Note: This is an opinion piece
Over the past few months, recently-retired Cloud 9 mid laner Hai has been criticised for his supposedly poor performances. However, he has claimed that it was not the community’s criticism of his play that pushed him into retirement. “I would be lying if I said I didn’t care about it,” he admitted in Cloud 9’s press release, “but I was able to brush it off thanks to my teammates’ confidence in me.”
Nevertheless, professional LoL players have often complained about fans’ severe criticisms on social media, singling out Reddit as the primary offender. ‘Hive mind’ and ‘circlejerk’ are terms used to describe how Reddit users collectively criticise individual players and organisations.
Is the Reddit LoL community out of line in its criticisms? Should Redditors refrain from continually criticising players due to the potential it has to destroy their mental fortitude? Or are they entitled to their opinion, and the ability to express it freely? The answer is complex.
League of Legends is one of the more popular e-sports in the world. Western LCS streams garner hundreds of thousands of viewers, and players are paid to be full-time professionals. LCS professionals give up college places, scholarships, and a significant slice of their youth to compete in the LCS.
When undertaking such a significant life decision, players fully understand what they are accepting. They will be celebrities, featured on the computer screens of hundreds of thousands of fans. They will represent organisations, and be the gaming equivalent of sportsmen. Fans will be watching their performances and critically analysing their contributions, or lack thereof, to their teams’ matches.
As these players attempt to become the best in their craft, they also run the risk of failing. This is the nature of competition. You put yourself in the spotlight by becoming a professional gamer. Therefore, you must learn to deal with criticism if you don’t perform at a sufficient level.
Reddit users do tend to develop tunnel vision. Often, particular individuals get focused to excruciating levels. While this level of focus might overstate their issues, there are nonetheless usually still issues, and fans are well within their rights to identify and discuss them.
However, while many fight for e-sports to be considered a part of the sporting fraternity, there are clear quirks and differences that define e-sports as its own entity – regardless of whether it is accepted under the broad term ‘sport.’ In light of this, a unique aspect of e-sports that must be accounted for in discussions pertaining to the criticism of players by fans, is how closely fans and professionals interact. The very definition of e-sports implies its reliance upon technology. The online presence of professional gamers is therefore understandably large.
Due to this, fans should keep in mind that their words are often read by professionals. They should also remember that many professional gamers don’t have the same levels of self-confidence that many traditional sportsmen possess. It has become a generalisation because it is so often true: gamers are often introverted, self-conscious people. The rude words of a fan can damage a player more than the fan could possibly imagine.
Criticism is a natural by-product of poor performance. Rather than complaining about Reddit’s tendency to ‘circlejerk,’ professional gamers should focus on analysing their own play, and if any aspect of the criticism they are receiving from the Reddit community is true, they should focus on rectifying these faults. Even if the community often makes mountains out of molehills, and misses out on crucial information that explains certain happenings, there is often a degree of truth to that which Reddit criticises.
Reddit users must also realise that their words can seriously damage players’ mental states. Constructive criticism and armchair analysis are by-products of competition, and it is completely fair to partake in them. Flame and personal attacks, however, are unacceptable as they can damage players emotionally. Words have an immense power – if used carelessly, their power is even greater.