The ongoing Expansion Tournament is a unique opportunity to jump-start a League of Legends professional career, a rare fast track opportunity to reach the big leagues without a season of toiling through the challenger scene. It’s something many teams and players used to their advantage, like Yoon “MakNooN” Ha-woon, who is now two wins away from reviving his professional career.
But for some players it wasn’t just an opportunity—it was a last chance.
Today Robert “RobertXLee” Lee retired from competitive League of Legends, the second Complexity player to do so after their two squads failed to advance in the Expansion event. After the League Championship Series season and Complexity’s subsequent surprise relegation, Lee considered a break from League before throwing his hat back into the ring for the expansion tournament. But enough is enough, it seems.
“In terms of competitive scene, I am not entirely sure if I even want to play in the LCS even if given the opportunity just because of the amount of stress and also the fact that I feel that my skills have gone to utter shit,” Lee wrote on Facebook.
He plans to fully commit to streaming six to seven hours a day, expanding the games he plays beyond League of Legends. But even the streaming fallback, one many former professional gamers use to continue making a living from the pasttime they love, had Lee stressed.
“I felt overwhelmed and having a crisis because of my stream wasn’t doing as well as it used to and was getting paranoid on how my streaming career is over,” he said. “I began comparing myself to my friends that have finished college and are now working real jobs while I put my whole life on pause and felt like I have very little to show for it.”
Lee realized he should just stay confident in his decision, and if it doesn’t work out, move on from there. But it’s a real issue for every pro gamer—what happens when the curtain falls, and you just didn’t make it?
One of Lee’s former teammates also decided to take a berak. Jonathan “Westrice” Nguyen is one of the original League pros, but didn’t make the LCS until last split. Now he’s stuck outside again, and not sure what’s next.
“It’s been a long road and now it’s time to take a break for myself because I’m honestly drained,” he said on Facebook. Nguyen would consider competing in the Challenger scene with the right team, but isn’t sure if that opportunity will present itself.
Post-tournament malaise is common for any competitor—weeks, months, years of effort and practice crystallize in a single moment, where the difference between victory and defeat may only be one missed click, but that one click can decide a career. Win or lose, the emotional cliff is a big one.
For players like the ones on Complexity, who had a fairly successful first taste of the LCS, it’s even bigger when you don’t succeed on your second try. But that’s the harsh reality of professional gaming, one many fans are too quick to forget. These matches mean a lot more than just wins and losses.
“The main thing that I need to remind myself is to stay positive and be happy,” Lee said. Amen.