The necessity to bring North America to life
Playstyle, smite accuracy, drafting skills, team cohesion, practice schedules -- these are all words you frequently hear when a team is being discussed. They are all very important topics and are, no doubt, paramount to becoming a successful team, or becoming a player that helps make a team successful. There is oftentimes heavy analysis on the subjects above because at the baseline, the conditions of winning or losing all derive from those sets of qualities.
Though I wouldn't go as far as to say it's underappreciated, there's one very key ingredient to the power of a team that I don't think is addressed and certainly not respected as much as it should be -- nerves. The composure of a team when it comes to a live event is absolutely critical and should be tested in the same way the other skills mentioned in this article are.
Fortunately, with the way the European LCS as well as other hot leagues like LPL and OGN are operated, this attribute is put to the test nearly every week for each team, applying trials to each team's capabilities to play under pressure. While some of the European LCS games are played in a more relaxed atmosphere due to the repetitive nature and smaller studios, there's always the live factor as well as a broader consistency of live venues that they attend to hone their skills in front of a large audience.
Fan interaction is much more accessible and teams learn both how to deal with negative attention as well as ride off the waves of positive chants. As we've seen in the summer split, a team's performance with a huge live audience under pressure is completely different from that of the same team playing in a studio, the usual venue provided by Riot.
This is because just like any other skill, composure and focus are skills that can be trained and tamed with experience and with proper coaching. Some teams are naturally more talented, which adds an interesting dynamic to the live viewing experience as well as a more invigorating experience for the players and those watching at home. Team Solomid may very well be the pinnacle of this phenomenon, fueling themselves and becoming a much stronger team with the assistance of faithful fans.
To go deeper into the example, it may be true that Cloud 9 placed first, but let's not undermine the success of Team Solomid at PAX, especially based on the statistics of the summer split. Team Solomid absolutely dominated two teams that have given them loads of trouble during the regular group stage, and much of that energy was derived off the "6th man". Some might call it an unfair advantage, I call it just another well deserved trait that a team has earned.
Think about it -- notoriety plays a big part in how well a team performs and it's never really luck that bolsters the popularity of a team. It is a deserved aspect of an organization that is fought for and is oftentimes more hard work than training itself. There's a reason why sports organizations focus a lot of their energy on publicity for their teams.
Commercials, logos, bumper stickers, apparel, and more are used to support a team. In League of Legends, popular teams come out with blogs, interactive lessons, stream schedules, and more to build their audience, a possible source of energy to draw from for when the time really matters (though we won't pretend that money isn't a large factor in all of it.)
When you start winning, you draw more fans. Those fans cheer for you and hold signs, ask for autographs, and more based on your performance as well as your likeability; suddenly, a whole new dynamic to the eSport emerges to spice it up and also give another trait that teams must accomodate for. Simply put, there's a reason every successful sport is backed by a live audience, whether it's minor league, an amateur league, or a collegiate league.
So why is League of Legends in the North American LCS an exception? Why do we just "get by" on studio-based entertainment that takes out a very important factor of competition? North American teams, when playing on the global stage, will need that experience more than ever to take on international teams, especially those deriving from Korea or China -- regions deemed by most to be the strongest in the world.
The answer is that we shouldn't. Riot owes it to themselves, the teams, and the constantly over 100,000 concurrent viewers of the North American LCS to step up their game and pay more attention to that dynamic that exhilerates millions of fans in other sports, drives teams, gives them yet another factor to strive for, and makes up for a mandatory attribute that all teams will, inevitably, need to train and prepare for.
So what can we do?
Anyone can say that Riot needs to commit to more live events in the North American scene -- it's easy to to say that without weighing the positive and negatives, fiscally or otherwise, for Riot to come to that decision. What they need to be convinced of is the utter importance of this before the start of the Season 4, at least as an investment into a better season.
The main thing Riot needs to know is that more live action is not a luxury, it's a necessity. Really, if a sport is looking to evolve, playing in a venue such as the current studio will not suffice. Sure, it'll work here and there, but there needs to be a vast increase in the amount of live games similar to that of other regions.
It may not seem important from the outside looking in, but the priority this decision holds becomes far more apparent when you recognize that results literally have had the tides shifted by a team's ability to play under pressure alone. To bring it up as an example again, Team Solomid proved this at PAX.
You may have doubts as to just how pivotal this is because there are so many other factors and variables. However, if we look at the situation and encompass everything we've seen in recent weeks, Team Solomid has had more working against them at PAX than they had working for them. Consider that the team was on the brink of destruction with the constant leadership issues, the lack of performance (for TSM's standards), and the general animosity that plagued the squad.
All of that was simply dwarfed, as it has been time and time again, by the crowd that Team Solomid earned and their composure to play off pressure due to vast experience from prior lan events. Teams use these high-traffic events as a means of staying enthusiastic about the game, hearing the cries and cheers of the audience, and really feeling firmly attached to the game as a sport.
Wrapping things up
Teams stay enthusiastic and don't lose interest when pressure is applied; this is actually the same for any profession. Playing under pressure, gaining an audience, and handling your nerves are just as important to the winning conditions on Summoner's Rift as champion picks, dragon timers, and being blue side or purple side are.
With the ever rampant growth of League of Legends as an eSport, it only makes sense to respect a result-altering feature based on the qualities teams earn above. Here's to hoping for more live attention for the North American LCS based on the evidence of just how much it contributes to the team, the eSports atmosphere, and that extra mile teams will take to train and hear the chants echoing off the walls of a stadium.
This article is an opinionated editorial by Michale "Drexxin" Lalor. Feel free to follow him at @GGDrexxin for more editorials, features, and Chinese LPL Coverage.