for the band-aid that would stop the bleeding that TheOddOne’s retirement started. European jungler Amazing would see an NA LCS title with the team, but with poor international play and mounting criticism from the "always poised to strike" League of Legends community, Amazing decided returning to Europe and his family would bring more happiness to his life. This opened the door for Santorin. Coming from the floundering Team Coast, Santorin would see a quicker bit of success than the former TSM jungler, with a decisive win in the championship of the NA split. Ultimately, TSM’s Mid-Season Invitational proved extremely disappointing, and many fans were unable to decide whether to lay the blame on top laner Dyrus or on Santorin’s aversion to top lane ganks.

Which brings us to the Summer 2015 LCS split. Having made no roster changes, Reginald and coach Locodoco presumably have plans to counter the new and improved Cloud9 line-up, who increased their potential skill level in mid lane by several orders of magnitude with Incarnation’s arrival. While I personally agree with the lack of roster moves, it’s up to the management to continue to guide Santorin in the right direction as he grows and matures as a player. Decision making was not at its best in Tallahassee for Baylife, so some ideas definitely need to be thrown around, all the while fostering a synergistic team attitude, if they hope to continue to reign atop the North American LCS.

However, Cloud9 is not the only team in the North American scene that has bolstered their roster. Several other teams have their eyes on dethroning at least one of the usual finalists from North America. Since former mid-laner Link left with a massive bridge-fire, CLG has made huge moves to improve their shot at showing up in the post-season this summer. With the introduction of former Winterfox wunderkind Pobelter and Korean ringer Huhi, CLG hope that an SKT-like approach to the mid lane position will allow them to be more flexible in terms of their game-to-game strategies, although this will not be readily apparent until we see how CLG plays with both mid laners, and also gets into a relevant best-of series. On the less flashier side of things, Team Impulse has shown significant growth over the course of the past 4 months, led by solo queue superstar Rush, who as of this writing is tied with Faker for first place on the Korean ladder, and will bring the same 5 starters into the Summer split looking for a shot at going to Worlds.

One thing is for sure, though. If North America wants to become an international threat, the middling talent of its leagues needs to step up. Impulse, CLG, Gravity, and Team Liquid will need to continue their improvements shown week-to-week last split if they hope to challenge for the NA title, and Cloud9 and TSM need these teams to become better to put the onus on themselves to improve and compete on an international level. 

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Three Reasons CLG's Two-Man Midlane isn't like SKT's

by Kennan French

Counter Logic Gaming recently announcing that they will have both Pobelter and HuHi playing mid lane on their main roster, and it's hard not to draw comparisons to SK Telecom's system of rotating Easyhoon and Faker in between games. Personally, I’m glad to see an NA team having a roster with more than five starters. However, there are plenty of differences in these situations that are important to keep in mind.

First, SKT has a distinct strategic decision when choosing Faker or Easyhoon, since they have very different styles: Faker plays aggressively, always looking to make plays and draw pressure, whereas Easyhoon is typically a more passive laner who looks to enable his whole team to get fed. CLG won’t have such a clear decision; both HuHi and Pobelter are most at home playing aggressively on assassins. Now, this may work if CLG wants to really prioritize a certain pick (Zed, for example, is considered to be one of Pobelter's signature champions, while HuHi has seen better results on LeBlanc) but they generally share most of their champion pools so one champion isn't likely to change this much, especially since the other team can just ban it away. 


Second, the caliber of player isn't the same on CLG as it is on SKT. It's not that Pobelter and HuHi aren't good mid laners - they are - but this is Faker and Easyhoon we're talking about. Faker has won a world championship, and Easyhoon is widely considered to be comparable to Faker in skill; Pobelter has had to play to keep his team in the NA LCS twice (and only been successful once). HuHi was winless during his time on Bigfile Miracle when he played mid lane for them in Korea. Of course, one good player does not a good team make, and both Pobelter and HuHi are good players, but it would be hard to argue that they are better than Faker or Easyhoon. Also, while they would have this same problem with only one mid laner, this problem adds another element of uncertainty to their decision about who to play.


The last, and most important, difference between CLG's situation and SKT's is that the NA LCS games are all Best-of-1 series (during the regular season, at least) whereas the OGN LCK it's OGN, let's be real LCK games are Best-of-3. This means that SKT can play Easyhoon in Game 1 and then Faker in Game 2 if they want to try a different strategy or counter something unexpected that the other team did, or one of them is tired, or for any number of other reasons. CLG will not have this option. They have to choose one player for each game and hope they made the right choice, with no recourse if they didn't. 

This leaves us with how CLG will use their rotating mid lane roster this coming season. It's likely that, if they want to run a split-pushing composition, they'll put in Pobelter. Pobelter has also shown more prowess on more supportive mid laners; he has 10 Orianna games to HuHi's 0, and a considerably higher win rate on Lulu with more games. If they want to run a mid lane AD carry, HuHi would be the one to put in. And, as a final prediction and without knowing much about the team dynamic the past split, having two mid laners will likely be a boost to team morale if one of them tilts (assuming they are both mature about being subbed in and out).

So yes, there are some similarities between the mid lane rosters of SKT and CLG, but it's important not to take their situations as identical; to do so would be ignoring the teams' strategies, the skill of the players, and the formats of the respective leagues that the teams are competing in.

Friday, May 1, 2015

The Mid Season Invitational opens with a Dream Match

EU's Fnatic vs NA's Team SoloMid
(aka The battle of Koreans (and also some Europeans and North Americans)

Photo courtesy of Riot Esports

by Jodi "PunkLit" McClure

Opening the 2015 Mid-Season invitational with Fnatic vs TSM is an eSports promoter's wet dream, except instead of Kate Upton you've got Bjergsen and instead of Jennifer Lawrence you've got Huni. But the NA vs EU match up has always ignited viewer passions, and this one delivers in particularly grand fashion since both teams have enormous fan bases and some deep-rooted old school cred. 

Reddit's European fans tend to concede TSM is the stronger team this split, but they argue that in a Best of 1 round robin set up, it's entirely possible to beat a team who has a habit of dropping their first game in a series. And no one needs to be reminded of the last time TSM faced a European team (although if you squint your eyes, you can still see the bits of Unicorn sparkles sticking to their skin.) Hell, even if they lose, the EUs can still claim a win, since two of TSM's star players actually hail from a landmass vaguely attached to them. 

Bjergsen has been god-like in mid, but Febiven is mechanically sound and some would say he's not far from the Great Dane's skill-level. However, Bjergsen has a great deal of Santorin's support, whereas Reignover tends to hang with his top laner. Not that that's a bad thing, since a tilting Dyrus and snow-balling Huni could definitely be a key to a Fnatic win.  

Fnatic's carry, Steeelback, was the King of Fantasy League this season with most average points per game, but Turtle was only a single point behind him. Both also topped the charts in kills, although Turtle took nearly twice as many deaths, which is REALLY important when you consider how smart Yellowstar is at taking advantage of players out of position. It seems like this could be an epic match-up. One can't discount the Rekkles factor, though. Despite Steeelback's stellar performance this split, rumors are he's about to replaced, and that has to be an unpleasant weight on his shoulders. Whether or not this bitter pill will affect his work still remains to be seen.  

The new Fnatic has shown a lot of synergy though in their short time playing together, and I imagine they'll only get stronger with Yellowstar's outstanding guidance, but TSM are in their prime right now, performing as a single entity possessing of a hive mind. I'm sure that Locodoco has prepped his team thoroughly for this game, and he didn't win Coach of the Year for nothing! He's been a driving force in his team's success, whereas solid coaching is an area where Fnatic has been sorely lacking.

Not surprisingly, I believe, at least for this time around, NA will have the edge on bragging rights.  

(Shout out to Chase Wassenar for voicing all the intelligent sounding parts of this article.)

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

The Trouble with Hai

Is it Time for Cloud9's Mid to Move On?

Photo courtesy of Riot Esports

by Patrick Garren

Since the acquisition of Zachary “Sneaky” Scuderi from Quantic Gaming on May 23rd 2013, Cloud9 have had the exact same roster. They didn't actually "acquire" Sneaky from Quantic either - they WERE Quantic. Sponsorship issues led to their reformation as Cloud9. Founder and Team Captain, mid-lander Hai “Hai” Lam, chose the name Cloud9 because he believed that professional gaming should be about being happy. But Cloud 9 is the last place they were at the beginning of the 2015 Spring Split, when they saw themselves in a spot they hadn't seen since they made it into the LCS: last place. Read more...

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Dignitas Capitalizes on Liquid's Mistakes

Review : Dignitas vs Team Liquid W3D2

by Chris "Aaro" Mouton

     Team Liquid faced off against an almost entirely revamped Dignitas last Sunday in what was one of the most intense showdowns of the week. Liquid had started off the split with an incredibly strong 2-0 record despite having KEITHMCBRIEF filling in for former world champion, Piglet. Since Piglet’s return, however, Team Liquid has struggled, not showing much signs of synergy or high-level decision making. Dignitas started off this split with a disappointing 0-2 and they were 1-4 coming into this matchup. Longstanding jungler, Crumbz, had just stepped down and was being temporarily replaced by CloudNguyen.

     Before we jump into the actual gameplay, I’d like to take a moment to talk about these team comps because they played a large role in the outcome of this game. Team Liquid ran a double AD carry composition sporting Maokai in the top lane, Vi in the jungle, Ezreal in the midlane, Vayne in the traditional ADC role, and Annie for support. This composition had a massive mid-game power spike. Around the time that Vayne finished her Botrk and Ezreal finished his Manamune and Triforce, they were putting out an incredible amount of damage.

     Dignitas had one of the most mobile comps to play in the LCS this split. Rumble in the top lane, Jarvan in the jungle, Ahri in mid (this is 5.2, Ahri does have the movement speed bonus on her Q), Sivir ADC, and Morgana Support. The team comp was incredibly well made. They had excellent pick potential thanks to J4, Ahri, and Morgana, as well as Sivir’s ultimate which allowed them to chase down their enemies. They also had the ability to blow through the Maokai and Vi and focus the majority of their damage onto those squishy carries.

     The game started with Team Liquid searching for a lane swap because Sivir/Morgana is an annoying lane. Relentless harass eventually kept Piglet shoved under his tower, which resulted in quite the CS discrepancy. This was a tragedy for Piglet's Vayne, who really needed items to be a threat early on. In fact, Vayne fell so far behind that after the first recall, Team Liquid chose to send Piglet back into the top lane, essentially gifting a free dragon to Dignitas. Then, after seeing that Dignitas kept their duo botlane after dragon, Liquid decided to match it with their duo lane again, instead of just leaving Piglet top to take this free tower. It’s almost as though they didn't realize that Piglet and Xpecial were unable to trade and were, in fact, losing the lane.

     Liquid was able to secure the second dragon despite having blown the Tibbers ultimate moments before in a trade in the bottom lane. This second dragon was right in Team Liquid's power spike so they were looking for a fight, but the lack of Tibbers really prevented them from running away with the game. They were able to trade Quas for two kills and a dragon, but Dignitas was clumped perfectly for a 5-man Tibbers while they were trying to back away. That sort of lock down and ace would have allowed Liquid to secure some additional towers, really allowing them to snowball this game while their comp was hitting hard.

     The game remained relatively even until Liquid blew a teamfight in the enemy jungle allowing Dignitas to snowball the game. Team Liquid was aggressively invading the jungle, attempting to get vision control in what I assumed would be an early baron attempt with their double AD comp. However, they played out the teamfight horribly. Gamsu was completely split from the rest of Dignitas on his Rumble and Liquid committed so much time to him. They threw down Tibbers, which he flashed out of, and then they decided to continue chasing him through the jungle. This set up a beautiful equalizer for Gamsu and allowed the rest of Dignitas to strategically flank. They were able to quickly blow up Maokai and expose the squishy carries of Team Liquid. Dignitas chased down the rest of Team Liquid with only Piglet escaping, and was able to secure the baron buff.

     Consider for a moment just how truly terrifying that situation was for Team Liquid. They had absolutely no wave clear. They had Ezreal's ultimate for one wave and they had only auto attacks and Mystic Shot to try and clear the rest of those baroned up minions. Liquid decide not to even try and defend, instead sending four people to the top lane to pick off Gamsu, resulting in the loss of two of their towers and most of the health on their bottom inhib tower. Dignitas then made one of the best tactical moves I've seen from them. They recalled and gave Team Liquid a free dragon. Liquid spent the next thirty seconds at dragon while Dignitas was able to get complete vision control of baron. What really makes me question Team Liquid as a top team is what they did next. They already took the dragon, they knew baron was up, and they knew that Dig was missing from the map. Their decision was to steal Dig’s blue buff. They invest six green wards and a pink on the bottom side of Dignitas’ jungle. There’s no dragon for six minutes and a blue buff really isn't worth that much effort. Why they think that this is where they should be investing their vision, I just can’t comprehend.

     Meanwhile, Dignitas had multiple pinks circling the baron area and had swept every other bush, and so with this incredible pick composition, they waited. And they caught a Maokai, which you think would be the last person they'd want to catch, but Dignitas was able to blow up Quas in under two seconds. Then they ran back to set the same trap again in a different bush. And they waited. Team Liquid almost looked like they were going to just push down mid and trade towers instead of attempting to contest this baron 4v5, and with all my heart I was hoping that they would. But they don’t. They face check the river bush Dignitas has been waiting in, and Dig is able to pick up two more kills and a baron. Team Liquid decided to go and push while Dig took the baron, at least getting a bottom inner tower in return. In reality, that should have been the decision ever since Quas was picked off.

     So now we’re back in this terrifying situation for Team Liquid. Zero wave clear, baroned up Dignitas and minions, and a dangerously low-health inhibitor tower that they are forced to defend. Sounds like the start of a horror story. Luckily for Team Liquid, Dignitas makes the mistake of diving this tower. Why they would dive when they have no one who’s exceptionally tanky and Team Liquid has no way to stop them from sieging it other than engaging out of tower range and forcing a fight, I have no idea. They end up trading 1 for 1. Dig takes the tower but is forced to retreat, helping themselves to dragon on the way out.

     Dig continue their exceptional vision control on their way back to siege the inhibitor tower. It’s not even exaggerating to say that they pinked or swept every single bush that they walked through. And what they do next is also quite impressive. They continue sieging bottom until about 30 seconds - when baron is up. But they don’t even try to take the inhibitor. They don’t force the fight. All they’re doing is keeping Team Liquid bottled up in their base for the next two minutes until baron spawns so that there is absolutely no time for Team Liquid to get any vision on it. Have I mentioned how incredible Dignitas’ vision control has been this game yet? Because it really is beautiful.

     Team Liquid group up as five and attempt to get vision control of this baron before they give a third dragon over to Dignitas. Fenix spots Gamsu on Rumble, and because Liquid has no other vision, they think that Rumble is alone. Fenix makes the final mistake of the game and arcane shifts forward, attempting to burst down Rumble while the rest of Team Liquid follow up. Gamsu lays down the red carpet for a completely grouped up Team Liquid and Dignitas is able to immediately follow with their extremely mobile comp. Fenix flashes back into the team, but it doesn't even matter. Ezreal and Vi are both dead before Team Liquid even has a moment to react, essentially making this a 3v5. Dig is able to quickly clean up the rest of Team Liquid, excluding Piglet who escapes, and they close out the game.

     In my book, this was the best game of the split. Coming from a 1-4 team, this level of coordination, vision control, and even awareness to pick such a good team comp and then to play out their win conditions so perfectly is just inspiring. It also makes me worry for Team Liquid. They seemed to make a lot of very fundamental mistakes, such as using six green wards and a pink on the exact wrong side of the map while their team is setting up to make baron plays. If Team Liquid wants to be a contender this split, they’ll have to seriously step up in their shot calling.

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by Chris "Aaro" Mouton

Thursday, February 5, 2015

Welcome to the Jungle - An Interview with Santorin

Welcome to the Jungle
Getting to know Lucas “Santorin” Larsen


by Sandie "moondove" Gade

This season, TSM acquired another Danish guy to come and play for them. After Amazing left to go back to EU there was a lot of chatter about who the new jungler would be, and when the announcement came that it would be Santorin, a lot of people were saying “who is this guy anyway?” Well, we've gotten to see him play and heard from him on the analyst desk after a TSM win, but I thought it would be nice to dig a little deeper and get to know him better.

First, let me say that apart from being a damn good jungler, he is also a really nice guy and he was more than happy to share his thoughts with me no matter how trivial the questions. Stuff like his favorite color (black; he must be happy rocking that TSM jacket), his favorite dish (his parent’s homemade lasagna) and his favorite type of music (rock). He answered it all without hesitation and was very kind about it.

I also found out that while he doesn't have a whole lot of time for hobbies (no big surprise), one of his favorite shows at the moment is The Blacklist, and he is REALLY into fitness and has a special diet and work-out routine that he follows.

So what else is there to know about this young blond jungle god? Well, a lot really, and since we are all fans of this wonderful game we call League of Legends, I thought it might be nice to also ask him about that. If you want to get to know Lucas “Santorin” Larsen better and find out what goes on in that pretty little head of his, here is your chance.

Your full name is Lucas Tao Kilmer Larsen. That doesn’t sound fully Danish. Can you tell me about the background there?

My name is not 100% Danish, you are quite right! In Latin, Lucas means "The luminous one" and Tao means "the path," and put together it means “the luminous path,” and therefore my parents chose to give me the middle name Tao.

Tell me a little about your path to pro.

The road to where I am today started with me just playing League of Legends for fun, 3v3 normals mostly. When I hit level 30 I began playing the 5v5 map, because I had to play ranked now.

During the first two months I went from unranked to #1 on EUNE and that was when I slowly started to realize that I had a talent for this game. The season after, I moved to EUW seeing as this was where all the famous players and great talents played.

I
quickly found a fully Danish team to play with and played LAN tournaments like DreamHack and the 2013 IESF World Championships. From thereon, I got a lot of offers and when I turned 17, I decided to take the offer from Coast and move to America. I chose to move to America because I wanted to experience something new, and if I didn't manage to go pro in this game, then at least I would have had a good experience. I took a year's leave from my high school, that way I knew I could just go back to school if it all failed. It was hard to say goodbye to my family and friends, so it was probably the biggest decision I've made in my life.

What teams did you play for before TSM?

Before TSM, I played for Intellectual Playground (fully Danish team), The Fox Sound (European team who tried to get into Coke Zero, but failed), and a lot of other teams including full Russian and Polish teams where I was the only one from another country.

What was your initial reaction when TSM first contacted you about replacing Amazing?

I was incredibly surprised. I had obviously heard rumors that he was planning to return to Europe, but I had not thought of the possibility that they would ask me. Of course I was surprised but also very happy. It felt a little surreal, but after I talked with them, I slowly realized that this was in fact "real life."

Describe a typical day in the TSM house for you?

My day usually starts with me getting up at 8am, I take a shower and then I start playing soloQ. We scrim from noon until 3pm. Then we have a two-hour break where we can do what we want; usually we eat and play soloQ. Then we have scrims from 5-8 pm and after that it’s back to soloQ again. Sometimes we also have sponsor things to do and we do those at the times where we would have normally played soloQ.

Were you a natural at the game from the beginning or did it take a while before you starting thinking of yourself as good?

I felt, as I said before, that I had a "natural talent" for League of Legends. Like I mentioned earlier, I was #1 on EUNE within two months. But it’s not just League of Legends I was good at from the start, I've always felt like I was good at computer games in general, World Of Warcraft and Counter Strike to name a few.

Of course, even if you have "natural talent," you should still put a lot of hours into the game to get really good at it. So I played at least 2-4 hours a day when I started out.


What is your favorite role after jungle and what do you like about it?

When I'm not playing jungle I usually play support. I think it's fun to play support because in a lot of ways it’s like jungle. You ward, roam/gank, but the obvious difference is that you are in the botlane and play 2v2 at the start of the game. But I just really like to roam around the map and make "plays" here and there.

What is your least favorite role and why?

The role I probably like least is ADC. I like to start the fight and be frontline/tank, so when I play ADC I usually go to the frontline, die immediately and lose the game for my team. I’m not very good at playing the lanes, since I don’t normally "outplay" someone when I play jungle; I just kill monsters and gank here and there.

What is your favorite jungle champ?

My favorite champion is without a doubt Lee Sin. I've played him since he was released and he has always been a meta pick. If I have to choose a champion that I can carry best with, then it would be him. People say that a dog is man's best friend, but in my case it’s Lee Sin.

What is your favorite non-jungle champ and what do you like about it?

My favorite non-jungle champion is actually Annie Support. I love to roam around with her and gank the other lanes. She has incredible damage and a really nice stun. And the further into the game you get, the more damage she gets and eventually you reach the point where you can solo kill your opponent even though you’re a support, just because she deals so much damage.

W
hat do you think about the new jungle changes?

I think the jungle changes are a little annoying to be honest. I don’t like having to recall so early because I have no hp left. But I'm happy about the new patch where you get more gold from each camp, because previously you only had as much gold as a support. I think I adapted fairly quickly since the top jungle champions at the moment are Jarvan, Rek'sai and Lee Sin. Seeing as I already played a lot of Lee Sin and Jarvan since I started playing a couple of years ago, it was not hard to play these champions again. And while Rek'sai is wildly strong right now, her kit is not too difficult to learn, so I feel that it’s no problem to play in this jungle patch.

But I was a little disappointed by the new jungle because in the beginning I thought that I would be able to play all jungle champs and that my champion pool could be larger. I don’t like playing only a few champions, but unfortunately it did not last long. There were a few weeks where you could play anything from Jarvan, Warwick and Xin Zhao, but then they quickly nerfed some items and made some changes and now we are back to a few champions in the jungle again unfortunately.

What is your reaction when people on your stream chat say that you are hot or want you to stream shirtless or something like that?

When people write on my stream that I’m hot, or that they want me to do shirtless stream I am both flattered but I also think it's funny. Firstly, I think that it's funny, because we all know that it’s not allowed to do shirtless streams on Twitch, you get banned if you do. But I am also flattered because I obviously think it's nice that there are people who like me.

How does flaming affect you? Does it make it different or more personal when you are in the public eye?

Everyone gets flamed in League of Legends once in a while, but if you get flamed on twitter or stream it obviously becomes more personal because they know who you are and do it on purpose to get you to feel bad. But I don’t take hate seriously, so it just kind of bounces off me. With fans come haters and you just need to be sure that you can separate haters from the sweet fans. Haters just try to make your life worse, so just shut them out. Sometimes it seems impossible to shut them out and ignore them, as we have seen in cases where people start to believe the haters and therefore begin to feel insecure about themselves and think that they play bad. This kind of thing should never be allowed to happen, because in the worst case scenario they may stop playing because they simply can’t cope with being hated on anymore.

Let’s move on to the competitive scene. So far you’ve played IEM and you’ve started the LCS. How have these experiences been for you and are you satisfied with your own performance?

IEM was the first tournament I played in America and it was a great experience for me as it was also the first tournament with TSM. Unfortunately, we lost our first two matches and were out of the tournament very fast due to the fact that we hadn’t had enough time to practice together. But it was a great experience and I was surprised at how many fans cheered on TSM.

LCS is going very well for us, so far. I feel like I’ve performed very well, but at IEM we didn’t really have the synergy down yet, so I don’t feel like I contributed much there. However, I feel that we're going to be #1 in NA at the end of this split, since our performance is really good at the moment and we are doing well as a team, both in the game and outside of the game.

What team has surprised you the most in the LCS so far and who do you feel your biggest competitor will be?

At the moment I’m very surprised by Gravity. They were one of the last teams who entered the LCS through the challenger series, and they were labeled as big underdogs along with Coast and Team8, but after Week 2 they shared first place with us (TSM) and CLG, which is nicely done by them.

As things are now I feel that our main competitor is CLG. We scrimmed them and they played very well and they also have a good performance in the LCS, so I am looking forward to playing against them there.

What AD-carries do you see dominating the LCS in the spring split? Both EU and NA.

In the spring split, I feel that the most dominant adc's from NA will be Wildturtle, Sneaky and DoubleLift, and in EU, I think it will be Forg1ven and Rekkles.

What are your views on support staff? Do you feel coaches and analysts move the scene forward?


I feel that coaches/analysts are a BIG part of the pro-scene. They help us to be better; they help us find the strong picks and teach us how to play the different comps. Not only does our coach help us with the game, he also helps us with individual problems if we come to him. Coaches are also a much larger part of the pro-scene now due to the fact that they are allowed on the stage to help in the pick/ban phase, which means that it’s much easier for us players to get a good start to the game. 


Thank you so much for your time Lucas and good luck to you in the LCS. In closing, do you have something you want to say to all the fans out there supporting you and cheering you on? Both you personally and TSM as a team.

I would like to say thank you to all the fans out there that support me. It means a lot to me to know that there is always someone out there who expects something from me. It motivates me to train more and play better. TSM has one of the largest and best fan bases and I'm very happy to be a part of that!

For more updates and thoughts, follow Santorin on social media:

Friday, January 16, 2015

The Rebranding Festival



by Louis "Guichex" Lemeillet

Roster swaps are common in the off-season, but this was the year of identity changes. Alliance became Elements, Evil Genuises became Winterfox, Curse and Curse Academy respectively became Team Liquid and Gravity. Even LMQ became Team Impulse. New names have also made their way into the scene with the qualification of H2k, Team 8, Giants and Unicorns of Love, and some of the biggest EU talents regrouped into the challenger team, Origen. With all this, it appears quite normal that casual followers of the LCS might be a bit lost in the new season, but it might also hurt the brands and general viewership of the series.

How the heck did this happen?

Part of this major branding issue lies within the GoodGame story. To recap quickly, GoodGame owned both Alliance and EG brands, but the new Riot rules don't allow two teams with the same owner. Therefore, after GoodGame was bought by Twitch, Alliance went on to be Elements and EG reemerged as Winterfox. Did Alex Garfield, owner of GoodGame, decided to sell those two teams after selling his company to Twitch in order to spend the rest of his life watching eSports from a hammock on a beach with a mojito in his hand? Well, yes and no, since the new team owners (Maelk and Guitar) are both former employees of his. 


EG and Alliance have "given away" their LoL teams but kept their other professional teams under the same banner. Dota 2, Counter-strike, Smite, Starcraft, HotS, and other teams will be kept under one and one name only, while the over-mediated League of Legends teams will be under a different name. In the end, Alliance and EG will be hurt to some extent as their fans lose brand recognition and possibly some sponsorships. In some ways, it's a good thing, since Alex Garfield could have easily become one of the most powerful figures in the eSports landscape, owning dozens of teams. But it will reduce further infrastructural development in the Western Scene. Money comes from sponsor, and without them, you can't offer players the necessary environment to perform at their best level.

Multi-gaming structures, which have teams bringing in a lot of cash because of their mediatization and fame, allow some expenses to be redistributed to their minor gaming teams. Therefore, the latter have better infrastructures than others and theoretically win more titles on a minor league scale. Being number one in less popular games, and having a presence in LCS, even if you're not top two, still brings extreme fame among a very wide target audience and might bring more sponsors than just having a top two team in the LCS. The staff costs would also been reduced to some extent, as you don't have to multiply the number of executives, even if you're running teams in various eSports scenes.

Among all this, you're hurting to some extent the long-term possibilities of the brand. Evil Geniuses were already on their way to become the multi-gaming structure with the greatest “hall of fame” in western eSports history. Now they're shooting themselves in the foot by giving away their LCS spot. Even if Evil Geniuses have no problem attracting the best world players in the next years, it will probably hurt them in the long-term if Winterfox performs extremely well during those years. With LoL being the most popular eSport game at the moment, people will remember EG failing where Winterfox succeeded. It's quite an overly simple view, but I believe giving away both Alliance and Evil Geniuses might have been a mistake GoodGame didn't have to make. Even after being bought by Twitch, they could have kept the ownership of that one team among the two.


The same happened with Curse, who had to sell Curse Academy but voluntarily rebranded their main team and “shared it" with Team Liquid, another powerhouse in the eSports landscape, a move I felt was even worse than GoodGame's. Curse is an extremely popular brand along gamers, owning multiple websites which each of us has heard about at least once: the main Curse website with all the popular addons, MMO-Champion, Reign of Gaming, etc. And no, Liquid doesn't appear in the Curse sites. Why would you voluntarily relinquish a sports team which would bring further traffic and revenue to your websites? 

I understand Curse wants to partner Curse Voice with multiple players/teams, something they couldn't do while also sponsoring a team. I also understand Victor "Nazgul" Goossens and Steve “LiQuiD112” Archancet's idea of merging Team Liquid's fame to Curse's potential. Nevertheless, I believe Curse.Inc will suffer a great loss. Why do LG, SKT, Samsung and other huge international companies sponsor Korean teams? Because they know the success of the teams will bring additional revenue to the brand. Sponsoring a sports team for a company has always been some kind of wishing-well where you're throwing money in hoping for further success. Curse.Inc will be relinquished as mere sponsor like any others and will clearly suffer from this as Team Liquid will greatly benefit in terms of fame and mediatization. 

What year is it?!

Even if players didn't swap that much, the casual followers of the LCS might feel a bit lost during the first weeks of the series. Along with learning a crowd of new teams who entered through the expansion tournaments, they'll have to grasp even more with the Alliance, Curse, LMQ and EG rebranding. In fact, I'm a little lost between the swaps, the new teams and aberrant news like Alex Ich joining Team 8 as a sub. It feels like it's the end of an era and I don't know if I'll get as hooked during Season 5. Time will tell but I believe I'm not the only one in that situation and many people might go on and look for something new. Oh wait, what's that new game again? Heroes of the Storm?

The Challenger scene will be quite hurt too, as many of their big names made it into the LCS, leaving behind a few teams with an uncertain future and a bunch of newcomers who might have a lesser skill level. H2k, Coast, Unicorns of Love, etc. grew a fan base during their time in Challenger Series, and those fans follow them to the LCS now. The “lesser competition” will take some time to get back on their feet and to offer the same level of games we had last season. Of course, as all couldn't make it back into LCS, EU & NA will each have one “super-challenger” with Origen and Fusion, but it might not be enough to attract viewership if they just stomp everyone else.

In the end, it's not something major and the LCS format changes already foreshadowed that Challenger Series would be hurt to some extent. For Riot, the changes were necessary to stay on top and answer consumer's desires, and it'll not result in a loss for them. They might lose a bunch of people watching LCS but the additional viewership brought in by new teams, and the more cohesive 10-team format, will quickly make it look as a bad dream. Also, a great deal of eSports followers are more following players than teams, therefore the rebranding of teams and the new hole in the Challenger Scene will not impact them at any point. Only Alex Ich's fans might still have trouble bringing their jaw upwards, trying to believe what they just read.

So wait...who's this team again ?

The fact that all those rebranding happened at the same time as the LCS bringing in two additional teams also left us with another major issue, although it might be just disturbing me: the too-much diversity in team names.

Unicorns of Love, Elements, Copenhagen Wolves, Team 8, Fnatic, Counter Logic Gaming. Not one of those names has a similarity with the others. People, and I can understand that, are just coming up with what's in their mind and what they find “cool.” Or at least that's how I imagine it. And to some point, apart from following the basic branding rules such as: easily readable for anyone, not too long, in english; that's all you gotta do. Yes, I'm looking at you Origen. Do you seriously expect casters to pronounce it with the rolling “rrr” sound on stream?


I must say, even if SEA is not like this anymore (maybe apart from the animal emblems), at least I loved their names. Saigon Jokers, Taipei Assassins...that was some NBA/NFL cachet right here. Of course, I can't expect for all teams to rename themselves, it'd be utopic. But I believe that, as I already wrote for fashion, the lack of uniformity in names is something that will not help mainstream sponsors take your business seriously. It looks unorganized, like a brainstorming session where everyone is throwing their ideas in and no one ever agrees. And come on, it's not like the video gaming and fantasy universes were too small to find any good ideas. Direwolves, ogres, centaurs, ents, tressyms, griffins, manticores...it's full of great names! Why do that instead of naming it “8”? I know I'm seeing this with some bias as I have a marketing background, but still, Team 8 doesn't bring anything to my mind when I'm reading/speaking it. At least bend turn that number 90° to the side, and you'd have Team Infinity. There I can imagine things: infinite potential, to infinity and beyond, etc. There you call values in the minds of followers and companies alike, and you can develop great storytelling and communication around it.

As I said, it's more of a personal matter to me here but to some extent I tend to believe some companies might look at this with the same eye as mine, and between one team with a generic name and one with a great storytelling, well the choice is perfectly obvious. You take the one you can do the most with in terms of communication and marketing campaigns. Even Elements looks somewhat childish and silly, but they still bring something to the table like “Froggen is the air” and “The Elements coach will be named The Avatar!” or whatever. It brings something imaginary which can be promoted. But at least Team 8 is still better than the “Team eSports,” an atrocity I witnessed in some CS:GO tournament.

Branding and naming is a very wide topic and might appear as rather plain for a lot of people but, for that reason, it's one of  the most difficult exercises for marketing professionals, and it's a decision that shouldn't be taken lightly. I know it's difficult for Riot to have a real and legitimate impact on naming decisions, and it's also none of their business, but with the number of teams growing and the rebrandings, the start of Season 5 will result in some kind of immense jiggery-pokery for the viewers and might hurt brands and Riot alike in the long-term. 

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by Louis "Guichex" Lemeillet

Saturday, December 20, 2014

Breaking Down IEM IX Cologne and Looking at Semifinals.

By Anel “Musinlol” Musinovic

With Cloud9 winning IEM San Jose, it is soon time to start IEM Cologne. Here is a bit about the teams that have the potential to win, the casting crew, what is at stake and when it’s going to be played.

Gambit Gaming - The IEM Legends
Cacochard, Diamond, NiQ, P1noy & Edward


A new Gambit at IEM will be trying to replicate the previous success of the old five players from Gambit. The former five: Darien, Diamond, Alex Ich, Genja & Edward, were also under the name Moscow 5 and won IEM Season VI Global Challenge Kiev & World Championship. IEM Kiev was the first LAN event Diamond ever had attended. After coming under the Gambit Gaming organization, the team followed up by winning IEM Season VII Global Challenge and placing 3rd-4th in the World Championship. The next IEM would have the exact same outcome for Gambit, IEM Season VIII Cologne was won with a 2-0 over Fnatic & again they placed 3-4th in the World Championship. Therefore, there is a lot of pressure on the new guys to perform.

A quick mention that their previous organisation won’t be participating in the tournament, Moscow 5 again sadly has Visa problems for their new five players. So Diamond & Edward sadly won’t have the chance to face their old organization.

Toplane - Cabochard : Since the departure of Darien, Gambit has been trying to to fill the toplane role with Kubon but, after a relatively short stay, they switched him out with Cabochard who had previously subbed for them when Darien couldn't get a visa to play. He quickly got picked up by NiP after subbing, but after they failed to qualify for LCS, Cabochard got picked up by Gambit. Cabochard is known for his confidence through laning phase, which makes him vulnerable for ganks. If they can play well with his style of play, he should be one of the better toplaners going into the next season.

Jungle - Diamond : Diamond has been with Gambit for a long time and experienced their IEM success and he'll be trying to replicate it with new teammates. Diamond is known as the innovator and has been one of the players to look at when you define how to play jungle. He is still considered as a elite jungler of EU and will hopefully, for the spectators, come out with something new again. He joined the old Gambit boys by Edward knowing him, despite being 1800 elo which was low for professional players. He is known for exceptional Lee Sin play and for popularizing Evelyn jungle with various builds, most notably the old bluepot start which would allow him to have insane early pressure.

Mid - Niq : NiQ spent several years playing for multiple Polish teams, but after failing to qualify for LCS EU with Denial he himself approached Gambit after Alex Ich's announcement of leaving the team. He had big shoes to fill and has shown himself to be a solid player for Gambit despite having a bad split. He seemed to favour Nidalee in the midlane in the EU LCS. Also, expect to see his favorite champ, Fizz.

ADC - P1noy (Krislund) : He is mostly known under the name Krislund, but changed his name after being confirmed for Gambit because he wanted to have something that represented himself since he is half filipina. He ddidn'thave a good relationship with his father so he changed the name to p1noy because it meant that he was filipina which came from his mothers side.

He is an versatile adc who has played a ton in the Challenger Series, but he's also subbed for Gambit in the Relegation Tournament. He can play both play aggressive and passive well and will most likely be aggressive with his support, Edward. He also shown that he doesn't fall under pressure; he played his first match with Gambit in the Relegation Tournament and showed up big.

Support - Edward : Edward, the man who was previously known as Gosu Pepper, is a huge playmaking support. He is known as the “Thresh Prince” for good reason. He has always been the player to flash in for a kill or for trading the flash of the opposite adc. He would often do this on Sona as well. He has previously been praised as the best Sona and was picking her very often. He describes his playstyle as “see hero, kill hero” which we have seen in the EU LCS multiple times. He has also been trying to innovate the support champions, spamming Vel’koz in soloq and busting out Gragas in competitive play quite a few times.

Roccat - The 5 players with a storyline for IEM
Overpow, Jankos, Ryu, Woolite & VandeR


Roccat are here because Fnatic couldn’t participate without a full lineup. Despite that fact, Roccat are seen by many as the favorites of the tournament and with new strong additions, they are likely to win. They have been praised by many for being good in scrims which has lead to a lot of hype around them at the moment.

Toplane - Overpow : Overpow was for the early of the EU LCS split highly praised and hyped but did not perform exceptionally well in the midlane in the split. He was good at times but really passive in the midlane with many strange picks such as Mordekaiser. He has been praised for being aggressive & having instant tp’s since his role swap to toplane. Many didn’t feel like the removal of Xaxus was a good idea, but Roccat seems to feel happy about putting Overpow top. The question stands if he will be living up to the hype and showing dominance in his lane.

Jungle - Jankos : Jankos was praised as the best jungler in Europe after a good summer split. If you go back and look at his games when he was in the challenger series he wasn't a good jungler, but he's really developed a good understanding of the jungle and mechanical skill over time. He has immense early pressure every single game and has an incredibly high rate of first bloods. He also prefers champs such as Lee Sin & Elise who has great kits for early pressure.

Mid - Ryu: This IEM tournament is going to be an important one for Ryu, with LCS soon coming and teams locking in their rosters. This “tryout period” at IEM for Ryu will be the dealbreaker, with players like Nukeduck waiting in the wings if he doesn't perform. He is known for Ahri and Fizz but mostly for his Orianna which he has mastered completely. He is so good at holding his ultimate in fights so he can zone out the enemy. Despite Roccat consisting of four Polish players they talk in English so Ryu can have a chance of understanding them. It will be interesting to see how Roccat will cope with the language barrier.

ADC - Woolite : Replacing Celaver will be the former Copenhagen Wolves' adc, Woolite. He is one of the products of Copenhagens continuing adc production. He was the shining light for CW and, with a strong support, they could be contesting for the strongest botlane in EU. Woolite is an aggressive player and will suit VandeR well. He'll be a strong replacement for the underwhelming and defensive adc, Celaver.

Support - VandeR : Vander can also be called VandeRlife, because he was definitely a playmaking support who was top two in the LCS. His Thresh is his best champion and was often banned away from him. It will be interesting to see the pairing of Vander and Woolite vs Doublelift and Aphromoo in the semifinal. He has been on the show First Blood and seems to be a really smart player.

Dignitas - Addition of two Koreans 
Gamsu, Crumbzz, Shiphtur, CoreJJ, KiwiKid


Dignitas are going into this tournament despite being behind CLG, Curse and EG, but Curse and EG didn’t have the opportunity to show up so Dignitas, with the depature of Scarra, ZionSpartan and Imaqtpie, have the chance to show off their two new Korean players.

Top - Gamsu : Gamsu is a Korean who has played with Alienware Arena in OGN Winter and also been a sub for Samsung Blue. Without knowing much about Gamsu, I am looking forward to seeing what this new player can offer to the Dignitas lineup. He has also been playing under the name loopercorn in SoloQ in NA. 

Jungle - Crumbzz : Crumbzz, for me, is an very underrated jungler in NA. He is often solid and is extremely versatile since he has played top, jungle & mid competitively. He has also been great on the analyst desk the few times he has been there. He is trying to become the shotcaller for Dignitas which is a very underrated skill. Shotcalling is very important but many seems to forget it when they rate the player. He has previously shown good performances on Elise, Vi and Lee sin. Something I think he has under his sleeve is a Kayle and maybe a Nocturne jungle pick since he has played it once before.

Mid - Shiphtur : Shiphtur came to Dignitas as a “star signing.” People had enormous expectations and in his very first game he did get a pentakill on Leblanc. This was followed by many good performance and Dignitas climbed the ranks. Their performance dropped as the split went on and they didn't do too well in play-offs. He shines on assassin champs and Ziggs.


Adc - CoreJJ : CoreJJ has been streaming a lot on twitch while playing under the name DubuKiD. Many have said that he hasn't been doing too well in soloq but that obviously isn't a big deal when you look at competitive which is a different environment. If you haven’t seen his stream I would suggest it. He is, in my opinion, a very entertaining streamer.  He previously played on Bigfile Miracle with Fusions' new midlaner, Huhi. Other than that, I don’t know much about him but will be watching him closely at IEM.

Support - Kiwikid : With the news that Dignitas was not going to be fielding Imaqtpie, people speculated if Kiwikid was still going to be on the roster. With his roleswap from toplane, he has been kind of underwhelming so far. If he could show up at IEM with huge plays on champions like Thresh, he would minimize the backlash from the community next split.


Counter Logic Gaming - Mystery
ZionSpartan, Thinkcard, Link, Doublelift, Aphromoo


Counter Logic Gaming with the most votes are going to be looking to please their fans. Fan favorite Scarra will be leading the team as head coach. 

Toplane - ZionSpartan : ZionSpartan was also one of the new signings. He is this carry style toplaner who could even pull out a Nasus pick against a Maokai for instance. CLG has a history of turning toplaners into how they want them to play though, but let's hope we can see Zion in a sidelane doing what he does best. He has, in recent vlogs, seemed really happy and has had a great attitude so it seems like he is getting along with the other players.

Jungle - Thinkcard : He has previously subbed for CLG when CLG was bootcamping in Korea. This time he is subbing as well because Xmithie had visa problems. He tried to qualify for LCS with LoLPro but wasn’t showing up in the series at all himself. He isn’t really about fancy Lee Sin kicks or anything like that but is warding the map and being the second support in that sense.

Midlane - Link : Link has been under a lot of criticism and a great way to shut them up would be to come out strong at IEM. He has also been trying to roleswap to jungle but CLG felt like keeping him mid would be the best solution available for them. He will probably be playing farm/poke heavy champions despite of a lot of assassins being strong right now.

ADC - Doublelift : Doublelift is the front of CLG and the one CLG fans value most. He also has a unique story behind him. He was kicked out from home at age 16 because he wanted to be a pro gamer, and had to live with Travis Gafford. The glory days of Doublelift seem long gone and retirement has been an area which has been discussed. He often has Vayne bans against him but always plays the meta adc otherwise. Often he can get caught off guard and be in a bad position in teamfights. With that said, he does make a good botlane with Aphromoo. He has a reputation of trash talking opponents, but for himself, I hope he doesn't trash talk Woolite because I see Woolite getting the better of him.

Support - Aphromoo : Aphromoo is the star of the botlane but often doesn’t get enough credit because his duo partner has such a big name. He is one of the most lovable guys in the scene and has grown as a player since his role swap from ADC to Support. Rush hour as the botlane pairing is called, will have a hard time against the new botlane of Roccat I believe.


Semi-finals

Semi-finals are going to be hard to predict since we haven’t seen many of the teams in action and all of them have new players, but I believe that we might see an EU final here.

I don’t dare to predict the scores but I think that Roccat and Gambit are going to be in the final. Roccat has been sounding strong and will be trying their best to win IEM while on the other hand CLG weren’t sure if they were attending the event and have a sub as well. It wouldn’t be IEM Cologne without having Gambit in the final at least, and Dignitas took a while to get going against Aces High, which could be worrying sign.

IEM Casting line-up

Krepo, Deman, Deficio, stvicious, JoeMiller, Dexter & Sjokz

When to watch?

Saturday - December 20th

13:00 to 18:00 CET - LCS EU expansion winners match (BO5)

18:00 to 21:00 CET - Intel Extreme Masters Cologne Roccat vs CLG (BO3)

21:00 to 0:00 CET - Intel Extreme Masters Cologne Dignitas vs Gambit (BO3)

Sunday - December 21st

13:00 to 18:00 CET - LCS EU expansion decider match (BO5)

18:00 to 23:00 CET - Intel Extreme Masters Cologne final (BO5)

The IEM Cologne prize pool is 30.000$ and every team gets a bit of the cut obviously more for the higher placed teams. 

Teams that didn't make it: Also Dolphins of Wall Street & Aces High eSports Club participated in IEM but didn't make the semifinals.

Sunday, November 2, 2014

Social Media & eSports; for Better or Worse



by Louis "Guichex" Lemeillet

In the last few weeks, I've come across multiple articles talking about the influence of social media in eSports, each one adopting a different point of view. A great deal has been written about the departure of Amazing, Dexter and Thorin from their respective structures and, in the end, it all came down to the pressure caused by social media. With the explosive growth of eSports, social media is truly a third power, and it can influence the career of professionals in the field. But as eSports are a worldwide phenomenon and couldn't exist without the internet, social media is a part of this model and can't be rejected. I wanted to discuss the pros & cons of this model and how it could possibly evolve.
           
We've never been so close to our public figures.

Many share the opinion that eSports have created a new way to interact with public figures, professionals, players, game editors and even tournaments promoters; and that it allows everyone to have a role in this big adventure. It's the truth. We have never been so close together with the expansive use of Twitter, Facebook & Reddit. Our questions can be answered by other passionate fans, promoters and professional players themselves. We can ask questions, and expect quick answers. We can offer opinions and they'll be read almost every time if they present some kind of value. We, as social media users, have a “power” we don't have in other traditional sports where most famous public figures are relying on PR agencies to handle their communication and to tell them how to react to given situations. We have none of this in eSports. Each player or professional is handling his own social medias accounts and they give direct answers. Moreover, the streaming possibilities are endless and pro-players appear to us “au natural,” speaking without any control and even giving information on topics they maybe shouldn't talk about.
           
Is it a good model? I can't decide on my own. But it has its perks. I believe that because players are so thankful and approachable, fans give them respect in return. Almost every official match we're seeing crowds cheering for great plays and players, even if they have a favorite in their hearts. We cheer them all, and they thank us by being as close and friendly as possible. There are few lies. It's a short distance between them and us and it gives me a unshakable feel of joy and hope towards human kind. I've never experienced something like this before and I believe that traditional sports should seek inspiration in eSports, and learn that fans enjoy much more hearing honest opinions than premade or shady ones.

Great power means great responsibilities.

In the other hand, every system has its flaws and many great players or contributors of the field have been facing extreme amounts of social pressure, together with work pressure, which can deeply affect their personal lives. Because eSports are still very young, and because it gained an immense amount of popularity in just a few years, people are still figuring out the limits of a system almost entirely relying on social media. In traditional sports, newspapers were here before and they adapted their system to the internet because it became so huge it couldn't be ignored. But eSports were born because of social media. Of course, it is not the first business that emerged due to the internet, but it is the first sport to do so. And as we all know, sports unleash our passions more than other things. Therefore, social media become a double-edged sword: whenever players are performing well, we congratulate them; whenever they are underperforming, we are telling them to get back on tracks (often in a poor way). In the end, we are just expressing opinions as always, but we are not expected to be heard that much and some people don't realize how it impact the one who reads it. And viewers are not the only ones to blame.
           
I don't want to point fingers on people, but it is because of this use of social media that Thorin got fired from Ongamers. But he's not the only one to mix personal feelings and work. Is that something they should work on? Yes and no. Yes, because you have to consider that you're talking through social media to extremely young players. Most of them were shut-in guys with no idea of what fame or popularity could mean, and I believe it is extremely difficult for them to face crude remarks head-on and not feel a thing. In traditional sports, they have decades of experience facing paparazzi, hateful journalists, experts, etc. and they learned how to deal with it. I don't think that's the case for eSports players yet. But you can't shut down social media's hateful comments or journalists picking on you; and as a player you can't be kept in a cocoon where you hear nothing. You'll have to face this problem sometime. If Thorin was fired, it's not because a structure or a pro-player complained, it's because at some point CBS & Ongamers felt he would deteriorate the image of the company, period.
           
Yet, here we are in this Season 4 of League of Legends where two European players went back home because they didn't feel welcome in North America. They bowed to the media pressure, both social and journalistic, and went back to a more comfortable environment. Who can blame them? They are already facing extreme mental pressure on a daily basis because of their work, with few ways to escape even more pressure as Reddit was one Alt+Tab away. It'd be insane to deliberately add more mental pressure on oneself, when they can escape it quite easily as their gaming level will allow them to get back on their feet elsewhere. Nevertheless, it's still a loss for the team they left behind. On the human side, I think it can cause or compound several anxiety issues. It also means a third party destroyed the adventure of a young European player hoping to live big in North America. How would you feel if you went studying in a foreign country and a lot of people picked on you ? I'm not sure any of us would really enjoy that trip.

I still want to be a part of this adventure.

Despite having strong flaws, I believe the eSports model still has more benefits. Being able to feel close to public figures is something we should hold dearly as it reinforces honesty, generosity, solidarity and the warm camaraderie of a shared passion. That stomach churning feeling - when someone is criticizing eSports - is something I hadn't felt before, even as a lover of traditional sports. It's like, the people who come together through eSports are somehow closer and more protective of themselves as a group.

Nevertheless, having a professional flee their team because of social media pressure is quite problematic. What do you do as a team owner when you're seeing one of your biggest players go away just because fans and/or journalists were a bit hateful? Do you try to limit the use of social media so they can avoid the harsh reality? I don't believe it's a solution, as at some point they'll still read what is said and it will still hurt them. Do you try to control it? Then you'll lose all the popularity and monetary perks that come with an interactive sport.

For a team owner, the answer could be to allow PR firms to handle the work and make players focus only on the game. Let them tell you when to go see fans, when to sign stuff, when to wave, etc, but I find this truly horrible. In the other hand, you can't be that idealistic Gale-like friend, coming right out of Hunger Games and saying, “What if no one would bully them? If we stop bullying them, they will feel welcomed.” Yeah, great stuff, except it's impossible. For me, the solution would be to recruit both psychologists and communication professionals inside the gaming structures at the sole service of the pros. We are seeing the beginning of it with  SK recruiting a sports psychologist, but it's not enough yet.

What does a communications professional do better than a PR agency? First, he would be part of the team and would consider only his company's interests. He won't take care of the communication of other teams, or even other companies, and therefore feel better integration and stronger loyalty. Second, he would be almost all the time with teams, players and coaches, and can understand with the help of a psychologist what are their personality and how to take advantages out of it. They can help by highlighting some aspects of the players personalities, developing them into true individual beings and not the same as others; therefore making them realize their uniqueness to boost their confidence against mass hatred.

The players who understood this at some point are very few: Krepo, Tabzzz, Aphromoo, Kiwi, maybe Dyrus and some others. They all use their unique traits to communicate. Krepo is the analyst/adult guy, Tabzz is really down-to-earth and honest without being mean, Aphromoo is just plain honest and respectable, Kiwi is crazy, and Dyrus is often “salty.” But the best part of that combination of comm/psych would be just to be there and act as a constant support whenever players are feeling down or unsure due to social pressure. They could be the part of the staff which helps new players feel at home, and could act as a relay between the head executives and them.
           
Of course, it'd cost some money which structures might want to spend elsewhere, but I'd say those guys are one of the most important parts of the infrastructure a team could want. Moreover, even if communication and psychology are their primary mission, they could easily help on other fields like lifestyle coach, analyst, etc.

As eSports are a new model of sports, it brings its perks and disadvantages, mostly because of the use we are making of social media and because of the pressure it can create towards guys who were mostly shy shut-ins three years ago. But a new model brings also its new kind of solution. We must take the best out of traditional sports, and out of eSports, and always be reluctant to just copy a given model. We are already making something better, we don't want to blew it or stop along the road.

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by Louis "Guichex" Lemeillet