Recently Rioter Joshua ‘Jatt’ Leesman found out firsthand how easy it is to get a Twitter war started. This particular incident, which I will refer to as “Ballsgate”, I followed it entirely as it spread from pro to analyst to coach, etc, like a disease corrupting the whole League community (Reddit was even worse, I don’t want to get started on that nonsense-flame circle-jerk). It all started with Jatt giving a very justified criticism of Cloud 9’s top laner, Balls. Then, the whole world went crazy, and the argument turned from “how much criticism is too much” into “how relevant is Solo Queue”.
Balls, and Cloud 9 as a whole, have been in a slump for the majority of 2015. Their first LCS split in Summer 2013 was a record setting 25-3 split, then they proceeded to not drop a single game in playoffs, but then losing 1-2 vs Fnatic at Worlds. They followed that up with an equally impressive 24-4 Spring 2014 spilt, and again going 5-0 in playoffs. Followed by their not-quite-as-incredible-but-still-number-one 18-10 record from that Summer, also finally facing their first playoff loss to TSM at 2-3 in the finals, losing 1-3 to Samsung Blue at Worlds. This year C9 barely squeaked out 2nd in Spring and came in a miserable 7th place for the summer, not even qualifying for the playoffs. The only reason they are at Worlds this year is because of the new Championship Point system that carried them into the bottom of the regional gauntlet from their Spring performance. With all that in mind, we look at this Worlds, they are in a group with EU#1 Seed Fnatic, CN#3 Seed Invictus Gaming, and TW#1 Seed AHQ. These are all strong teams in their own respects, so even peak C9 would be looking shaky at making it out into quarters. Criticism here is very well apportioned, as long as it is legitimate and not “C9 sucks they gonna lose at worlds lawl”.
Now questions of what an analyst can criticize comes up. I have read dozens of tweets, twitlongers, and articles, as well as vlogs, made by pros, analysts, etc since Ballsgate began. It seems at this point most people have come to a relative conclusion, give or take a few paces one way or another about solo queue. People, especially analysts/casters, are basically required to give criticism in a constructive manner. Pros are where they are for a reason, they are the top 0.1% of players worldwide. Put any of them in a game with any of us normal people and we’d be more useful AFK, this basic fact needs to be, and I think generally is, understood for commentary on a player(s) to occur. If I say “Dyrus is a trash top laner”, I clearly don’t mean I think he is bad at League of Legends, I mean he is bad in comparison to people who are top in his region, like ZionSpartan, or top in the world, like Ssumday. Aside from that, my simple statement above doesn’t actually mean anything valid because I’m not stating WHY I think Dyrus is trash. But if I say “Dyrus is bad for X, Y, Z reasons” then you can say “Well actually He is better than Zion in A, B, C ways”, then we have an actual discourse opened up. Jatt did that as well as anyone can in the very limiting space of a Tweet regarding Balls. What some pros were getting upset about is the weight of importance that is put on people like Jatt, who we see every day of LCS, and that their opinions can influence thousands of followers and then we have a bunch of people saying “oh yea, Balls is just trash”. That kind of backlash can be very detrimental to a player, but that isn’t the fault of the criticism or criticizer, it is our fault as a community for being too polarizing in our opinions. There are 8 levels in between 1 and 10, things don’t just go from trash to the best, and back again. We need to be open to all levels of good and great play that comes from these top 0.1% of players.
Solo queue… yolo queue… I broke my keyboard. We’ve all been there, we’ve been through the ups and downs of it, but there is a huge difference between what we experience, even those of us who are master and challenger, and the pros. While on a competitive team, a pro uses solo queue to practice new champions, specific interactions, build mechanics, etc. It isn’t necessarily about winning. Getting challenger takes a ton of time even if you are xPeke, so throw in that you are playing to get better at specific attributes in your play, and winning is a secondary goal. Learning a new champion to be ready to play on the World stage is a very in depth process because of how many minute details of that champion can snowball in your favor, or against you at the highest level of play. This is what a bunch of people have called out, that solo queue isn’t indicative of anything when someone is already on a professional team. The time they put into scrims and reviewing is enormous, so to ask them to all be top 50 challenger is absurd, not everyone can be 2013 WildTurtle who apparently had 30 hours in a day. On top of all that, it has become common knowledge that Korean solo queue is incredibly toxic, and you can theorize one way or another about why that is, but the fact is that people really do AFK at 5 minutes like the stories that have been circulating for forever.
Overall, it is a good thing for the League environment that all this ‘drama’, as some call it, occurred. It has forced us to outline several key points, while already known in other sports and esports, we have now officially put into our LoL community.