eSports Reporting, Or the Reason Why We Should Always Ask Questions

eSports is a new and exciting field. I imagine it must be somewhat like Alaska during the gold rush. Sure you had miners coming to try and get gold, but you also had anyone and everyone who even thought they could make a quick buck tagging along. The problem with this was that the gentleman who might have been serving as your doctor in a small town near the minefields might not have been the most qualified doctor in the field. I mean why would you give up a well established practice somewhere warm to venture out to a new frontier? Exactly, an established practitioner wouldn’t risk it. That is why you often would see “professionals” who were far from it.

The same phenomena can be seen in eSports journalism. Let me first say that there are some fantastic, first rate reporters and eSports news organizations out there. These folks may not be classically trained journalists but they came in with a passion and they have worked at their trade diligently – making a name for themselves in the process. On the other hand, you have many “journalists” who are anything but. Sure they like to write, and yes they occasionally stumble on to a story, but the quality of their pieces can leave a lot to be desired.

I guess what really astounds me isn’t so much that these articles struggle when held against a real journalistic standard. What really astounds me is how many people mindlessly believe what these articles are saying. Today I was on reddit, not exactly a hotspot for intellectual debate I will admit but still, and came across this article. It’s a bit of a long one, I’m sorry. If you’re a fan of pro League I promise it will at least entertain you. If you’re not a fan of pro league, but consider yourself any kind of writer or journalist, I challenge you to read through it and see if the way it is written doesn’t bother you. On top of the basic spelling and grammatical errors, which I won’t dwell on because I make them too, here are a few other things I noticed that set off my bullshit alert.

http://www.esportsheaven.com/articles/view/id/5150#.Uwfkw4VyFwn

Firstly, and this one is only valid for eSports followers, Richard Lewis isn’t exactly one of the most well established eSports writers out there. His name is not one we normally associate with inside stories on the League, or to my knowledge any, pro scene. I think this should give us reason to pause especially when combined with…

Second, the author never once even hints to us who his sources might be. It certainly sounds like he is talking to someone inside the organization, as he claims, but how inside are they? There are certainly hints that it might be someone who is currently feeling alienated from the organization, but there is no guarantee they are still with Vulcan or are privy to all of its inner workings.  An interview with an angry or upset employee on the outs makes for a great story but not necessarily something that is super accurate.

Finally, I can’t help but feel that the author is quite biased against Kenma and perhaps Vulcan as a whole. He uses words like “fiasco” to describe what the coach is creating and talks of Kenma’s “Gibberish.” This doesn’t sound like objective reporting. This sounds like a friend of Bloodwater’s who is trying to defend or avenge him. Or perhaps it sounds like someone who, as the author willingly admits, has already had a run in with the XDG owner, Alexander.

I’m not trying to be rude or disrespectful to Mr. Lewis. My problem is with all the people immediately taking this story to be gospel when there are clearly elements of it that should be cause for concern. Similiarly, I don’t think the story should be dismissed or the author boycotted or anything extreme like that. He is telling the story in a way that he views is appropriate and fits with his style of reporting. I am just pointing out that some of the things he does, like the way he labels and describes certain parties, can lead us to call into question his objectivity – something that many of us consider to be very important to being a journalist.

It’s kind of funny that the author appears to have released this next piece http://www.esportsheaven.com/articles/view/id/5148#.UwfssYVyFwm basically minutes after his XDG story was put out. I actually liked this “explanation” piece a lot better. He does a good job of explaining where himself and his organization are coming from and also discusses some of the pitfalls and troubles that you will face in the kind of reporting he is doing. He is never apologetic or dismissive of his own work. He just explains some of the troubles with writing on this subject. Does this change the fact that he writes like he is biased? Nope. Should it encourage you to stop questioning what he or any other scene reporter is writing? Nope.

Actually, does anyone else find it kind of strange that they released these two pieces, according to their timestamps, within minutes of each other? At the risk of sounding really paranoid, I would even almost contend that the pieces read like they were written by different people…but that’s just me stirring the pot a bit too much. 😉

Lewis ends his second piece by saying “So, as you can see, it’s a lot of effort and stress for not a lot of reward, far easier to “play ball” and put out the pre-approved pieces…But when you lash out at the reporters who are writing as much for you as they are for their own pay-cheque you only encourage a culture of silence occasionally punctured by slick PR.”

Fair enough, Mr. Lewis. It is good that you are telling the story, and until they outlaw freedom of speech and the press, I don’t think anyone should ever be unhappy with you for doing the writing you do. At the same time, until the day comes when eSports journalism is as syndicated as all other forms of journalism and even beyond that day, I don’t think people should ever let you have a free ride just because you are willing to write the “tough” stories. Even the most well established journalists in the world still have their personal integrity and the integrity of their pieces questioned on a regular basis. That is, as you say, “part of the rich tapestry of journalism as a whole.”

To my fellow eSports lovers, don’t be afraid to question what you read and hold writers like Mr. Lewis to the same standards you would hold any other reporter to. I don’t care how new the field is and how tough the stories are. If we want eSports reporting to continue to evolve and improve we need to continue to push the writers towards better standards of integrity and objectivity. That, my friends, is exactly how we continue to push the eSports that we love towards the mainstream and why we should always ask questions!

PS: As a PR practitioner myself I resent Mr. Lewis’ “slick PR” remark, but I understand why he made it. What is he is saying is that without journalists there would be no one to hold us PR folks accountable, regardless of the fact that most of what we say is even more thoroughly scrutinized by the public than what many journalists say. I would just like to remind Mr. Lewis that reporters can do the same crummy things that some crummy PR people do – especially in today’s media market with shrinking newsrooms and tight bottom lines threatening reporters. Both the media and PR practitioners should always be striving to reach a high level of public accountability. Neither side should ever get a free pass from that, or be viewed as any more “slick” than the other side.

 

Advertisements

Honor, Where Have You Gone?

I don’t usually care when I spend an evening losing at League of Legends. I’ve always accepted that losing is part of the game, and sometimes, you just have off nights. What actually got to me a little bit was something else I lost tonight – my Honorable Opponent Badge.

For those of you who aren’t familiar with this system, and you might not be because it really isn’t something you hear about any more, the Honor initiative was designed to allow summoners to reward each other for positive behavior. You could even reward opponents who you felt were particularly nice. This was the badge I was proudly wearing. To keep your badge you needed to consistently be awarded the Honor related to that badge. I found that if I was given Honor by an opponent once a week this was usually enough to keep my badge active.

Today, without warning, my badge was gone. I am actually a little surprised that this upset my as much as it has. Since they made some minor changes to the system last February, Riot has seemingly been content to let Honor fall by the wayside. There really is no incentive for players to maintain their Honor, other than out of a sense of pride or accomplishment. I was quite proud of my Honorable Opponent, but the more I think about it, the more I realize that maintaining it was more or less a game I played with myself, not a code that I lived by.

I always try and stay on my best behavior in League of Legends. I don’t appreciate people being mean or rude to me, and I try and treat others the same way. This is something I did long before the Honor initiative was ever considered. When Honor was first introduced, my normal behavior was often enough to win me Honor from opponents and teammates alike. Lately, when I have wanted to obtain Honor to keep my badge active, I have found that I have to resort to fishing for Honor.

To elaborate on this a bit more, my fishing process  generally involves me throwing a bunch of empty niceties at members of the other team. Often this is done while my friends accuse me of brown nosing or being a suck up. Usually I identify these “likely to give Honor” players in the post game chat by what they are saying. Then I would hit them with some compliments, agree with their gripes and bam, Honor would be mine. I worried that I was the only one who was doing something like this, but I went to the forums (always a scary experience) and was actually able to find a guide someone had written up to help people obtain the Honor badge of their choice. Check it out here. It comes complete with talking points and everything.

On the one hand you have to admire people for trying to do anything possible to keep their Honor intact, but is that really how we want it to be? Do we want a system that has grown so stagnant that the only way to get Honor is to develop a system, totally separate from your normal behavior, that allows you to chase Honor just for the sake of chasing Honor, without even caring about what that Honor represents?

Heading in to season’s end Riot had a golden opportunity to do something with the Honor system. Even as they were coming up with unique ways to reward us for our ranked exploits they could have been offering us skins, ward skins, summoner icons, anything that would have kept the Honor system in the spotlight. I know offering rewards to keep people “honorable” isn’t really a solution. There is a risk that the Honor being given is just as hollow as it is now. But if it keeps the system relevant and encourages even a couple thousand players to act a little bit nicer towards each other I would consider that a successful restarting of the system.

Even though much of what I say when fishing for Honor is meaningless, I still believe that hearing nice words is always better than hearing mean ones. There are also times when I genuinely do like to give Honor to my opponents or team mates who I feel have done a really good job, been very nice, or have put up with some really nasty teammates. In these instances, I really wish that they would get something for that Honor even if it is only a cool icon or a cheap ward skin.

Maybe Riot does have some great plan for the Honor system in Season 4. Sadly, my guess is that a lot of their effort has been put into the new Team Builder feature that they will be implementing soon. Don’t get me wrong, I think this new feature has a lot of potential. I just wish that Riot would show a little more willingness to continue to work with a system that had once shown so much promise.

For a while, Honor made all of us behave a little better, Riot had the stats to prove it, and I will always support and cherish anything that encourages this community to treat each other in a positive manner. I just worry that no end of season news is bad news for this system. What would have been a great time to make a change has simply become another opportunity to strengthen the system lost.

Without any major changes or new initiatives I can’t help but feel that the Honor system will slowly fade away, much like my own badge did.

Enough is Enough: Defending the League of Legends Community

You know what, I never thought I would be the guy writing this post. I don’t know if I was too embarrassed, too proud, or I agreed too much with the stuff that people were saying, but I never thought it would be me. Since then I’ve read a lot of negative stuff, seen people bash my game one too many times, and I have had enough. It’s time to stand up and say a little something different about the League of Legends community.

So why have I chosen now to take my stand? Well I guess the story the I am linking to you here was what kind of set things in motion. A dumb kid, who just happens to play League of Legends, is going through a nasty breakup and LoL is being highlighted because it is related to some of the stupid stuff he is doing. This set in motion a rather incredible movement by some gamers I follow on Twitter, who became determined to join LoL and essentially hunt this guy down. In the process, they decided to point out how nasty the community is, how crazy the community is etc. I think the following Tweet was the one that pushed me over the edge:

“BTW: Holy Batshit-cray-cray Batman…League of Legends community #SMH. Need I say more…they need to stop playing LOL and seek help. Srsly”

Those of you who follow this blog know exactly how I feel about my fellow LoLers, and I’m pretty sure many of you have similar feelings, that’s fine. A good hunk of what goes down in this community makes me mad and I would love to see players like the aforementioned XJ9 never play this game again.

It makes me sick to my stomach to see IWillDominate returning to the pro scene after his “year off” for being universally regarded as one of the nastiest players to ever play on the North American server. Too much crap goes on in game that is excused by the idea that the player is “having a bad day” or simply doesn’t know better. I know all of this, and I will be the first person to point that out.

I guess what bugs me is when people who have never really bothered to play the game decide to pick it up or try it out for a few days, pronounce it to be as horrible as everyone says and leave it at that. Then there are the people who are simply content to believe and spread the negative stereotypes they have heard about this game without ever trying it. When one of my fellow bloggers decided to give LoL a try I saw her Twitter post get quite a few messages telling her to run or avoid that garbage community – posts that were made by people who have probably never played the game.

For too long I was ok with this happening without challenging it, probably because I jokingly said a lot of the same stuff about this community to my friends who play or who were looking to start playing. Now I realize that when we let people freely say negative things about this community we are letting them lump all of us LoL players in with the likes of IWillDominate and XJ9. Or better yet, we are letting them call us stupid for continuing to put up with the darker elements of the community.

What they fail to understand, because many of them have never really spent any time in this community, is that everything that is rotten in LoL gets balanced out by the good things that happen. For every rage filled idiot you meet you also run into a nice kid from the other side of your country who likes to top lane. For every time you get called a noob you also get called a genius by a delightful blogger whose love of LoL brought you together. And for every bad game you have with random folks in solo que there’s an equal number of great games played with friends and randoms alike. Those of us who stick with LoL don’t do it because we are stupid or incapable of finding other games. We do it because we have found something here that we like, something that keeps us going.

It is also not as though many of us haven’t pushed Riot to try and make the game better. Popular support got the Tribunal system off and running and made people take the Honor system seriously (if only for a week). Riot clearly has some kind of interest in removing the darker elements of the community, and even when some of their initiatives stall, I have no doubt that many people in this community will keep pushing them to make things better. That proves to me that, beneath what is often a rotten exterior, this game has the same solid core of committed and positive gamers that every other gaming community has.

I could keep going on and on about things I like in LoL, but most of what you hear about the game in the general gaming community isn’t the positive stuff. I think a lot of this isn’t helped by the very nature of LoL itself. LoL  has become by far the biggest community, so it makes sense that the negative element will be quite large and draw a lot more attention than it would in other communities. If a player in another game does something stupid in his personal life, like XJ9, it doesn’t get the same kind of coverage because, and let’s be honest here, most of the eSports community’s attention is focused on LoL.

The nature of LoL is also quite conducive to negative behavior. Games with a steep learning curve almost always lead to early frustration. Throw together five random people who are at different points on that curve and there are bound to be some pretty nasty games to start things out. It also doesn’t help that LoL is, compared to shooters and many RTS games, slow paced enough that there is plenty of time for people to yell at each other.

This means that when people from other gaming communities come to try out LoL they are almost guaranteed a bad experience unless they are willing to strongly commit to learning the game. Not everyone has the time or will to do this, and they walk away and continue the cycle of talking about how horrible the game is.

It can be frustrating because I have noticed that this cycle has led to the stereotyping of LoL players even in the blogging community. There are still a large number of bloggers who don’t consider LoL and its community to be anything more than a bunch of angry kids whose only contribution to the world of gaming is to set records for the number of homophobic slurs used in a match. This view even gets applied to the people who write about LoL, I mean why would you waste your time writing about a community filled with angry kids? I believe this is why you didn’t see many of the well established gaming blogs talking about LoL in any serious capacity until it became so big it was hard to ignore.

You know what though, I do believe that we, the LoL community, are responsible for the fact that LoL continues to get such a bad rep. We stay quiet when people badmouth the game either because we are embarrassed to say we play it or because we hate the people they are complaining about even more than they do. What we need to remember is that when we sit silently by we are also letting these badmouthers put down our friends and all of the other great people we know who play LoL. Oh, and we are also letting them put us down for even associating with the game. This is something we need to stop letting them do.

We also need to try to be more welcoming of new people who want to try the game out. Unfortunately, LoL will never be as easy to pick up as shooters or other games that are easy to get started in but hard to master. I’m not saying that we need to take every new player by the hand and show them the ropes, but if you see on Twitter or Facebook that someone is looking to start playing the game definitely don’t hesitate to shoot them a few tips. I will be writing a guide for getting started playing the game, and I hope you will all consider doing the same thing.

If writing isn’t your style then try to find a beginners guide that you like, and have it handy. There is no way we will be able to improve the experience of everyone who is looking to try LoL for the first time, but if we can make it easier for even a few people to play then hopefully we can begin to break away some of the negative stigma surrounding this game.

I have spent far too long trying to pretend I am not a member of the LoL community. I play the game, I write about it, but I tried to distance myself from the community just enough that I wouldn’t be considered a rager or a dumb kid. I realize now that this is the wrong position.

By pretending to not be a member of the community, I was giving strength to the argument that the only thing the community is made up of are ragers and dumb kids. What I should be supporting is the idea that this community is made up of people who design their own champions, people who dress up as their favorite laners and people who love to write about a game that has them so intrigued and interested. People just like me.

I am proud to be a member of the League of Legends community, and the next time you see someone try and put this community down, you tell them to come meet me and the thousands of others just like me. Enough of XJ9. Enough of IWillDominate. WE are the LoL community!

I’ve Had Enough of Shaco

It is time that I got this off my chest. It has been a long time in coming. The reasons may have changed over time, but the hate remains the same. I have had enough of Shacos.

Just to be clear, my hate is not reserved exclusively for the champion – but the champ isn’t great. His lore isn’t overly developed other than to tell us he’s a clownish assassin who probably isn’t from the game world. He’s disliked by everyone and no one gets close to him. Sounds to me like he might be more misunderstood than anything, but he is an evil sounding clown – kind of hard to endear yourself to that.

What used to make him even less likeable were his abilities. Jack in the boxes that would surprise and fear you all while laughing at you. And do not get me started on his darn Deceive. Apparently giving him a mini teleport wasn’t enough, so Riot decided he should be able to teleport and then end up in stealth. I think it is especially easy to hate any champion who can easily escape you, or at least that is what helped to drive my hate.

You couldn’t be too aggressive in lane or Shaco would turn up behind you. You had to be careful in your jungle or Shaco would take your buffs and kill you. Even if you were able to almost kill Shaco he would just blink over a wall, go invisible and then his player would likely taunt you in chat. If all of this didn’t make you want to throw your keyboard across the room then I don’t know what would.

Shaco was annoying, he was frustrating, but at least you kind of had to respect what he was capable of. Sometimes you would even be fortunate enough to get a good Shaco on your team and you could laugh, a bit, at the enemy’s suffering. Even then I always tried to reserve a healthy bit of hatred for the demon jester. This was usually made quite easy by the people playing him.

The nature of Shaco’s kit makes him a fairly selfish champion. Almost all of his abilities are designed to help him, alone, and allow him to go and try and kill someone. Often times you see the same kind of behavior in the people who play Shaco. They want to get kills, they want to keep themselves alive and they don’t seem to care about what happens to their teammates. Not that they can really save their teammates anyways, but many Shaco players seem to think that just because they were able to escape a tough spot their team should have been able to as well. Often they are not afraid to voice this complaint along with a few choice curse words.

I am a firm believer that certain champs attract people of certain personality types. I have rarely met any Sorakas or Sonas who have given me much grief. Perhaps this is due to the fact that they have champs that are designed almost entirely to help others. These champs tend to attract players who like to help others and will do so instead of striving for individual glory. Shaco, a champ designed to reward hard individual play and aggression, tends to attract the kinds of people who could care less about their teammates. Sure a lot of this is stereotyping, but if you are a player who mains Shaco I challenge you to show me that you also play a bunch of passive team first style supports.

Between the people who play him and the champ himself, I thought my hatred of Shaco had settled into a comfortable division between the champion and the players who play him. This was not to last. Somewhere along the line the champion changes caught up to Shaco and he no longer is the powerful jungler he used to be. Before, he could effortlessly clear his jungle and leave to attack elsewhere. Now it seems that he struggles to clear his own jungle with any kind of speed, and often relies on teammates to keep him safe.

You know that this new found reliance on others bugs Shaco players. You can hear it in the way that they demand you protect their jungle and desperately criticize you for losing your lane even though Shaco never one made an appearance there. The best thing is that if you give in and devote time and effort to help Shaco be effective you will be rewarded with a champion who contributes very little to the late game outside of split pushing. But don’t worry. Shaco will split push and then yell at your team for being unable to win the resulting 4 v 5 fight somewhere else on the map. Before, I had a healthy hate for the champion. Now i just hate the players who insist on trying to make him work and take it out on their teams when they have a rough time of it.

Tonight I won a game with a Shaco on my team. I was supporting as Leona and helped my good friend go 18-1-12 on Tristana. Our Shaco spent the entire game moaning about how we were playing the game, struggled to break even in the KDA department and then had the nerve to repeatedly insult the other team after we had won. It’s not every day that you report someone on your team, but this guy was a real treat. Sadly, in my experience his behavior is pretty standard for most Shaco players, which is probably why I’m not a huge fan and its definitely what pushed me to write this rant.

Whether it is his abilities or the people who play him, I feel like I will never truly like Shaco. It saddens me that he is popular enough that if he continues to be underpowered he will eventually get some kind of rework that will bring him back to popularity. I can’t tell which I hate more: a Shaco who is behind and complaining or a Shaco who is ahead and bragging. Either way, I have had enough of Shaco and hope that he languishes in his current state of disfavor for as long as possible.

Are there any players of certain champions or heroes (in any game) that you dislike? Maybe you find healers to be too smug in their healing ways? Let me know and do not be afraid to bring forth all kinds of illogical and emotionally driven arguments. I would much rather we get them out of our systems here than explode mid game!

Dear Vayne (and other ADC’s)

Dear Vayne,

I want to say that it was fun playing with you, I really do. Sure things were kind of rough, but it wasn’t going great for our team as a whole and I was willing to just write the game off and move on. Then you had to go and repeatedly state in all chat, team chat, and the after game chat that my Janna was awful and useless. So now I feel like I have to say a few things to you.

Firstly, I wish you better understood the champ you were playing and the match up we were fighting against. We were a Janna Vayne fighting against a Draven Xin Zhao. Yes, in retrospect, picking Janna was not the best thing for that lane, but I had my reasons for doing it. The other team had an Udyr, a Xin and a Maokai, three champions who want to get on our team and stick to us. In late game team fights our survival would depend on our ability to get those champs off of you, Vayne. I was hoping that a Janna would keep your late game Vayne alive and get us the victory.

But you are a Vayne player, and I forgot that you don’t always think about late game, you think about getting kills. I have always loved this about some Vayne players. You have one of the best late game champs in League of Legends, and despite that, all  most of you seem to worry about are early game kills. Perhaps you have never seen Doublelift play Vayne, but I feel like you probably have because his late game heroics inspire a lot of people to play Vayne. Regardless, the beauty of what pros do with Vayne is that they don’t worry about early game kills. They know Vayne isn’t really an early game champion. If you farm her up well, which the pros do, and manage to stay alive then you will become a late game power house that few can deal with.

But Vayne, that wasn’t your game. You farmed…not well considering we were able to exist in a position where you could farm fairly safely, but you were itching to pick a fight and I didn’t deliver you any. So you got frustrated and called me names. But Vayne, I also am not sure you were keeping our opponents in mind. A Janna Vayne is not going to be able to do much against a Draven Xin combo, especially in the early game. Draven alone probably has enough damage to kill both of us and Xin just helps makes his job that much easier. Truth be told, I didn’t really want to fight them. I wanted to keep you alive, get you farmed and let you go to town on them in the late game where it would be you doing the two shotting and Xin, without farm, would be much more useless. We got you into a situation where you could farm, and I thought that was enough. I guess I was wrong, I guess I was useless.

And I am sorry, Vayne, because I clearly forgot that this is solo que. I forgot that games are often decided in the laning phase and people are only happy when they have a ton of kills. I was thinking of the late game and you were concerned with the early game, and the early game didn’t go so great. I forgot that support champs like Janna and Soraka are great at keeping their TEAMs alive, but solo que isn’t really a team game, not the way that most people approach it.

When everything is said and done, Vayne, I still don’t really think I deserved what you said to me. I was mad at the time, but that’s ok because it inspired me to write this. I always hate it when people call other people trash, regardless of their performance. No one goes into a LoL match with the intention of not playing well (some do but those people are a whole other story), and I really don’t see what you gain by calling them on their bad game.

In the case of our game, it bugs me even more because you clearly had given no thought to either our team’s late game or your own champion’s late game. I guess I just wish that more ADC’s would remember that it’s a team game, that you can’t always be focused on getting the kill and that sometimes you win your lane by just staying alive and getting farmed. I know not all ADC’s are like this, but Vayne, you are a perfect example of the ADC’s I hate to work with.

I wrote this letter specifically to you, Vayne, but it really sums up my feelings on a lot of players in LoL. Yes, getting kills is fantastic. You get gold, you get XP and you feel like you’re just awesome. Of course the flip side is that sometimes you will not get kills. When that happens I wish you would take a second, calm down, focus on living and focus on farming. You may think the game is over but there’s a good chance it really isn’t. That’s the beauty of solo que. If you keep a game going there really is a chance that anything can happen, especially when you have a solid late game champion like Vayne.

Oh, and here’s one last thought. Instead of calling others names and blaming them for your own lack of results how about you actually take the time to figure out what you need to do to help get the win. You may not realize this but it looks pretty darn lazy when all you are capable of doing is harassing others and not actually making the changes needed to win the game. You can still win a game with a crummy KDA, I promise. It just might require you to build different items, be less aggressive etc.

Actually, you know what, I hope you keep harassing people and don’t change your game because I want to see you keep losing games while the rest of us actually learn from our mistakes and head onwards towards success. That’s what good players do, Vayne, and you, and the others like you, are not good players.

My Siren Disappointment

I have certainly taken my sweet time putting together this response. I debated putting together one that would include the entire story of the adventure that was Team Siren and leave you fully versed in what has gone down. Such an article has already been written, many times, and I recommend you check out the one that I posted previously. What I decided to do, instead, is get myself nice and riled up and talk about whose reaction to Team Siren really disappointed me the most – the professional shout casters.

I expected a lot of blow back from the community over the nature of Team Siren and the fact that they were girls. I mean, this is the same community where one pro player once joked upon hearing that there was a girl player on a Thai team, “well how do you even know she’s a girl, I mean ‘she’s’ from Thailand.” I expected this kind of junk from most of the community, but not from the people that Riot chose to be the faces of the franchise. Yet there they were, on twitter and on stream, mocking Siren and cracking jokes about how quickly they would be gone.

Ok, I know what you’re going to say. They weren’t making fun of Siren for being a girls team. They were making fun of Siren for hyping itself up and not being nearly as good as they tried to make themselves look. Yes, there is no denying that the way Siren introduced themselves was poorly handled, except maybe in the eyes of their sponsors who seemed to care more about views than the situation they were placing their team into. If myself and a bunch of my friends introduced ourselves to the community in the same way I would fully expect the casters to make fun of us – if they even noticed us.

What the Riot Casters seemed to not want to take into account was the fact that Team Siren was getting noticed not simply because of their promotional mishaps but because they were an all girls team that was, at least ostensibly, presenting themselves as a unified effort to advance feminism in the game. I think we can all agree this wasn’t their only motive, but it was the flag they were choosing to fly, and the Riot casters still dumped all over them.

Perhaps the casters were just trying to treat them like any other team, but the problem with this is that Siren was not just another team. If they were just another hyped up male team no one would have cared. At its most basic level this is what the situation looked like to me: Riot sanctioned casters were making fun of and putting down a new all girls team.

I don’t care what the real motives were behind Team Siren. I don’t care if they were a gimmick, and I don’t care if everyone knew it. Riot sanctioned casters had no business joining the community in making fun of that team. I expected this from the community. I even expected that kind of behavior from the pro players. The community and the pros are largely young, immature and I didn’t expect them to really think about what they were doing and saying (sadly).

With the casters, who I mention again are Riot’s representatives, these are all highly respected individuals who I was convinced were capable of taking a look at the situation and seeing beyond the gimmick. Instead, all I saw were people who are supposed to stand for promoting a fair and harassment free game putting down a team of girls.

Would it have been so difficult for even one caster to post or blog about the fact that, regardless of what Siren’s sponsors wanted, Siren was attempting something that had never been done on such a formal level before? Instead of talking about being “baited and outsmarted” could the casters maybe have talked about the fact that there really is nothing wrong with trying to start a new team, and if that team happens to be made of girls than power to them? The way Siren was presented by their sponsors was horrible but even their very existence is clear evidence that the community continues to grow and expand. That isn’t horrible. Even a year ago I doubt anyone would have tried such a venture in a mainstream LoL community like NA or EU (I know there were some Asian all girl teams), and not a single person with any kind of reputation in the caster community bothered to even try to make that point.

There are some positives to be taken from the Team Siren situation, positives that might encourage the future growth of the game. Who’s to say what kind of team we might see introduced next. One thing I will say, after seeing such a negative reaction from the people who are Riot’s representatives, I imagine there are a few teams out there who were thinking about going public who now might be holding off and keeping their inspirational stories to themselves for fear of all the fall out, for fear that they would be unable to find support from any sources.

For all the damage that Siren and the way they were handled did to advancing the cause of women gamers in League of Legends the reaction of the casters was the nail in the coffin. These were the people with the power to bring forth some of the positives from the whole fiasco and instead they joined the rest of the community in hammering away at Team Siren.

Next time someone tries to introduce something new, no matter how gimmicky, odd, or frustrating it may seem, I hope at least some of the casters consider standing apart from the community and not getting involved with any of the inevitable ridiculing. It would be nice if some of them went above and beyond and actually objectively examined the new phenomena, but I would even settle for them simply acting like the representatives of an open, inclusive and harassment free community that they are supposed to be.

Thankfully a few of the pro players are actually true professionals and took the time to offer insight that those mentioned above would not. While the casters were making fun of Siren, Yellowpete had this to say about gender in League of Legends:

“Well, I strongly think whether or not being female will affect others perception of you as a player is mostly about how you present yourself. As long as you focus your image around being a player instead of being a woman, and if you are as good and as dedicated as other players, I honestly don’t think serious teams would discriminate against you.”

Thank you, yellowpete. I am glad someone took the time to actually bring forth something constructive, from this situation, that aspiring LoL players can actually build on.

Calling the Shots

Ok, this is a positive rant which means it’s going to be really disjointed, but it feels so good to get it all down.

Today was the first game, that I can remember, where I actually stepped up and took a solo que team to victory. You guys know that I love to talk champs, and strategy and all of that good stuff. That’s all fine and dandy with awesome bloggers such as yourself; it’s a whole other game trying to convince randoms, on the fly, that you know what you’re doing. More often than not, I don’t even bother trying.

Tonight, circumstances were different. I was on my main support, Thresh, (I’m not a newly recruited fanboy; I’ve been playing him since the night he hit the PBE) and my ADC and I were winning our lane hard. Like, hard to the point that the other team was raging at their own ADC kind of hard. Problem was, our other lanes weren’t doing so hot. My team was going, one or two at a time, and feeding the other team’s Nid and Zed. This wasn’t looking like it would be a huge problem, until my Draven joined in. At this point I was on my favorite support, it was late, I had been losing all night, and I decided enough was enough. There was no way I was losing this game.

If you have ever tried to call shots in solo que you know that it is not an easy task. Thankfully, I had a few things going for me. My stat line was awesome. I was clearly making my plays and my team knew it. Second, if my team didn’t know I was making plays Draven quickly told them. When the guy with all the kills has your back it is a lot easier to convince people you know your stuff. I was also making sure that I was filling my role to a tee. I had wards down everywhere, and I frequently came and lantern’ed people out of trouble. Finally, I did my best to keep a level head. Even as the kill count began to take a turn for the worst I didn’t yell or rage (though my gosh I was tempted to give a few of our players a piece of my mind). All of these factors definitely contributed to what was to follow.

I knew I had them when I asked someone to check dragon and Kha Zix did. In my experience, it is always demanded that the support go and do this – whether it is convenient or not. Now, I actually had our mid laner checking things for me and putting wards down. Then the question became how to turn the game in our favor. Thankfully, this wasn’t overly difficult. If we could group up and keep Draven alive I knew we could grab victory even though I was nervous because all of our other lanes were behind in CS.

I explained myself to my team bluntly. “If we do not group up and stop fighting 1 v 5, we are going to lose this game. So let’s push up our lanes, group mid, and get ready to fight.” I was waiting for someone to tell me off, but not a word was spoken in reply. Before my very eyes my team began to do what I told them to. Soon, we were grouped up mid and started catching out our opponents who had become so used to picking us off that they, themselves, seemed to have trouble grouping.

As we grouped and fought I did not hesitate to ping or shout out a call. When the other team sent everyone to chase us around bot I stopped our Kha from backing and got him to take the top turret. When my hooks picked apart the other team in the mid, I sent people on to inner turrets and into the jungle to clean out camps.

I honestly was not entirely convinced our team was strong enough to win, but somehow, making the right calls at the right times seemed to magically produce teamfight wins. Our squishy Renekton suddenly became invincible. Our Kha and Diana could lock up the enemy team for days and our Draven could smash them all away. I am not even convinced I actually did anything useful in fights for the last 10 minutes. What I did do was keep the team focused, gave them objectives and let them focus on their own play and not what was happening around the map. It was never as clear to me why teams have shot callers. The pressure of constantly trying to think of what to do globally can actually hold back a lot of people’s individual play.

I am sorry if this is coming across jumbled or crazy; I am still quite high from the win. It is an incredible feeling to have four complete strangers actually listen to you, unquestioningly, and come together to secure a victory. I don’t know if this is something I would try and do on a regular basis. Usually in solo que I defer to anyone else who seems to be making ok calls. Tonight, I had a lot of things going for me that made me very motivated to take control. I also had a number of factors that encouraged my teammates to listen to me.

I think that, regardless of whether I try to take control of a game in the future, just knowing that I can do it is a great boost to my confidence. I know it’s just a game, but come on, if you can convince people in something as crazy as LoL to listen to you then real life should be a piece of cake 😛