Cheese is Gouda
Cheese is Gouda
After reading an article on an unconventional way to tackle the beast that is League of Legends, I wanted to discuss a very controversial topic: “cheesing”. When you hear the term “cheese” tossed around in a general discussion of esports, it is met with pursed lips and a sour taste creeping up on the back of your pallet.
Cheese is simply exploiting a player or team’s lack of understanding or awareness. Cheese is like having an ace up your sleeve at the high roller table. It is the great equalizer. The problem and stigma that comes with “cheesing” come from players and teams propping themselves up upon the idea of a quick win or catching the opponent off guard. They lean too heavily on rushes and super-aggressive play, which can work, but usually only once. After an opponent is caught with their figurative pants down, they concede and move on, constantly checking you. Teams and players must always keep one another honest. Cheese is not subjectively bad or good, it is necessary in the cyclical relationship of esports.
The Circle of Life
Every esport has, what I call, the “Circle of Life”. The figurative rock, paper, scissors match occurs at the start of each round or map, in theory. Standard play beats Cheese, Cheese beats Greedy, and Greedy beats Standard. The degree of success is subject to question, but in theory, it happens in most games. Each game has resources to be gathered and information to be scouted for. The players and teams have that choice to make at the beginning of every map. “How do we value this? What is our game plan?” These are questions that lead us down the spiral, that is the “Circle of Life”.
Checking every corner, scouting at the proper times, having good vision control. These are leading indicators of “standard” play. The most text book way to play any game is considered standard. Majority of games that you will play, if you chase competition, will be played within a degree of a standard game. Everything that is trendy and “meta” is usually standard, and frankly very boring. Too much of a good thing is bad. Only playing standard is a bad thing -- it cuts away an entire other way to look at strategy and game theory. The kryptonite to standard play is “greedy play”.
The over budgeting of a game’s resources could be considered “greedy play”. Taking an extra expansion in Starcraft 2, playing an extra eco round in Counter Strike, staying in lane a few seconds too long in League of Legends, are also considered greedy play. Notice some similarities? Greedy play is unsafe. It is corner cutting at its finest. Trying to get an early resource lead at the beginning of the match is unsafe. A standard player should be able to weed out any quick schemes the opponent could throw their way. A greedy play largely would not. That is why “cheesy play” directly counters greed, but loses to standard play.
The topic at hand: “cheese”. The bitter, rage inducing style of play that many go crazy over. Cheese is necessary to keep people honest, yet, the most difficult style to pull off. Cheese -- creative, unique, unconventional styles of play -- all operate in an insanely small window of time that it can work. Pulling the wool over someone's eyes only lasts so long. The creativity it takes to look at a game in a completely different train of thought is mark of a good strategist. A creative outlook on games is sorely lacking. From a spectator standpoint, cheese is exciting and builds dramatic tension. It is a mark of truly great teams to pepper their styles with aggressive and cheesy gimmicks to edge out opponents while also having insane fundamentals to properly deal with a standard team -- which leads us to the second second, the cyclical nature of these styles makes it interesting and needed in esports.
Don’t Cut the Cheese
Cheesy play is not inherently bad, just as “standard” and “greedy” are not inherently bad. Sure it showcases your flaws, as a player for the world to see, but it also showcases a player or team's unique view on the game and the way they think it should be played. Creativity should not be looked down upon and dismissed as “lame” or “gimmick based”. It is something that every world class player knows is a threat and needs in his or her arsenal to edge out their opponents. What I'm trying to say is that people look at things differently. Everything is not as surface level as it seems. To you, you see an aggressive play that looks filled with overconfidence. When It could be that the player is executing a very thought out strategy that is going to catch the opponent off guard. Think of cheese as a loophole, it would be silly not to abuse the system to win ever growing prize purse.
Some of the greatest of all time are known to cheese from time to time. Lee "Flash" Young Ho is considered to be one of the greatest of his craft. Starcraft: Brood War is his game. People literally consider him to be a god at this game. In his inaugural year as a pro gamer, he was considered to be a “dirty cheeser” for knocking out a fan favorites on his run to the finals.
In Super Smash Bros. Melee, there are a pantheon of gods who rule over all the rest. Joseph "Mango" Marquez is one of the most talented players to ever touch a Nintendo GameCube controler. In his set vs “Hax” at Pound 2016 you could say that Mango deployed a little “cheese” on Hax, swiftly dousing his flame and knocking him into the loser's bracket. Mango, normally a Fox player, chose to play Marth in this electrifying set. He started slow, but finished with a crowd pleasing finish. Hax had this to say after the set, “...I get the chance to play him in tournament like twice a year and he picks joke characters”.
Not on the same level, but equally an interesting player, Lae-Young "Keane" Jang from League of Legends is one of the most creative players in his respective game. People consider him to be cheesy; that may be true, but why is it a bad thing? His unique champion pool brought the likes of Hecarim and popularised Urgot for a time. There is a certain charm to unconventional picks.
Then, there is cheese gone wrong. In Dota 2’s Manilla Major, we had Team Watermelon Delight attempt a level 1 Roshan -- admittedly a wild call. They tried to end the game quickly. The enemy team though, did their homework and stopped them dead in their tracks. This resulted in one of the quickest and one sided games of Dota 2’s history.
Creative play breathes an air of quick wits and confidence to a game which makes it incredible entertaining to watch. So, ask not what you can do to cheese, ask what cheese can do for you.
Source images courtesy of Blizzard.