E-sports, League of Legends; support the team or the player?
In League of Legends, we’re currently in the middle of the pre-season, after one competitive Season finishes and before the next one starts sometime in January.
This is the time that, theoretically, players can rest and take time off. However, it’s also the time that teams change up their rosters for the forthcoming Season. Since I’ve only been following competitive League since the summer, this was something I hadn’t experienced before. Players I’d grown to like were dropped and teams changed beyond recognition. It was all rather unexpected.
Some of the biggest changes occurred within the team I’d grown to like the most; Fnatic. First, amidst countless rumours and gossip, they lost their prize ADC, Rekkles to their main rival Alliance. Then, following further rumours, they lost their jewel-in-the crown mid-laner xPeke to form his own team Origen, along with their longstanding jungler Cyanide who decided to retire. This left Fnatic with their toplaner, Soaz and support, Yellowstar.
This led to the following question; did I still want to support Fnatic? In mainstream sports, people support the teams without much question; Manchester United, London Irish or the Washington Redskins. They don’t stop because they change a player. But in e-sports, support seems to be very player led. There is an argument that this demonstrates the immaturity of the e-sports scene but I don’t agree. In mainstream sport, supporters will often support a team because of a link, perhaps geographical, or a family connection. In League some teams have tried to build a national identity, C9 is seen as being 100% NA, up to now Roccat players have all been Polish. However, Roccat demonstrates the problem with this; they’ve now run out of Polish players at the standard they want, and are currently looking at fielding a Korean player. Establishing a national identity in this way is not possible for most teams. There is also another issue with e-sports teams; they’re small. Change three players in a football team, not so noticeable, change three in a League team, that’s over half the squad gone and the team is suddenly very different.
So what should an Organisation with a team do? Returning to Fnatic, I’d adopted the team because of the players, the front men. Apart from them, Fnatic as an organisation was just a brand. I’d never seen any management to get interested in, they’d had a coach but he left after Worlds. Fnatic as an organisation meant little. So, I’m following the players, my only remaining interest in Fnatic is supporting those who stayed. From this aspect, it’s interesting to look at xPeke’s new team/organisation that he’s forming. Origen is very much branded with his own identity and that’ll continue above and beyond individual players. It’s what I’m supporting. This has happened elsewhere. The creator/owner of NA team CLG is Hotshot, an ex-player who streams and has a very high profile and so, whatever happens, can provide continuity for supporters. TSM, also NA, was formed by Regi who played for them before moving into coaching for the team and similarly has a very strong though somewhat controversial profile. Returning to Roccat, their Manager, Flyy, is appearing on various League talkshows and is becoming known, maybe with a similar outcome.
I think it will happen more, now Riot is encouraging teams to have Coaches and allowing them on-stage. Teams will start to be increasingly identifiable beyond just the players. Teams and organisations are starting to realise that having constantly changing rosters and players that rapidly come and go, particularly as the competitive lifetime of a player is generally 2 to 3 years tops, does not lend itself to a stable scene from the perspective of retaining supporters. Raising the profiles of more permanent staff can only help with this as can giving positions e.g. as streamers to ex-players.
Full and updated article appears here: http://www.goldper10.com/article/714.html