Retirement, Propaganda And The Illusion Of Choice
RichardLewis 2013-06-23 16:01:22
Mark this day in your diary. The cull of the League of Legends veterans continues, the latest being Shan "Chaox" Huang who today announced his retirement in a rambling video log.Since being kicked from Team Solo Mid the player had been licking his wounds while undertaking a “remember me?” tour of the far East. Despite travelling to China, Hong Kong, Taiwan, Singapore and South Korea the player doesn’t seem to have found what he was looking for. What was that? Well astute speculation would lead most to conclude that the player believed that there was an opportunity for him out there, somewhere. While he was greeted warmly by fans and some members of the League of Legends fraternity no team options presented themselves. Never forget that opportunity is supposed to come knocking on your door. If you go to his place and he hides behind the sofa, something has gone very awry. With no favourable options what else is there to do? You follow in footsteps of all the e-sports greats down the years and you announce a retirement, which typically are about as permanent as those lick-and-stick tattoos that come with bubblegum. It is a great way to get attention because even the biggest of your detractors will sit and listen politely if they believe that it will be the last time they will ever hear what you have to say. It also jogs the memories of people who maybe never realised just how much of a fan they were, they have to picture life without you and realise they don’t like it. There are a few rules to adhere to. Don’t write your own obituary by needlessly highlighting your own achievements. The fans will do that for you and non-converts will turn their attention elsewhere. Be unequivocal and factual, leave nothing vague that can be debated. Leaving on a lie is about the worst thing you can do. Above all keep it classy. As it’s technically the last thing you’ll be directly conveying to the community let it be something that can be liked. That way they’ll invariably forgive you when you come back because you will be back. Huang obviously hasn’t been told these rules and outside of LCS there’s clearly no savvy PR minds to advise him. George "HotshotGG" Georgallidis is proof that no matter what you’ve done before you can always be forgiven if you go out right. Huang’s statement served only to highlight the problems that had forced him into the corner he found himself in.
“There’s really no world class teams that need an ad carry right now… My Chinese honestly is not good enough to join a Chinese team. I can speak it day to day, I can live in China no problem but like League is so communication intensive any minor communication problem is a giant clusterfuck of… Badness. So yeah, joining an Asian team is out of the question and NA is NA and NA is declining since… Well actually since halfway through season 2.”I think the first thing that really needs to be said is that calling it a “retirement” is a somewhat grandiose attempt to make it look that all this has happened on his own terms, which is patently not true. Certainly if he could go back in time he’d change just some things. Just enough so he could avoid the outcome on that fateful day, take one straw off the camel’s back but probably not looking to ease the beast’s burden beyond that. Ultimately though the TSM team, with Andy "Reginald" Dinh as ever acting as both mouthpiece and lightning rod, made the call that enough was enough. I’m sure that Shan never saw it coming because those in possession of such an ego believe in their own bullet-proof status too readily. It is the cursed counterpoint to the blessing of supreme confidence. The second thing is that it won’t actually be a retirement. The six and a half minute tribute to himself was littered with clues that he indeed yearned for a return to the big time but only the big time. Having to build something again clearly doesn’t interest someone who realises he has a lot of fans who seem hold him in almost high regard as himself. This much was clear when he was at the top of the MVP voting for LCS prior to his removal. There is also an air of sour untruth in the assertion that the North American scene is in decline. Evidence suggests the contrary with the newer teams displaying a hunger that shames some of the established organisations. Not only that but we’re seeing new strategies being implemented, skills being refined in an environment where the bar had been set low by a combination of security and lethargy. What is becoming increasingly clear is that players who rose to the top in the halcyon days prior to LCS either have to evolve, adapt and work hard or fail to keep up at all. Don’t forget the reason he was kicked in the first place stems from his refusal to take practice seriously. The stories about his conduct are legendary, so much so even those of us outside the LCS bubble got to hear about them. He partied hard often and while TSM’s players might be no angels, a frat house it certainly isn’t. These things can be maybe forgiven when it’s eating into the training regime but to do them at tournaments themselves would be unacceptable in any professional sport. At MLG Dallas though it was well documented he was out drinking until the small hours, turning up to practices hungover and without sufficient sleep to perform. One night he missed practice entirely because he was with some female admirers, meaning his team had to share his inactivity. These are the sort of actions that would be tolerable only if you were the greatest player the game had seen, the George Best of LoL, which he wasn’t and not by some way. Ultimately he was a player forced into irrelevancy. His skills never matched his own lofty assessments of them, so much so that despite his assertions he could walk into another top North American team, that feels unlikely. Marry that to a lack of work ethic and it makes for a blend that is hardly desirable in the LCS culture, where the stakes are high and anything that could be deemed vaguely non-professional will incur the wrath of the RIOT sugar-daddies.
“I could join an NA team but I’ve done it all. I’ve been best in NA as an ad and you could even argue the best NA player since as I got MVP last season. NA is a region I’ve done everything in and I’ve already proven myself in. it’s just the world stage that I want to tackle.”This statement is filled with absurdities. Huang has not “done it all”. He has performed to a decent standard within a team that was the best in a region he admits is weak. They achieved little on the world stage and at no point could ever have conceivably been referred to as the best in the world. “All” seems to be something of an exaggeration and far from the truth. But the truth rarely enters into Huang’s goodbye, something that his fellow professionals at least are content to acknowledge publicly. Zach "Nientonsoh" Malhas summed up the thoughts of many of the professional scene upon viewing the self-aggrandising video farewell.
“Watching chaox's vlog... I don't understand some people. claiming to be the best AD in NA, let alone the best player in NA. As i'm sure you would know, playing AD on a dominant team such as tsm was in season 2 is a cakewalk, he was consistently average but that's it, this is a prime example of arrogance/ego skill capping a player and preventing them from being the best. Thinking that you can do something and claiming you were the best are two entirely different things.”[center] "So, you hear that Chaox has called himself the Season 2 MVP?" (image courtesy of Gamespot.com ) [/center] If you wish to file Huang’s claims under exaggeration, then try and explain the out and out fiction he also included, namely awarding himself MVP for the whole of Season 2, something that never happened in any official capacity. Yiliang "Doublelift" Peng, who took the AD carry spot in the North American All-stars was quick to point this out:
“Am I the only one who finds it ridiculous that people believe Chaox was actually the MVP of S2? He self-proclaimed the title himself rofl”Probably not but, as Huang is well aware, that propaganda will take root in the wider community, it is a fiction that will come to be repeated as fact, like an urban myth that has always happened to a friend of a friend. Amongst his peers though this claim will always leave a bad taste in the mouth and while it is CLG who have been content to be open in their mockery, privately the ridicule is rightfully more widespread.
“Shifting focus from being a player to an entertainer wasn’t an easy choice but it’s definitely fun and rewarding.”The words of someone who realises the exact opposite. After two months spent undertaking a glorified form of couch-surfing the terrifying reality starts to set in. The twin spectres of “real job” and “all for nothing” lurk in the shadows, which given his well documented issues with his parental approval may as well be called “mom” and “dad”. For anyone who held a position at the top for even the briefest moment of time there is the consolation prize of streaming, directly converting popularity into revenue through direct advertising. Not much but enough that you can dry hump the e-sports dream some more and lie in waiting. Which is what will happen of course but please let’s not call it a “choice”. These are the words of someone who had a pretty sweet deal all told and managed to throw it away for himself. Now that he’s on the outside looking in this “retirement” is little more than an attempt to remind us of what we’re supposedly missing. No matter how good you are though, the game will always move on without you. In that sense Chaox didn’t retire from the game, the game retired him.