League of Legends: more than a game

Photo by Casey Miles

To many, video games are an enjoyable way to pass time, nothing more and nothing less. To a select few highly talented and committed players, they can be a means for serious competition.

Such is the case of Allen Chen, a Tech alum who has made a name for himself playing multiplayer online battle arenas (MOBAs), such as Defense of the Ancients (DotA) and League of Legends (LoL). Chen sat down with the Technique to discuss his experiences in eSports.

Technique: When and how did you start playing League of Legends?

Chen: So, back in middle school, I played Warcraft 3. Well, after playing Warcraft 3, people were like, “DotA DotA DotA.” So I tried it and loved it.

I played DotA until the rise of League of Legends. In one of my DotA games, someone was using internet speech, and saying things like “lol,” but he wasn’t using it in the way I perceived as the correct usage of the acronym. They were like, “Dude, League of Legends is a new game.”

One day, I was just so bored of DotA for some reason, and I figured I would try League out. Installed it, downloaded it, played it. Played [the champion] Jax for my first game. I had no idea what I was doing,  … and then I just played another one, and then even though I kept talking trash about it, I just kept playing it, you know what I mean? A lot of the people I talk to are like, “Yo, League of Legends is an awful game.” Then you play until level 30 and start playing ranked.

Even now, people will still say League sucks. I say League sucks, and I just keep playing. That was about two months after beta was over. So it was like the release of the game, two months after beta is done, I found League. I’ve played since then, but in my first two years, it was an on and off period where I wouldn’t play. In fact, freshman year, I told one of my high school friends about League of Legends, and I was at like level 20 at the time, and he went from level 1 to 30 before I even hit 30. It was pretty funny.

Technique: Have you always played Marksman/ADC or did you play another role before that?

Chen: Up until Season 4, I was a fill main. It was pick order when you found a game. I would say everyone played fill to an extent, except for some people who only played one thing. I was pretty much a fill main until diamond rank, which was a number back then, 2200 or something like that.

I would just play literally every role; it was three champions per role. I was stuck at diamond V for the longest time until I asked my friend who was much higher than me [on the ladder], “Dude, how do I get higher? I can’t get higher.”

He told me to [focus on] one role, and I couldn’t pick, so he was just like, “I’ll give you a role. AD [attack damage] carry, go.”

So I started playing AD carry, and got to diamond I in Season 4.

Technique: When in your time did you first start playing League of Legends competitively with the eSports team, and what was it like?

Chen: When I first got here as freshman, I was not that good. The old guard Georgia Tech team was really good. They were top four in the nation, like we were last year. In their time, there was this Texas tournament they went to, and they were still in form when I got here, so there was pretty much no chance of me playing.

The way it worked, as I perceived it, was that there’s no set structure. It was just who could come up with the best team and beat out everyone else. Biding my time, I went on the Georgia Tech Facebook group, and I was like “Are there any teams that I can play with, because I want to play for Georgia Tech.”

So, Ji Pedro Moon, he’s “AZNDEVIL” in game, he saw my rank and said, “I’m going to take you and three other players, and we’ll just play in the B leagues this year.” So we played that freshman year and we actually got first or second in the second tier division. There were a bunch of different little tournaments going on, and we were winning them.

So at the start of the second year after Gamefest, [a Tech-run event,] I knew who all the players were. I was like, “Super team’s coming up.” I pretty much told everyone who wasn’t on the old guard that I was making a super team, and we were going to beat the old guard and represent Tech.

So then, I handpicked my members. I was like, “I want you, and I want you.” Then we needed a support and a jungle. They told me who were the best in that position. Remember Alliance? That was pretty much what it was. We beat the old guard team and became the Tech team. That’s pretty much how I got my foot in the door for competitive collegiate.

Technique: Once you got on the team, how was your experience in collegiate LoL?

Chen: I did it for two years. The first year, we didn’t really know what we were doing. We lost to Texas A&M in the finals for the South. A bunch of stuff went wrong; we didn’t make it. The second year, it was just as disorganized except that I took more of a leading role. What I said goes, “Practice, now. If you want a day off, you’ve gotta tell us 24 hours before hand.”

It was just stuff like that. It was pretty much strict, strict practice, still no structure. But with that brute force practice every day, we would beat A&M, so we went to PAX. Going to PAX was a really cool experience because everyone was like, “Holy s**t,
we’re travelling.”

First of all, money. Second of all, we’re getting flown out to play League of Legends at a gaming convention. Then, we also played on stage, so that was really cool. I think the biggest part about PAX for me was meeting the
other teams.

They’re not just like names that you just kind of flame in game. It’s funny how you’re like, “Dude this guy sucks!” Then you see in real life, and you’re like, “Oh, I’m a big fan. Nice to meet you.” That was really funny, but playing on stage was like the defining moment for me, I would say.

It was much different than playing online, and it’s obvious that’s true. But to know exactly why it’s different is like another story all together, for me at least. Playing on stage gave me that feeling of, ‘I wanna play on stage again.’ Then we lost and I was like, ‘I never want to lose again.’ I think part of my competitive spirit for beyond collegiate League of Legends grew from there, a big part of that at least.

Technique: Georgia Tech is pretty rigorous; how did you balance school work with getting better at League?

Chen: We would play every night except Friday for like two hours. Right after practice was over I would just do homework until it was done. If homework was due that night, I would’ve done it during the day. My social life was just like homework and League and that was pretty much it. In my free time I would play League of Legends of course. In League of Legends you can tilt after losing a bunch of games in a row. Whenever I would get tilted, whenever I would lose two games in a row, I was like, ‘Alright, guess it’s homework time.’ Then I would come back to League when I was done with whatever homework I was doing.

Technique: Is there a specific player you look up to or model your style of play after?

Chen: I think I look up to pretty much all the pros in League of Legends because they’re like, doing what I want to do. They’re an example of making it big I guess. I admire all of them for that, but if I had to specifically pick out people who I admire more it’d obviously be the top tier players like Sneaky, Doublelift and Stixxay. Especially the recent rookies, like Stixxay. He was new in the spring split of last year and now he’s like top three, that’s really cool; same thing with Biofrost. All of the new players with high drive and are obviously getting better are the ones I look up to the most.

Technique: You were recently named as a sub for the Challenger team Tempo Storm, what has that experience been like?

Chen: I guess in order to talk about that we have to talk about after the collegiate scene. Since I was graduating in the fall, I couldn’t play for this year for Georgia Tech. You have to be full time both semesters, and I wouldn’t be full time in the spring. So I started looking for Challenger teams, and after making Youtube videos and posting them to Reddit teams started contacting me. I was lucky to have the best two coaches I’ve known thus far contact me, and they were a part of Flash Point Esports. Which is like one of the teams below Challenger Series that’s just playing for small tournaments. I was with them and eventually the team disbanded as most of them do and [the coaches] went on to Tempo Storm. They invited me as a sub since they were pretty much the coaching staff, I guess you could say they built the team with the resources that Tempo Storm had and they had like all of the say in the decisions. So they wanted me as a sub since they had imported Freeze. It’s kind of like real life because of all the connections and stuff.

Technique: Right now what do you think you need to improve on the most?

Chen: In order to get to the next level, hmm. So players have good days and bad days and there are average days too. I think the goal is always to see if your best compares to everyone’s average, and if it does then you need to bring your average up to your best. So that’s what I’m working on right now.

Technique: Who do you want to play against the most?

Chen: I wanna play against CLG’s bot lane, it’s the first that comes to mind. Usually I’d say TSM, but I’ve actually already played against TSM in scrims. In an official match it would be cool, but I’ve never played against CLG. CLG is known as the team that stays together; it’s the family. They have the best synergy and that’s the kind of team I look up to the most; the team that stays together and grows together. I wanna feel what it’s like to play against an actual fully cohesive team.

Technique: Who’s your favorite champion to play right now?

Chen: Kog’Maw, I love playing Kog’Maw. Especially in the lower ranks people are like, ‘Dude, this guy’s scripting.’ That’s always funny, but Kog’Maw is like super fun and I think he’s super underrated, especially if you take Stormraider’s Surge. I’m a big fan of Kog’Maw. It’s so easy, you just press W and they die.