League of Legends is a game built on the youth demographic. It rewards high mechanical skill which deteriorates as you get older. Most of the Esports professionals are teenagers who’s first real job was to play video games. The pros we see may often perform immature or absurd acts as a teenager might at any first job.
We had the Reginald/ Montecristo twitter feud, the XiaoWeiXiao elo boosting scandal, and so many others that are impossible to count. Riot does a good job trying to limit these mishaps, but they aren’t getting to the root of the problem. If eSports wants to be taken legitimately, the players have to continue to develop professionally. A good way to look at the problem is through the story of Xpecial.
The scene is one you’ve seen before: Xpecial is sitting in a chair, Gunnars on, hair spiked, staring directly into the webcam. He talks about his life, and what’s been happening in the League scene. Sometimes, he would come with news. Like how he will no longer be playing for TSM, or that he will no longer be playing for Team Liquid.
Xpecial will not be in the LCS this split, the first since he started playing professionally. Xpecial played on TSM in seasons one through four, turning them into NA LCS winners and one of the best teams in the West. According to player like Doubleift, Xpecial is one of the best support players in NA. His contributions can’t be overlooked, even though his career has had some missteps.
Team Solo Mid in the early years was a cesspool of drama and unprofessionalism. This is in no fault to the players or even Reginald, eSports was still evolving and the players were still learning how to adjust. In 2011 and 2012, there were no coaches in Western eSports, and very little supporting staff. The players had to handle everything internally, which led to some disagreements. Little things came out, like Reginald and Xpecial’s heated argument, or cases of internal team conflict. Now these may be isolated incidents, but they show how on edge the team dynamic was. Everyone had to follow under Reginald’s orders, whether or not they thought it was the best choice.
Xpecial played on TSM, up until he was benched in mid-2014. Nobody has given an exact reason as to why, though Reginald in a facebook post said it had to do with a “bad attitude.” In a vlog Xpecial put out to explain the situation, he says: “I am a very competitive person… When we lose, my emotions might get out of hand. I don’t have screaming battles with my team, but I’m not the most cheerful person after we lose and I do make passive aggressive comments.” There is no actual evidence as to what occurred, whether it was one polarizing incident, or years of tension building up. What we do know is Reginald helped him find his next team, showing no bad blood between the two.
For the 2015 Spring and Summer splits, Xpecial played with Team Curse, renamed to team Liquid. These splits were a mess to begin with. Without getting into all the details here, Team Liquid picked up former World Champion ADC Piglet from Korea. They believed he would carry them straight to the first place in NA. At the beginning Piglet was under performing and was benched for a few weeks. If you watch the docu-series “Team Liquid: Rebirth” you can see the rift created by not only a language barrier, but his lack of acceptance for his new teammates. Eventually things sorted themselves, and they got themselves third in both splits.
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Acquiring imports has become competitive League’s biggest fad. Creating talent where you are is hard, but getting pros who are already seasoned, costs nothing more than a pay check. Piglet was one of the earlier imports, alongside all of Team Impulse (formerly LMQ). He was described as more of a loner, who didn’t participate in team activities. This created an unprofessional work environment that leaked onto the stage.
What does Piglet have to do with Xpecial? Well, both players had to work very closely together and Xpecial’s passive aggressive behavior may have reared its ugly head. Take for instance, when Xpecial left Team Liquid, the vlog he made said: “Piglet just doesn’t like me. He doesn’t think I’m that good anymore and he wants a new support.” Piglet then went on to do an interview for Team Liquid, where he says his feelings were hurt and he felt betrayed by what Xpecial said. In another interview with Travis, Xpecial apologizes for saying that. This whole situation could have been avoided just by those two talking, which was most likely the problem in the first place. Lack of communication plus a negative attitude can create a toxic work environment.
In Xpecial’s most recent vlog, he goes to say, that he was not kicked from Team Liquid for his bad attitude. He feels he has matured and communicates more positively with his team. But that ghost of immaturity still haunts him, LCS owners don’t want a player who “didn’t work hard.” Xpecial says: “You don’t leave or get kicked off two teams for no reason at all.” He isn’t retired, playing for another team is still an option. I wish nothing but the best for Xpecial and his future.
But there is something you can learn from his story. eSports is like a balloon, if you just keep pumping hot air into it with no regard for its stability, it will burst. These players need to be taught how to handle their emotions better and understand how to work in a cooperative environment. If that never happens, professional video gaming will never be taken seriously as a medium.