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The Problem With Forced LEC Narratives

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by
Petar Vukobrat
in League of Legends | Jul, 11th 2020

Narratives are the heart of competitive League, which holds true for the LEC as much as it does for any other region. They’re the reason we all tune in, the reason we care, and why we hold this scene so close to our hearts. The best ones spring out of nowhere when we least expect and end up defining not just a certain team or region but also the season. We race to our seats, hoping to see history get made. Some of these storylines are seemingly larger than life; others, while perhaps not as long-standing and awe-inspiring, are still there to fill in the gaps, and help create the much larger whole.

But not all narratives are created equal. The ones we all love the most are rooted in history and have grown into existence in a natural, organic way. These stories, however, are quite rare as they cannot spawn out of thin air. Many things need to happen before these narratives can materialize.

And yet as with any traditional sport, the need for hype and entertainment requires a larger output than players and teams can generate. In a way, competitive esports thrive because of their many exquisite stories and peculiar age-old rivalries. Whenever these elements are lacking, we have a problem. Some regions can persevere even in such a scenario with relative ease, but they’re in the minority. When you aren’t entertained by the stories these people tell, you tune in because of the top-tier play. If that’s not a possibility either — and, frankly speaking, it mostly isn’t — then we find ourselves in quite the pickle.

What can a region like the LCS provide its fans and spectators? Top-tier play? Only when Cloud9 is playing, it seems like. That’s where forced narratives and made-up storylines come into play. Is there a promising rookie who’s about to play his first game? Odds are, you’ll see his solo queue stats displayed in their full glory, you’ll see highlight reels plays and testimonies from his friends and foes, both complementing this young rookie’s inherent potential. The hype machine starts chugging along, and before you know it, you’re watching these up-and-coming adolescents and expecting them to perform — you want these individuals to deliver what you’ve been told by the broadcast team mere moments prior.

And yet, things rarely pan out as we were led to believe.

Now, this kind of marketing tactic is by no means unique to esports. It is, in fact, present in every traditional sport, and many other facets of life. Many esports out there aren’t fully developed as standalone products, and most of them lack a well-functioning Academy/Tier 2 system. There’s rarely a good way for young talent to blossom and reach the highest levels of play. Like the LEC, some regions stand better than others in this regard, but the point still stands. There’s no natural passing of the guard, so to speak, as most older veterans end up competing way past their prime.

On rare occasions, a young player of astonishing talent comes along and makes a big enough impact to immediately get noticed and, by proxy, picked up; but that’s quite rare for a wide variety of reasons. Teams are often unwilling to experiment and risk short-term failure, which is always possible when you slot in someone less experienced.

This means that these hyped-up rookies end up falling flat more often than not because they lack the talent, but because they were forced underneath the spotlight way before the time was right.

Some of these individuals manage to thrive in such unfavorable circumstances. Others, however, crumble under the immense pressure. The community is always prepared to rip them to shreds should these rookies miss a cannon creep, fail a Flash, or end up misplaying. There are many incredible fans out there, but they’re just not as vocal as those who are toxic beyond belief.

As far as regions go, one could argue that the LEC is the champion of forced narratives, but because it’s also a highly competitive region, no one seems to mind too much. Still, as the years go on, this tendency to overhype is becoming more and more irritating.

How many times have you heard of the “Year of the Duck?” Or Elias “Upset” Lipp being touted the second coming of Konstantinos-Napoleon “FORG1VEN” Tzortziou? Or Barney “Alphari” Morris being a top lane giant stuck in elo hell? When was the last time you heard the casters/analysts criticize a roster? Sometimes this happens, but only when the team is winless for many weeks. It’s becoming more and more evident that they’re pretty much a bottom-tier dweller. But until it’s clear to everyone, they’ll hype every individual like they’re going to etch their names in the LEC history.

And yet almost no one does, and the same goes for the LCS, although things are slightly less egregious in North America as they don’t even have much native talent to speak of (at least not in the LCS). Is it such a shame to admit that we’re watching two top-heavy regions? Is that such a travesty? If so, why? One could argue that creating such false narratives ends up dealing a lot more damage in the long run — to everyone involved.

Why beat around the bush? No, Team Vitality will not accomplish anything if they don’t go for a complete roster overhaul. No, SK Gaming is not suddenly a contender even though they’ve won a couple of games in a row. No, Excel Esports doesn’t have a “unique identity” but are rather underwhelming across the board, barring a couple of good plays scattered throughout the season. In the end, the throne is reserved for two teams and two teams only.

There’s no shame in admitting that we already know “the script” and how things will unfold. That’s okay. There’s no need for over-the-top narratives and drama when we all know that, for instance, G2 Esports will demolish everyone in seventy minutes once the playoffs come around. We need to accept things as they are: most of the challengers ranked below Top 3 are solid, well-rounded teams, but they’re also inherently flawed and stand absolutely no chance of leaving a mark in the grand scheme of things.

This might be a bit harsh, but it is by no means incorrect.

It’s not just that these attempts at creating stories out of thin air are redundant, but they’re also dangerous, especially for the players.

The Superstars That Never Were


Everyone’s always on the lookout for the next big thing, for the next breakout star that’s going to blow our minds. Sometimes it works, like in the case of Rasmus “Caps” Winther. Other times, these narratives fall flat in a multitude of ways.

There are many such “superstars” that never were. Upset is, in a way, a “victim” of the LEC hype machine. It’s not that anyone lied about his skill or inherent potential. Rather, he was pushed underneath the spotlight too soon and forced to carry the burden of many overwhelming narratives. Everyone was hyping him up to be equal in strength and potential to Martin “Rekkles” Larsson, but he never delivered, in no small part because he had worse teammates and still wasn’t peaking as a player. Then, after “failing” to reach such lofty expectations, his very next split was touted as the moment Upset gets “revenge” and yet that never materialized either.

By the same token, once Rogue went on a late surge last Summer and reached the playoffs, they were a dangerous contender, as a team many were afraid of because of their aggression and off-the-wall playstyle. Rogue failed to do much, and that holds true for their most recent Spring Split as well. If you compare their results to what the broadcast crew expected from them, you’d argue they underperformed. In actuality, however, they did as well as they could, given what they had to work with. A classic case of “expectations vs. reality.” The Rogue bunch never trash-talked much either — they knew they were an inherently flawed mid-tier team that could punch above its weight class at times.

More often than not, the LEC is forcing superficial, one-dimensional narratives, and they don’t last long for a reason. Will this be the year of the duck — the year Erlend Våtevik “Nukeduck” Holm pops off? No, it won’t. The contrast between these forced hype segments and Nukeduck is baffling. He’s just a regular guy, a seasoned veteran who goes on stage to compete (i.e. do his job); he puts on a poker face and tries his best to avoid unnecessary attention.

The best narratives out there are nuanced and complex, and they cannot be forced into existence. When they’re authentic and real, they tend to stick around for a long time. Not everything is a story, and not everyone needs to be propelled to stardom. Most players, if they’re good enough, will get there in due time. Alphari, for instance, finally reached that level after three long years. Upset will probably follow suit, given how well he’s performing so far in 2020.

Whenever a team spikes performance-wise (maybe they look good for a moment or go on a short win streak), you can be sure that you’ll hear about it most dramatically and theatrically possible, as if the history books are being written in front of your very eyes. And then it’s always the same conclusion to the story — G2 or Fnatic lifting the LEC trophy, with everyone else waiting on the sidelines, trying to decipher when and where things went awry.

No one’s doing this with bad intent. Competitive League — much like any other esport out there — needs to entertain in more ways than one. It’s all good fun, but when we see the same stories applied to virtually every team, this approach (which is incredibly potent when used correctly and sparingly) loses its edge.

No one’s saying that hype should be absent, but rather that it should be created and applied only when there’s a reason to do so — it needs to be justified. A few good games don’t mean a player is destined for great things, much like a five-game win streak doesn’t mean the G2 dynasty will fall soon.

These players know something that the community, in general, fails to understand. Developing synergy and team-wide cohesion is not something that happens in a week or two. When you assemble five players who have no experience in playing with each other, they’ll sometimes need many months before fully gelling — and that’s without factoring in the many impending meta shifts and game-related changes that are a consistent occurrence. These players know they’ll be judged for their performances. They’re okay with that (it comes with the job), but they want to have a bit of time before being pressured to perform up to anyone’s (often unrealistic) expectations. A good chunk of the community eats up these hyped-up narratives like it’s nothing, so it should come as no surprise when fans go on Reddit to flame these young rookies after they “fail to deliver.”

Furthermore, the community often has a skewed perception of what a professional esports player’s life looks like and their status in a team. Now sure, if they’re failing on the weekends (when it matters the most), then that’s a problem, but maybe they’re showing a lot of promise in scrims and are being given leeway by the coaching staff? Maybe the organization is building for the long-term and sees a ton of potential in this individual? It’s not all black and white, and we rarely have all the details. What happens on the Summoner’s Rift is hugely important, but it’s not the only factor, at least not in the beginning.

Experience is invaluable, but it’s only obtainable through trial and error. There’s no shortcut, unfortunately. Indirectly forcing up-and-coming rookies to awe us with their play immediately can all too often stunt their growth.

To make matters even more confusing, the LEC and its players are oozing with a unique style, accompanied by a bevy of entertaining idiosyncrasies. Forcing any narratives is entirely unnecessary, primarily because these individuals will grow and create their own stories with time. Europe is as top-heavy a region as they come, and that’s okay.

Forced LEC narratives won’t change the fact, despite what we are often led to believe.

Source: https://www.esportstalk.com/blog/problem-with-forced-lec-narratives/

Esports

NiP announce “Path of a Ninja” talent program

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NiP has unveiled its talent program which will work on scouting, recruiting, and supporting a new generation of players together with the Swedish CS:GO tournament series Elitserien. After each season of Elitserien, two to three players that stand out will be added to the “Path of a Ninja” program, which aims to lower the gap between grassroots and professional CS:GO.

The players will be selected by a jury featuring Potti, a member of the original Ninjas in Pyjamas team and co-founder of the organization, as well as the team’s current coach Björn “⁠THREAT⁠” Pers, their COO Jonas Gundersen, and Area Academy’s Frederik “⁠JAEGARN⁠” Andersson.

THREAT will help select the players for the talent program

Jonas Gundersen, NiP‘s Chief Operating Officer and a former CS 1.6 professional himself, sees the benefits of academy teams and six-player rosters, but points out there is a step before that which their project aims to help with: “We see the need to support the underlying ecosystem and provide ways into a potential academy team in the future”.

Potti, the CEO of the company behind the Elitserien, Area Academy, adds that this project feels like “a full circle” as “the reason we became so successful during my first session in NIP 20 years ago is because we picked up young talents who we saw huge potential in”.

The Svenska Elitserien Fall 2020 season will conclude the upcoming weekend, with four teams still in competition, including Max “⁠quix⁠” Lindkvist‘s Lilmix and DreamHack Open November attendees flowskola.

NiP‘s project makes them the latest Nordic organization to put emphasis on nurturing young talent. North have unveiled their long-term talent development strategy and partnership with Danish team AGF in September, while Astralis followed by launching their development program in November.

Source: https://www.hltv.org/news/30759/nip-announce-path-of-a-ninja-talent-program

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Valve releases Operation Broken Fang; adds premier matchmaking, ping system

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The tenth operation for CS:GO, titled Operation Broken Fang, brings gameplay updates for all players as well as special features for those that opt to purchase the operation pass.

The dynamic ping system added to the game is the biggest gameplay update, as the new feature will allow players to mark where they spotted an enemy or where they want to move through a quick chat wheel.

Ancient is one of the newly added maps

The update that came as a part of the operation also brought seven new maps, including Ancient, Engage, and Apollo, that were added to the Scrimmage mode. From the existing maps, Cache has been updated, with excessive details removed, according to the patch notes.

For operation pass holders, the Broken Fang Premier matchmaking feature will be available, where a map veto phase will lead up to the match. Operation Broken Fang also brings a new set of weekly missions, a stats page, as well as agents, weapon collections, stickers, and patches.

Release notes for 12/3/2020:

[OPERATION BROKEN FANG]
— Introducing Operation Broken Fang, featuring new game modes like Broken Fang Premier and Retakes, stats page, agents, weapon collections, missions, maps, and more!
— For more details visit www.counter-strike.net/brokenfang

[ GAMEPLAY ]
— Added Broken Fang Premier Mode.
— Added Retakes game mode.
— Added dynamic ping system to more game modes.
— Added new customizable chat wheel feature.
— Chat wheel can be customized under Keyboard/Mouse > Chat Wheel Keys options.

[ MAPS ]
— Added Ancient, Engage, and Apollo to Scrimmage, Casual and Deathmatch game modes.
— Added Frostbite to Danger Zone game mode.
— Added Guard and Elysion to Wingman game mode.
— Removed Mutiny and Swamp.

Cache:
— Removed excessive details.
— Generally smoothed visual experience.
— Visual clarity improvements for very low resolution users.
— Minor tweaks. (Thanks hzx_fps!)
— Mild optimizations at the A Bombsite and Mid.
— Finishing visual touches.

Source: https://www.hltv.org/news/30758/valve-releases-operation-broken-fang-adds-premier-matchmaking-ping-system

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European Development Championship 1 Fantasy game live

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The first season of the European Development Championship will take place from December 7-20, with 16 teams kicking the tournament off in four GSL groups to determine the eight sides that will progress to the single-elimination playoffs.

Three top 30 teams in forZe, Espada and Endpoint will be competing at the $30,000 event, with the likes of sAw, Movistar Riders and Copenhagen Flames also in attendance.

Movistar Riders’ players all come in at affordable prices

Users will have the option to choose from an array of players to fill their five slots. Abdul “⁠degster⁠” Gasanov ($247,000), Bogdan “⁠xsepower⁠” Chernikov ($227,000) and Ilya “⁠m0NESY⁠” Osipov ($225,000) come in as some of the most expensive assets, while HereticsTimothée “⁠DEVIL⁠” Démolon can be picked up for $150,000 for those strapped for cash.

The Fantasy users playing in the HLTV x Parimatch league will have a chance to win the following prizes:

1. Shadow Daggers | Crimson Web (Field-Tested)
2. AWP | Asiimov (Field-Tested)
3. AK-47 | Redline (Field-Tested)

The winners of the official Fantasy leagues will be contacted via the email provided in their HLTV profile, and are required to respond to the email within a month to be eligible to receive their prizes.

Source: https://www.hltv.org/news/30757/european-development-championship-1-fantasy-game-live

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fnatic take down MIBR; to face Virtus.pro in Flashpoint 2 upper bracket final

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A series with two quite different maps took place in the Flashpoint 2 upper bracket semi-final match between fnatic and MIBR, with the Swedes fighting back time after time to secure their map pick, 25-21, and then trouncing the Brazilians 16-4 on their own map pick, Vertigo.

The result sees fnatic reach the upper bracket final where they will face Dzhami “⁠Jame⁠” Ali‘s Virtus.pro, who took down BIG in their semi-final match. MIBR, who were fined by Flashpoint for a “breach of competitive integrity” shortly before the match, have dropped to the lower bracket where they will take on MAD Lions in an elimination game.

JW and KRIMZ caused issues for MIBR on both maps

Overpass was a highly contested map from the start, albeit fnatic‘s run to take the 5-4 lead on the Terrorist side did show some promise. However, MIBR pulled it back to keep the score close, 8-7 for the half, before Leonardo “⁠leo_drk⁠” Oliveira stepped up to the plate to push his team into the lead at 12-11.

The Brazilians looked to have the upper hand as the end of regulation neared, but Jesper “⁠JW⁠” Wecksell and Freddy “⁠KRIMZ⁠” Johansson pulled off heroics as the last seven rounds were traded back and forth. Going into overtime, MIBR were again on the edge of victory, but failed to close on a number of map points which fnatic capitalized on to steal away Overpass, 25-21.

Vertigo, a go-to map for MIBR since the new lineup came together, looked anything but comfortable for Vito “⁠kNgV-⁠” Giuseppe and co. in this match. The Brazilians started on the back foot after the disappointing Overpass loss and struggled to shut down JW, who pushed his team to an 8-1 lead swiftly. Not much changed after MIBR got their second round on the T side, as Lucas “⁠LUCAS1⁠” Teles‘s clutch attempt in the followup was denied by Robin “⁠flusha⁠” Rönnquist. fnatic continued their reign on Vertigo for a convincing victory, 16-4.

Sweden
Brazil

Source: https://www.hltv.org/news/30755/fnatic-take-down-mibr-to-face-virtuspro-in-flashpoint-2-upper-bracket-final

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